Last week, the Massachusetts Legislature passed breakthrough climate legislation that overhauls the state’s climate laws, drives down greenhouse gas emissions, and creates clean energy jobs.
The bill, An Act Creating a Next-Generation Roadmap for Massachusetts Climate Policy, includes major changes to the way the Commonwealth approaches statewide climate change policy and historic environmental justice language taken from legislation sponsored by State Senator Sal DiDomenico. Senator DiDomenico was a lead sponsor of the Environmental Justice Act, and worked with his colleagues Senator Jamie Eldridge and Representatives Liz Miranda, Adrian Madaro, and Michelle DuBois on this important issue throughout the last session.
“I am absolutely thrilled that these key environmental justice provisions were included in this historic climate change bill,” said Senator DiDomenico. “Time and again, cities like Chelsea and Everett have been disproportionately impacted by our long history of short-sighted environmental policies, and we have taken on this toxic burden for our entire region. Moving forward, this legislation ensures that EJ communities have a seat at the table and a voice when decisions are made that impact their homes and their health. There are many landmark components of this bill, but this provision in particular is so important for our community. I am very grateful to the incredible EJ organizations, like Chelsea’s own GreenRoots for their fierce advocacy on this; their tireless work has yielded a big win for EJ communities across the Commonwealth.”
Critically, for the first very first time, this bill codifies environmental justice into Massachusetts law, defining Environmental Justice populations and providing new tools and protections for affected neighborhoods. It also requires each climate roadmap plan to improve or mitigate economic, environmental, and public health impacts on EJ populations and low- and moderate-income individuals.
The legislation also includes, among other items, the following provisions:
•Sets a statewide net zero limit on greenhouse gas emissions by 2050 and mandates emissions limits every five years, as well as limits for specific sectors of the economy, including transportation and buildings.
•Requires an additional 2,400 megawatts of offshore wind, building on previous legislation action and increases the total to 5,600 megawatts in the Commonwealth.
•Directs the Department of Public Utilities (DPU), regulator of the state’s electric and natural gas utilities, to balance priorities going forward: system safety, system security, reliability, affordability, equity, and, significantly, reductions in greenhouse gas emissions.
•Sets appliance energy efficiency standards for a variety of common appliance including plumbing, faucets, computers, and commercial appliances.
•Adopts several measures aimed at improves gas pipeline safety, including increased fines for safety violations and regulations related to training and certifying utility contractors.
•Increases the Renewable Portfolio Standard (RPS) by 3 percent each year from 2025 – 2029, resulting in 40 percent renewable energy by 2030.
•Establishes an opt-in municipal net zero energy stretch code, including a definition of “net zero building.”
•Prioritizes equitable access to the state’s solar programs by low-income communities.
•Establishes $12 million in annual funding for the Massachusetts Clean Energy Center in order to create a pathway to the clean energy industry for environmental justice populations and minority-owned and women-owned businesses.
•Provides solar incentives for businesses by exempting them from the net metering cap to allow them to install solar systems on their premises to help offset their electricity use and save money.
•Requires utilities to include an explicit value for greenhouse gas reductions when they calculate the cost-effectiveness of an offering of MassSave.
•Creates a first-time greenhouse gas emissions standard for municipal lighting plants that requires them to purchase 50 percent non-emitting electricity by 2030 and “net zero” by 2050.
•Sets benchmarks for the adoption of clean energy technologies including electric vehicles, charging stations, solar technology, energy storage, heat pumps and anaerobic digestors.
The bill now awaits the Governor’s signature.