Climate change

Mass. Lawmakers OK Compromise Climate Change Bill

Massachusetts in recent years has ramped up efforts to increase its reliance on renewable energy, particularly in supporting offshore wind projects

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A compromise bill mandating some of the steps Massachusetts needs to take to meet a goal of net-zero greenhouse gas emissions by 2050 was approved by House and Senate lawmakers on Thursday.

The Massachusetts House approved the compromise bill on a 143-9 vote. The Senate then voted 38-2 in favor of the bill.



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Republican Gov. Charlie Baker has 10 days to review the legislation and decide whether to sign or veto it.

The legislation was passed as dangerously high temperatures threatened much of the Northeast on Thursday, driving home concerns about climate change. Boston Mayor Michelle Wu extended a previously announced heat emergency in the city through Sunday.

The hot weather is continuing, with dozens of Boston first responders saying they've received dozens of heat-related calls this week.

State Rep. Jeff Roy and State Sen. Mike Barrett, both Democrats, helped hammer out the compromise, combining elements of legislation approved separately by the House and Senate.

The two said the compromise preserves the central ideas of both bills.

“Massachusetts needs to open up huge new sources of green electric power if it’s to stay on course for reducing emissions,” the two said in a joint statement. “Today’s compromise aims to ramp up clean power, especially offshore wind but also solar, storage and networked geothermal, and run it through cars, trucks, buses, and buildings, the biggest sources of emissions in the state.”

The bill takes more aggressive steps toward battling tailpipe emissions.

President Joe Biden spoke in Somerset, Massachusetts, about creating clean energy jobs and his plan to combat climate change.

It would increase to $3,500 the rebate for qualifying purchases and leases of zero-emission passenger cars and light duty trucks costing $55,000 or less, and offer an additional $1,000 to purchasers who are trading in an internal combustion vehicle.

New vehicle sales would be required to be zero emission starting in 2035 while new Massachusetts Bay Transportation Authority bus purchases and leases would also be required to be zero emission by 2030 with the entire transit fleet transitioning to zero emission by 2040.

The legislation seeks to combat so called “range anxiety” for electric cars by encouraging the creation of more charging stations.

Lawmakers also tried to boost support for solar and wind power.

Progress has been made in the 50-plus years since Republican President Richard Nixon signed the Clean Air Act in 1970 — the six most common pollutants have declined by more than 75%. Now the act is being limited by the Supreme Court's decision in West Virginia v. EPA, LX News climate storyteller Chase Cain explains.

The bill would let agricultural and horticultural land be used for solar panels as long as they don’t impede the continued use of the land for agricultural or horticultural uses. It would also offer tax breaks to companies that are likely to contribute substantially to the “manufacture, fabrication, and assembly” of domestic supply chain components of the offshore wind industry.

Building construction can also play a role — helpful or harmful — in fossil fuel emissions.

Under the bill, 10 cities and towns would be allowed to require fossil fuel-free new construction, as long as each community first meets the 10% affordable housing target set by state law and also exempts life sciences labs and health care facilities from the all-electric requirement.

Massachusetts in recent years has ramped up efforts to increase its reliance on renewable energy, particularly in supporting offshore wind projects.

Baker last year signed a separate bill into law aimed at creating a net-zero greenhouse gas emission limit by 2050.

The legislation would also strengthen protections for “environmental justice populations” — typically lower income communities facing greater health risks from pollution.

Not all of the state’s renewable energy efforts have gone smoothly.

Officials in Maine last year blocked a $1 billion electricity transmission line aimed at bringing Canadian hydropower to New England, including Massachusetts, after Maine residents rebuked the project in a referendum.

Voters in Maine delivered a firm rejection to an international and interstate hydropower transmission project, though construction continues.

On Thursday the Maine Department of Environmental Protection’s citizen board rejected the latest effort to kill the power line. The state Supreme Court is expected to rule on two lawsuits related to the power line project in the coming weeks.

Copyright AP - Associated Press
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