Dear Friends and Neighbors,
I write to provide you with an important update Massachusetts’ effort to combat climate change. As your State Representative, I voted today in the affirmative on the conference committee report, An Act creating a next-generation roadmap for Massachusetts climate policy, which will create meaningful change by requiring Massachusetts to develop a plan to address climate change over the next thirty years.
After voting for the legislation in the House in July, this is the final version of the bill with agreed-upon language between the House and Senate following negotiations of the conference committee. This legislation now goes before the Governor, who can either sign or veto the bill.
The enactment of today’s legislation reaffirms the House’s long commitment to address the immediate and growing needs of our environment and to ensure we can make a long-term, meaningful impact on our future. Earlier this session, the House passed GreenWorks legislation which would direct $1.3 billion in bonds to cities and towns to work on climate resiliency projects; despite the GreenWorks legislation awaiting action in the Senate, today’s bill builds on the years of Massachusetts’ commitment in clean energy, climate initiatives, creating green jobs, and spurring renewable energy across the Commonwealth.
In our District of Needham, Dover and Medfield, groups like Green Needham, Solarize Plus Needham, the League of Women Voters, the Medfield Energy Committee and Medfield Environment Action, the Dover Board of Health, interfaith groups and many, many concerned residents have successfully advocated for green projects, increased access to clean energy technology, and led the discussion to address environmental concerns like clean water and climate resiliency.
As our towns and Commonwealth have grappled with the crisis caused by COVID-19, it has underscored that environmental conditions are linked to health status. We acknowledge that communities impacted by poor environmental conditions have many residents who suffer higher rates of asthma, diabetes and heart disease. These conditions are all factors in a poorer prognosis if the individual also contracts COVID-19. A key theme of this bill is ensuring that those very same communities have the opportunity to participate in and benefit from climate policy.
This bill will empower Massachusetts to establish a plan as we move through these critical times with our changing climate. Most importantly, this bill requires the state to establish targets for carbon emissions for every five years that will lead to the Commonwealth reaching net-zero carbon emissions. In setting these targets, the state will develop a plan that engages all sectors to ensure we can reach these targets and that all people in the Commonwealth will benefit from the changes we make.
Continuing our efforts to ensure racial equity, today’s bill ensures that environmental decisions are made equitably and consider environmental justice (EJ) populations, low-income communities, and communities of color, which are disproportionately affected by environmental harms such as power plants, highways, and airports, and implements protections for these communities. With this bill, environmental impact reports will be required to include consideration of public health and impact on EJ communities and multi-lingual consultation and outreach will be required for proposed projects in such communities. This is key to making sure the voices that are most affected by major projects – often low-income communities of color – are heard throughout the decision-making process.
Additionally, the legislation would:
- Address barriers to participation in the state’s solar programs by low-income individuals by creating a mechanism in the SMART solar program to allow low-income individuals to enroll in the program without signing contracts, and eliminating restrictions on sharing solar net metering credits across utility service territories;
- Accelerate the Class I Renewable Energy Portfolio Standard (RPS), which requires electric utility companies to purchase increasing amounts of renewable energy on behalf of Massachusetts’ ratepayers;
- Authorize an additional 2,400 MW of offshore wind energy;
- Update state standards for common household and commercial appliances to reduce energy and water consumption and increase energy efficiency;
- Require municipal lighting plants (locally owned utilities) to establish a greenhouse gas emissions standard to set a minimum percentage of non-carbon emitting energy sold by each municipal lighting plant; and
- Ensure energy efficiency input in the state building code by adding the DOER commissioner and 3 building energy efficiency experts to the board.
This legislation takes the next important step in our fight against climate change by ensuring the state adopts climate goals that can continue to move Massachusetts towards a greener future.
For a full summary, click here.
It is my hope that the Governor will swiftly sign this legislation into law.
May you and your loved ones and everyone be well and be safe.
Denise C. Garlick
13th Norfolk District