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House Passes Climate Change Legislation Amid Pandemic

Sets 2050 net zero greenhouse gas emissions limit, supports green programs for underserved populations

BOSTON, AUG. 6, 2020 – As the effects of the COVID-19 pandemic continue to evolve, State Representative Bill Driscoll, Jr. (D - MIlton) joined Speaker DeLeo and their colleagues in the House on July 31 to pass legislation building on the House’s continued commitment to address the effects of climate change by requiring the Commonwealth to achieve net-zero statewide greenhouse gas emissions by 2050.

For the first time, the legislation, An Act Creating a 2050 Roadmap to a Clean and Thriving Commonwealth (H. 4933), establishes the criteria in statute that define environmental justice populations. The legislation also increases support for clean energy workforce development programs, improves access to renewable energy and energy efficiency programs for low-income communities, and requires the state to increase its use of renewable resources for its electricity needs.

“Despite the ongoing public health and economic hardships relating to the COVID-19 pandemic, the House is committed maintaining Massachusetts’ nation-leading clean energy and climate policies,” said House Speaker Robert A. DeLeo (D-Winthrop). “I’m grateful to Chair Golden and my colleagues in the House for their work on this bill that will support our clean energy economy and further our efforts to combat the effects of climate change.”

The legislation builds on the House’s long-standing commitment to effective and lasting climate change policy and fulfills Speaker DeLeo’s and the House’s January pledge to pass 2050 greenhouse gas emissions net zero limits during the 2019 – 2020 legislative session.

"The House's passage of this major climate legislation marks a historic moment for the Commonwealth,” said Representative Thomas A. Golden, Jr., Chair of the Joint Committee on Telecommunications, Utilities, and Energy (D-Lowell). “Under Speaker DeLeo's leadership, we set emissions targets among the most aggressive in the nation; enshrine into law protections for environmental justice communities; and increase offshore wind to 5,200 megawatts. We also set into motion long-term infrastructure upgrades to our electricity grid that will pave the way to bring green energy online to power our homes, businesses, cities, and towns. I want to thank the Speaker, Committee Members, and House colleagues for your imprint upon this bill, and thank all of the stakeholders for participating in a robust dialogue that produced a significant piece of clean energy legislation."

"The climate crisis we face is real and addressing it is unavoidable,” said Representative Aaron Michlewitz, Chair of the House Committee on Ways & Means (D-Boston). “This comprehensive climate legislation puts the Commonwealth well on the way to not only doing that but also puts us on the path to a cleaner, safer state. The bill also includes historic environmental justice components, which will protect some of our most important communities from being neglected by harmful projects.”

The legislation includes the following provisions.

  • Sets a statewide net zero limit on greenhouse gas emissions by 2050. In addition, sets one of the most ambitious interim limits in the nation for 2030 and 2040 – at 50 percent below 1990 emissions levels and 75 percent below, respectively.

  • Defines environmental justice populations as those that fit into one of following criteria:

    1. not more than 65 percent of the statewide annual median household income;

    2. minorities comprise 40 per cent or more of the population;

    3. 25 percent or more of households lack English language proficiency; or

    4. minorities comprise 25 percent or more of the population and the annual median household income of the municipality in which the neighborhood is located does not exceed 150 percent of the statewide annual median household income.

  • When affecting environmental justice populations, the legislation requires project developers to incorporate environmental and public health impacts in the planning and development of projects, and improves public participation in the review process.

  • Prioritizes incentives that benefit and increase equitable access to low-income and underserved populations in the state’s solar and energy efficiency programs including weatherization and fuel assistance programs.

  • Allocates additional funding for clean energy, equity workforce programs.

  • Incorporates higher energy efficiency standards for a variety of common appliances including plumbing, faucets, computers and commercial appliances.

  • Increases the required total procurement of offshore wind power by an additional 2,000 megawatts.

  • Adopts several measures aimed at improve gas pipeline safety, including increased fines for safety violations and expedited timelines for repairing gas leaks.

  • Increases the required minimum percentage of the state’s renewable energy via updates to the Commonwealth’s renewable portfolio standard (RPS).

The bill is now in conference committee.



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