Next-generation roadmap for Massachusetts climate policy

I rise in favor of S.9/S.30, An Act creating a next generation roadmap for MA climate policy

Thank you, Speaker Mariano, for your continued support, leadership and commitment to robust climate policy. Your work in moving this legislation so quickly in this session is compelling. And because of your leadership, Massachusetts will continue its work as a national leader on climate protection:

• by setting interim emission reduction targets,
• establishing appliance energy efficiency standards,
• authorizing additional purchases of offshore wind power, and
• codifying protections for environmental justice communities.

It has been an honor to work with you, Mr. Speaker, and my predecessor, Leader Golden, to get this bill over the finish line. Leader Golden’s pioneering work over the last three sessions, and his most recent work in shepherding this bill through the House has been monumental. I have witnessed it firsthand in our partnership over the last four weeks.

Thank you to the Senate President — the gentlelady from Ashland — and the Senate Chair of TUE for their collaboration and commitment to getting this Next Generation Roadmap in place so quickly in this session.

And special thanks to the TUE staff, particularly Caleb and Magda, and Joe from your office, Mr. Speaker. They are remarkable and knowledgeable people who are tremendous assets to this institution.

We extend our appreciation to the Governor for a number of technical amendments that strengthen the bill and ensure it is implemented as efficiently as possible. We heard the Governor’s concerns, worked with him on some changes, and are sending back a bill that remains strong.

In light of the critical need to act decisively and quickly to fight the climate crisis, we rejected those amendments that departed from the bill’s goals.

There is no doubt that climate science and policy is complicated, but it demands immediate action to avoid what is essentially the most significant existential challenge of our time. With this bill we address that threat head on and demonstrate that we can fight climate change, grow the economy, and support the most vulnerable at the same time.

The goals we set, particularly a 50 percent reduction in emissions by 2030, and net-zero emissions by 2050, are tough. But I am reminded of President Kennedy’s moonshot speech at Rice University in 1962. As he said then about space exploration:

“We choose to go to the moon in this decade and do the other things, not because they are easy, but because they are hard, because that goal will serve to organize and measure the best of our energies and skills, because that challenge is one that we are willing to accept, one we are unwilling to postpone, and one which we intend to win.”

That speech and goal sparked a frenzy of innovation, an ambitious public/private partnership, and great success. I have no doubt that the provisions in this bill will do the same in addressing climate change.

That’s how we solve complex problems. Indeed, William Bradford, speaking in 1630 of the founding of the Plymouth Bay Colony here in Massachusetts, said that all great and honorable actions are accompanied with great difficulties, and both must be enterprised and overcome with answerable courage.

And so that’s why we set statewide emissions limits and subsector limits every five years to reach 50% reduction by 2030 and net-zero emissions by 2050. And we made sure that the emissions limits would be legally binding to keep the Commonwealth on track with the roadmap plan.

Nonetheless, and because we realize that decarbonization will be a big undertaking, and harder for some industries to comply with than others, we built flexibility into the process.

As long as the Commonwealth is reaching its goal for a given year, sector sublimits will not be legally binding for that same year, giving the sectors for whom decarbonization will be most difficult a little more time to catch up.

We kept in tact the composition of the Board of Building Regulations and Standards, expanding it from 11 to 15 members. We specify that these new members must be:

• The Commissioner of the Department of Energy Resources, or their designee
• An expert in commercial building energy efficiency
• An expert in residential building energy efficiency
• And an expert in advanced building technology

This enhanced membership will ensure a better level of coordination between the DOER and the BBRS, especially as we instruct them to develop and promulgate a new, municipal opt-in specialized stretch energy code.

We establish a specialized energy code that will allow for net-zero building performance standards for towns that want it. Our current stretch code has already been adopted by 288 communities. Net-zero is the next step. We make sure that the state’s building code, while remaining ambitious, provides our design and construction professionals with clear guidelines as to what is expected of our building sector.

We protect Green Communities by specifying that if a Green Community chooses not to adopt the new specialized stretch energy code, it will not lose its Green Community designation.

We set criteria to define and strengthen protections for environmental justice populations and ensure they play a meaningful role in evaluating the environmental, health, and safety impacts of proposed projects in their communities. We also created an Environmental Justice Council that will conduct demographic analysis, and ensure that the criteria we set continue to achieve the objectives of environmental justice principles. And we establish low-income solar set-asides within the statewide solar incentive program.

We increase the requirements for offshore wind energy procurement, boosting our capacity by 2400 MW to bring us up to 5600 MW, enough wind to power as many as 2.8 millio n homes.

The bill maintains the property tax exemption for residential and smaller solar and wind systems that serve up to 125% of a customer’s on-site load. It also expands the tax exemption to projects paired with solar and will create a framework for larger solar systems to execute PILOT (Payment in Lieu of Taxes) agreements with municipalities. This will standardize the process of developing PILOT agreements and offer a compromise to both municipalities worried about their local budgets, and solar developers looking to grow the solar industry here in Massachusetts.

As you can see, this bill is an incredibly comprehensive and groundbreaking piece of legislation. Every one of you should be proud and no doubt will look back at this moment as one of strength and resolve.

Today, with your vote, you not only set a pathway for decarbonizing the Commonwealth, but thanks to all the environmental justice and MassCEC and workforce training provisions, you ensure that our path to decarbonization is fair, equitable, and inclusive.

Thank you all for your past support of this bill. I urge you all to support it again by voting in favor of S9, keeping Massachusetts as a national leader on climate policy.