Friedman Votes on Next Generation Climate Policy, Advocates for Low Income Communities

BOSTON – On January 30, Senator Cindy F. Friedman (D-Arlington) joined her Senate colleagues in advancing three pieces of legislation that boldly tackle the contributing factors of climate change, propose one of the most forward-thinking courses of action against global warming in the country, and pave the way for a clean energy future for all of its residents.

An Act Setting Next Generation Climate Policy and two companion bills – one regarding the conversion of T buses to all-electric and another that would update energy efficiency standards for household appliances – passed overwhelmingly and with bi-partisan support.

“The Senate has shown its commitment to combating climate change with a sense of urgency by passing this next generation climate proposal,” said Senator Cindy F. Friedman (D-Arlington). “I’m pleased that we took this major step forward to protect our environment, and am particularly proud that this legislation includes an amendment I fought for that would protect low-income families when the state is developing regulations to reduce greenhouse gas emissions in our communities. I want to thank Senate President Spilka, Chair Rodrigues, and my Lexington counterpart Senator Barrett for taking the lead on this issue and putting Massachusetts on a path toward a clean, green and sustainable future.”

Most notably, the Senate’s climate action package sets a statewide greenhouse gas limit for the year 2050 of “net zero” emissions. To achieve this, An Act Setting Next-Generation Climate Policy would require the state to hit near-term limits in 2025, 2030, and every five years thereafter; set sub-limits for transportation, buildings, solid waste, natural gas distribution, and other major sectors; and make implementation plans that are “clear, comprehensive, and specific.”

The legislation would also establish the Massachusetts Climate Policy Commission, which would serve as a new, independent public watchdog to oversee government’s handling of the unfolding crisis of climate change. Commissioners would be charged with offering a nonpartisan, science-based view of the problem as it plays out in Massachusetts with its associated natural, economic, and demographic impacts and risks.

In addition, the package would jumpstart efforts to supply low-cost solar electricity to low-income communities.To reverse the failure of state programs to incentivize solar energy projects in low-income neighborhoods, as well as spur job creation, the legislation requires the Department of Energy Resources (DOER) to set aside future solar allocations for such neighborhoods. The legislation also includes an amendment Friedman fought for that would ensure that low- and moderate- income families are protected when the state is developing regulations to reduce greenhouse gas emissions across the Commonwealth.

Under the bill, the Administration would be free to choose among various market based forms of pricing carbon – including a revenue-neutral fee or a regional “cap and trade” system – that would have to do so by Jan. 1, 2022, for transportation; Jan. 1, 2025, for commercial, industrial and institutional buildings; and Jan. 1, 2030, for residential buildings. Any mechanism would be implemented in an effort to minimize the impact on low-income households, disadvantaged communities, and vulnerable manufacturing sectors.

The bill would also set a deadline for converting MTBA buses to all-electric power. An Act to Accelerate the Transition of Cars, Trucks, and Buses to Carbon Free Power directs the MBTA to limit bus purchases and leases to zero-emissions vehicles beginning in 2030, and to aim for an all-zero-emissions fleet by 2040, to reduce transportation-related emissions in city neighborhoods.

The legislation would offset the Trump Administration’s efforts to slow progress on efficient appliances.An Act Relative to Energy Savings Efficiency would update Massachusetts appliance standards to improve energy and water efficiency standards for common household and commercial appliances, helping to conserve energy and save consumers and businesses money.

The bill would allow the state to support communities that choose on their own to move away from fossil fuels as the source of heating for new buildings. The state’s contribution is to promulgate a “net zero” energy code, so that localities have the option available if they want to use it. 

During debate on the Senate floor, the legislation was strengthened by adopted amendments that would require regional equity in carbon pricing and ensure that equity is a component of the Department of Public Utilities mission statement.  

The legislation now moves to the House of Representatives for consideration.