Dear Friends and Neighbors,
Today, July 31, I have voted in the affirmative on An Act creating a 2050 roadmap to a clean and thriving commonwealth, a carefully crafted bill that requires Massachusetts to develop a plan to address climate change over the next thirty years.
Today’s bill builds on the years of Massachusetts’ 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 and bring us to net-zero emissions. The current federal administration has failed to lead on climate, leaving it up to the Commonwealth and our Towns to step up. The Massachusetts House of Representatives has made significant commitments to and investments in clean energy, including funding climate initiatives, creating green jobs, and spurring renewable energy across the Commonwealth. Most recently, the House passed GreenWorks legislation in 2019, which would direct $1.3 billion in bonds to cities and towns to work on climate resiliency projects; that bill is pending approval in the Senate.
In our District of Needham, Dover and Medfield, groups like Green Needham, Solarize Plus Needham, the League of Women Voters, the Medfield Energy Committee, 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.
The 2050 roadmap 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 2030, 2040, and 2050 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:
- Establish a Clean Energy Equity Workforce and Market Development Program to provide training, professional development, and job placements in clean energy industries to improve access to the green economy for minority and women owned businesses, environmental justice populations, and workers displaced from the fossil fuel industry;
- Create a Low-Income Whole Home Retrofit Task Force to develop recommendations for programs to improve weatherization and electrification efforts of affordable housing;
- Authorize an additional 2,000 MW of offshore wind energy;
- Updates state standards for common appliances to reduce energy consumption and, in turn, lower energy costs for consumers and businesses;
- Allow the state to expend necessary funds to cover the full cost of weatherization and electrification projects located in environmental justice communities;
- 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;
- Require the Department of Energy Resources, when initiating a new solar incentive program, to provide equitable access and affordability to low-income and non-English speaking communities;
- Establish a Future Utility Grid Commission to study and make recommendations on the establishment of a long-term grid modernization plan to facilitate upgrades to the electric and gas distribution systems in Massachusetts; and
- Authorize the Governor to impose a market-based system of charges or exactions to reduce statewide greenhouse gas emissions in whole or in part.
Throughout this legislative session, I have been a strong advocate for this legislation, working closely with lead sponsor Representative Joan Meschino of Hull to build support. In December of 2019, I met with Michael Greis of Green Needham and Representative Meschino to film a show for the Needham Channel on the 2050 roadmap bill, where we discussed the importance of planning for our environmental future.
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.
The bill will now go to the Senate. A conference committee will be appointed to reconcile a final version that heads to the Governor’s desk.
May you and your loved ones and everyone be well and be safe.
Yours in Service,