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Backers: Pols Drawn to Bold Climate Bill

January 12, 2019

By Matt Murphy

State House News Service

BOSTON -- Over 80 House and Senate lawmakers have committed themselves early in the new session to a set of climate policy goals as Sen. Marc Pacheco and others get ready to file legislation next week that would require Massachusetts to speed its reduction of carbon emissions.

Pacheco, of Taunton, and Rep. Ruth Balser, of Newton, said Thursday that 81 legislators, including nearly the entire Senate, had signed a “New Year’s Resolution” to support a variety of climate solutions, including net-zero carbon emissions by 2050.

“Recent reports tell us our climate is deteriorating even more rapidly than anticipated and we know that the transition to clean energy presents us with the opportunity to reap substantial economic benefits,” Pacheco said in a statement.

He continued, “The overwhelming support shown today shows that the Commonwealth of Massachusetts is serious about avoiding the worst effects of climate change. We are ready to do what’s necessary to address our share of the climate crisis and implement the evidence-based solutions that our Commonwealth and our citizens deserve.”

Thirty-six of the Senate’s 40 members, including Democrats and Republicans, signed the statement of support, along with 45 members of the House. The only members of the Senate not to sign the statement were Sens. Michael Barrett, Sonia Chang-Diaz, John Keenan and Senate President Karen Spilka.

Keenan has been out of the country, and it’s not unusual for the president to refrain from signing such pledges, though Spilka has identified global warming solutions as a top priority for her this session.

Barrett, who last session sat on the Senate’s Committee on Global Warming and co-chaired the Committee on Telecommunications, Utilities and Energy, said he didn’t sign because he didn’t want to prejudge legislation that could come before his committee.

“A good number of these matters will be the subject of hearings before the Utilities and Energy Committee, of which I hope to continue as Senate chair,” Barrett told the News Service in a statement. “With just a few exceptions, of which carbon pricing is one, I try to avoid taking blanket positions for or against major policies before they’re heard and before members of the public on both sides get to express their views. That said, these are interesting ideas and I look forward to hearing from my Senate and House colleagues about them.”

Pacheco hosted an oversight hearing in December following the release of new national climate assessments that made dire predictions about the ability to control climate change unless more aggressive steps were taken quickly to curb carbon emissions.

The state’s 2008 Global Warming Solutions Act committed Massachusetts to reducing carbon emissions by 80 percent below 1990 levels by 2050, but scientists testified at the hearing that the GWSA requirements were no longer adequate.

Pacheco said he plans to file legislation next week that will “upgrade our Global Warming Solution Act requirements and ensure a clean energy future.”

“In light of the new scientific reports, the time has come to implement key policies that we know will provide climate solutions. There is no time to waste,” Pacheco said.

The other policies that lawmakers committed to supporting in the “resolution” include the elimination of the cap on net metering for solar energy; an increase in the percentage of power generation that must come from renewable sources; intermediate greenhouse gas emission requirements; market-based compliance measures to achieve emission reductions in the transportation, commercial, industrial, institutional and residential building sectors; and authority for a statewide procurement of 6,000 MW of offshore wind energy.

The offshore wind expansion would nearly double the current legislative authorization, which is for up to 3,200 megawatts.

Unlike the Senate where all six Republicans signed the statement of support, none of the 32 House Republicans signed on.

Balser, in a statement, blamed the Trump administration’s “refusal to address climate issues” as one of the reasons “the job of saving our planet” has fallen to states.

“Recognizing that Massachusetts has always led the way, and aware of the fact that the latest scientific data informs us that we need to step up our efforts, I am pleased to join many of my House and Senate colleagues in committing to making climate solutions a top priority for this legislative session,” Balser said.

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