Massachusetts Gov. Baker signs sweeping climate change bill into law

Published on March 30, 2021 by Dave Kovaleski

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Massachusetts Gov. Charlie Baker signed into law a bill that codifies the state’s commitment to achieving net zero emissions in 2050.

The new law — An Act Creating a Next Generation Roadmap for Massachusetts Climate Policy (Senate Bill 9) – builds upon the framework outlined in the Baker Administration’s 2050 Decarbonization Roadmap and Clean Energy and Climate Plan for 2030. It establishes interim goals for emissions reductions, increases protections for Environmental Justice communities, authorizes the implementation of voluntary energy efficient building codes, and allows for an additional 2,400 Megawatts (MW) of offshore wind energy by 2027.

“Climate change is an urgent challenge that requires action, and this legislation will reduce emissions in Massachusetts for decades to come while also ensuring the Commonwealth remains economically competitive,” Baker said. “We are proud to have worked closely with the Legislature to produce bipartisan legislation that will advance clean energy sources and secure a healthy, livable environment for future generations.”

Specifically, the law updates the greenhouse gas emissions limits related to the 2008 Global Warming Solutions Act, commits Massachusetts to achieve net zero emissions in 2050, and authorizes the Secretary of Energy and Environmental Affairs (EEA) to establish an emissions limit of no less than 50 percent for 2030, and no less than 75 percent for 2040.

Further, it authorizes EEA to establish emissions limits every five years with additional limits for at least six sectors of the Massachusetts economy – electric power; transportation; commercial and industrial heating and cooling; residential heating and cooling; industrial processes; and natural gas distribution and service.

The legislation also statutorily defines climate change as an environmental burden. It requires an Environmental Impact Report for all projects that impact air quality within one mile of an Environmental Justice Neighborhood, an area overburdened by poor air quality and high levels of pollution.

Additionally, the law authorizes the procurement of an additional 2,400 MW of offshore wind power, bringing the state’s total required authorization to 4,000 MW by 2027. Also, it establishes new energy efficiency requirements for commercial kitchen equipment, plumbing, lighting, computers and computer monitors, electric vehicle supply equipment, and consumer appliances, including faucets, residential ventilating fans, portable electric spas, showerheads, toilets, and water coolers.

The legislation drew support from several clean energy industry groups, including the American Clean Power Association.

“American Clean Power applauds the Governor and the bipartisan supporters in the state legislature for continuing their hard work to harness the jobs and investments associated with zero-carbon electricity for Massachusetts. The law passed today commits the state to the development of an additional 2,400 megawatts (MW) of offshore wind energy, positioning the state to take advantage of a growing portion of the 83,000 jobs and $57 billion in economic investment that offshore wind is poised to deliver to the East Coast this decade. The bill also raises the state’s commitment to land-based wind and solar development, bringing major environmental and economic benefits from those resources as well,” Andrew Gohn, ACP director of eastern state affairs, said.

The Solar Energy Industries Association (SEIA) also applauded the new law.

“Massachusetts was one of the top solar states in the country, but unsupportive solar policy has caused the state to plummet in national solar rankings from 5th place in 2017 to 15th in 2020. These commonsense changes are a start, but more must be done to help the Commonwealth achieve net-zero emissions by 2050 and install the 4-7 gigawatts of clean energy needed to reach that objective,” David Gahl, senior director of state policy for the East at SEIA, said. “This legislation gives us a path forward, but it’s now on us to make the market conditions needed to scale clean energy deployment and meet this goal. If we are thoughtful about the policies we create, like establishing specific targets for solar deployment, requiring solar on new construction, and creating solar rates that encourage deployment, we could regain our footing as a top solar state and create thousands of well-paying solar jobs.