South Shore’s senator served as one of six lead negotiators responsible for producing the final version of the climate legislation
BOSTON – This week, the Climate Bill Conference Committee reported an agreement between the House and Senate on An Act Creating a Next-Generation Roadmap for Massachusetts Climate Policy (S.2995). The bill, which was crafted over the course of many months, establishes a "net zero" greenhouse gas emissions limit for 2050 in state law, defines environmental justice, and establishes statewide emission limits every five years over the next three decades. Both the House of Representatives and Senate passed the bill on Monday.
Senator Patrick O’Connor (R-Weymouth) served as one of the six conferees responsible for producing the final version of the bill.
“This is an historic day for Massachusetts,” said O’Connor speaking to his colleagues in the Senate. “We have long been one of the clean energy leaders in our country, but today, we strengthen the foundation that we have built upon and chart a course that has been long discussed but never codified or fully implemented. In short, today we get real.”
The legislation requires the production of regular roadmaps and reports to further identify how well the “net zero” plans are doing and establishes emissions sublimits for six high-priority sectors of the economy: electric power, transportation, commercial and industrial heating and cooling, residential heating and cooling, industrial processes, and natural gas distribution and service.
“Strong action is required from us in order to create a sustainable future and combat the effects of climate change, and I believe the provisions in this legislation provide the Commonwealth with the tools necessary to achieve that goal,” said O’Connor. “We’re setting aggressive and practical goals in the areas of emissions reduction, green energy, environmental justice, and grid modernization. I am proud to have served on this conference committee and thank my colleagues for their hard work and collaborative spirit in crafting this legislation.”
When signed by the Governor, environmental justice will be written into Massachusetts law, defining environmental justice populations and providing new tools and protections for affected neighborhoods. The bill also requires each roadmap plan to improve or mitigate economic, environmental, and public health impacts on environmental justice populations and low- and moderate-income individuals.
The legislation places a primary focus on green energy:
- Raises offshore wind to another level, requiring utilities to purchase an additional 2,400 megawatts of generation. Builds on previous legislation action and increases the state's total authorization to 5,600 megawatts, a substantial portfolio.
- Boosts demand for renewable energy by raising the Renewable Energy Portfolio Standard (RPS) by 3% each year for 2025-2029, ensuring that at least 40% of the state's electric power will be renewable by 2030.
- Updates solar policy and advances solar equity by loosening net metering caps, establishing a new solar energy grant program for nonprofits, and more
In addition, the bill addresses natural gas safety:
- Requires the DPU to issue new regulations relative to training and certifying utility contractors;
- Instructs the DPU to set standards for maintaining gas distribution maps and records;
- Directs gas companies to report "disruptions in the provision of electronic data" as a service quality metric;
- Extends whistleblower protection to utility employees who report violations of law by their employers;
- Increases the penalties for failure to restore service after emergencies;
- Raises the cap on civil penalties for gas pipeline safety violations, allowing for fines in excess of those set by federal law;
- Requires all written complaints regarding gas service to be investigated and responded to in a timely manner, and directs the DPU to establish a publicly-accessible database of such complaints; and
- Strengthens gas company plans to address aging and leaking infrastructure, by setting interim targets for reducing gas leak rates and authorizing the DPU to levy fines for non-compliance.
“Climate policy can’t wait and I appreciate the efforts of the environmentalists and state-wide groups that have long been advocating for positive policy changes such as the ones we put forth today, O’Connor said. “What we have before us today is Massachusetts once again playing its part for our planet. We can’t do it alone, but we can lead.”
For more details regarding the legislation, you may visit this link. The bill now goes to Governor Baker’s desk to be signed into law.
Senator Patrick O’Connor represents the Plymouth and Norfolk district, which includes the towns of Cohasset, Duxbury, Hingham, Hull, Marshfield, Norwell, Scituate, and Weymouth. Sen. O’Connor and his staff may be reached at the State House at 617-722-1646 or by email at Patrick.O’[email protected].