Climate Bill Press Release

August 18, 2020

I want to take this opportunity to address any misconceptions you may have regarding my recent vote in support of House Bill 4912, An Act creating a 2050 roadmap to a clean and thriving Commonwealth.

First, I want to state emphatically that this bill IS NOT a back door attempt to raise the gas tax or implement a new carbon tax, as the Massachusetts Fiscal Alliance has falsely claimed. I can assure you that I would have opposed this legislation if that were the case. I am proud of my record of fiscal responsibility and advocacy on behalf of the state’s taxpayers, and will continue to oppose any effort to increase taxes. That would be true at any time, but especially now when so many individuals, families and businesses are reeling from the economic fallout of the COVID-19 global pandemic.

Second, the bill itself contains absolutely no mention of the Transportation and Climate Initiative (TCI), which Governor Baker has proposed funding through an increase in the gas tax. Furthermore, during the two days of House debate on this legislation, there was no attempt made to insert TCI language into the bill, as none of the 108 amendments filed by members even broached this topic.

What the bill does do is establish a series of incentives and policy changes to help reduce greenhouse gas emissions and move Massachusetts to a goal of achieving net-zero carbon emissions over the next 30 years. The bill does so by, among other things:

  • making it easier for small businesses to access energy efficiency grants and programs;
  • directing electric and gas distributors to create programs for whole home retrofits, including weatherization and electrification for low-income and fixed-income households;
  • requiring Municipal Lighting Plants (MLP) to establish a greenhouse gas emissions standard (GGES), setting a minimum percentage of non-carbon emitting energy to be sold by each MPL to its retail end-user customers, using targets that are consistent with the state’s reduction goal;
  • establishing a future utility grid commission to study the establishment of a long-term grid modernization plan;
  • authorizing the procurement of 3,600MW of offshore wind by 2027 and accelerating the timeframe in which the Department of Energy Resources must create a staggered procurement schedule from 24 to 18 months of the previous solicitation;
  • providing a property tax exemption for any solar or wind powered system capable of producing not more than 125% of the annual energy needs of the residential property upon which it is located; and
  • establishing a land use commission to develop recommendations on land use restrictions within the Solar Massachusetts Renewable Target (SMART) Program, and to recommend land use policies to encourage conservation of open space, farm and forestlands in a responsible manner.

I also want to point out that under the 2008 Global Warming Solutions Act, the Governor already has the authority to negotiate and enter into the TCI, which is why he has been in discussions for the better part of a year or more attempting to build a coalition of states to implement this proposal, with decidedly mixed results.

I am currently co-sponsoring legislation that would prevent the Governor from unilaterally implementing the TCI and would ensure the House and Senate have a role to play in the decision-making process. HD4891, An Act relative to multi-state compacts, is modeled after the process used for Article 87 reorganization proposals for state agencies, and would allow for legislative input not only on TCI, but also on all other proposed multi-state compacts.

Under this bill, the Governor would be required to submit to the Legislature any compact that was entered into by the Commonwealth with one or more states on or after July 1, 2019. The compact would then be referred to the appropriate legislative committee, which will have exactly 20 days from the Governor’s filing date to hold a public hearing on the matter.

The bill requires that, within 10 days of the public hearing, the legislative committee must recommend approving or disapproving the proposed compact, after which the Legislature can then vote on it. Although the compact would not be subject to amendments, a majority vote in either legislative branch to disapprove the proposal would be sufficient to prohibit the Governor from further pursuing the compact. If, however, 90 days has elapsed since the initial filing of the compact and the Legislature has taken no action, the Governor would be free to implement the compact without legislative approval.

I hope this has helped to clarify my position on taxes and my vote on House Bill 4912, but please feel free to contact me should you have any additional questions or concerns.


Jay Barrows

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