Month: March 2021

Legislature Passes Landmark Climate Legislation

The Legislature passed nation-leading climate legislation, known as the Next Generation Climate Roadmap bill, which overhauls the state’s climate laws, reduces greenhouse gas emissions, advances the clean energy industry, and prioritizes and protects environmental justice communities.

“I am proud the House and the Senate have not backed down from our ambitious goals and unwavering commitment to make Massachusetts a leader in climate protection and clean energy,” said Speaker of the House Ronald Mariano (D-Quincy). “There is no doubt this legislation will set Massachusetts on the right path and benefit generations to come.

“This historic legislation will set Massachusetts on a path towards reaching net-zero greenhouse gas emissions by 2050 by establishing robust interim limits and providing key sectors of our economy with clear guidelines and goal posts for their decarbonization,” said Representative Jeffrey N. Roy (D-Franklin), Chair of the Joint Committee on Telecommunications, Utilities, and Energy. “Each roadmap plan will tackle reducing emissions in a holistic manner, while also ensuring that environmental justice communities are included, and workers are not left behind by our transition to clean energy.

“History has been made today with the passage of the Next-Generation Roadmap bill,” said StateRepresentative Thomas A. Golden, Jr. (D-Lowell), former Chair of the Joint Committee on Telecommunications, Utilities, and Energy. “The Roadmap sets us on a strong course to net zero by 2050 and significantly advances offshore wind, truly representing the best ideas from both chambers.”

The passage of the climate bill comes after a joint commitment from Senate President Karen E. Spilka and House Speaker Ronald Mariano to quickly refile the legislation following a gubernatorial veto last session. This session Governor Baker offered amendments to the bill, which have been considered by the Legislature. Today, the House and Senate rejected efforts to slow the rate of progress toward net-zero emissions by 2050, while accepting a number of more technical amendments that improve the bill.

The final legislation:

  • Sets a statewide net-zero limit on greenhouse gas emissions by 2050 and mandates emissions limits every five years, as well as sublimits for transportation, buildings, and other sectors of the economy.
  • Codifies environmental justice provisions into Massachusetts law, defining environmental justice populations and providing new tools and protections for affected neighborhoods.
  • Establishes a municipal opt-in specialized stretch energy code which includes a definition of “net-zero building” and net-zero building performance standards.
  • Requires an additional 2,400 megawatts of offshore wind, increasing the total authorization to 5,600 megawatts in the Commonwealth.
  • Directs the Department of Public Utilities (DPU), the regulator of the state’s electric and natural gas utilities, to balance priorities going forward: system safety, system security, reliability, affordability, equity, and, significantly, reductions in greenhouse gas emissions.
  • Sets appliance energy efficiency standards for a variety of common appliances including plumbing, faucets, computers, and commercial appliances.
  • Adopts several measures aimed at improving gas pipeline safety, including increased fines for safety violations, provisions related to training and certifying utility contractors, and setting interim targets for companies to reduce leak rates.
  • Increases the Renewable Portfolio Standard (RPS) by 3 percent each year from 2025–2029, resulting in 40 percent renewable energy by 2030.
  • A national first, this legislation factors the “carbon sequestration” capacity of Massachusetts’ natural and working lands directly into our emissions reduction plans.
  • Prioritizes equitable access to the state’s solar programs by low-income communities.
  • Sets benchmarks for the adoption of clean energy technologies including electric vehicles, charging stations, solar technology, energy storage, heat pumps, and anaerobic digestors.
  • Establishes $12 million in annual funding for the Massachusetts Clean Energy Center to create a pathway to the clean energy industry for environmental justice populations, minority-owned and women-owned businesses, and fossil fuel workers.
  • Provides solar incentives for businesses by exempting them from the net metering cap to allow them to install solar systems on their premises to help them offset their electricity use and save money.
  • Creates a first-time greenhouse gas emissions standard for municipal lighting plants that requires them to purchase 50 percent non-emitting electricity by 2030, 75 percent by 2040, and “net-zero” by 2050. 

The bill now returns to the Governor’s desk.

New COVID relief bill to include tax relief to unemployed workers, rate freeze for businesses

Statement from Senate President Karen E. Spilka, Speaker of the House Ronald Mariano, Senate Ways & Means Chair Michael J. Rodrigues and 
House Ways & Means Chair Aaron Michlewitz

The Senate and House have reached agreement on a bill to help workers and employers jumpstart our nascent recovery as we begin to slowly emerge from the COVID-19 pandemic. This agreement strikes a balance to ensure that businesses can continue to move forward while protecting those working hard to keep the economy going. Time is of the essence to bring this much needed relief to businesses and employees, and so we will act expeditiously to get this comprehensive bill to the Governor’s desk.

While businesses require our support to weather this economic storm, our employees need help too. We have agreed to provide targeted tax relief to unemployed workers whose income falls below 200 percent of the poverty line. We also recognize that many are navigating our Unemployment Insurance (UI) system for the first time, and so we have agreed to waive penalties for missed tax payments on UI benefits received in 2020.

To help protect employees on the front lines—and to help prevent the further spread of COVID-19—we are making sure all employees have access to paid leave if they are unable to work because they get infected with the coronavirus, are ordered to quarantine, or need to take time off to get the vaccine. In tandem with federal legislation, this state response will ensure employees have access to paid leave and employers are reimbursed for such costs. We believe this will provide a necessary and crucial safety net for the employees, especially essential workers, who have shown up every day to keep our economy and communities running throughout this public health crisis.

Finally, the bill will prevent increases in the UI rate schedule for 2021 and 2022, providing employers with needed stability and relief as the Commonwealth continues to recover. The agreement also allows for state borrowing, secured by a temporary employer assessment, to ensure the solvency of the UI trust fund. In addition to UI relief, to help many small businesses and employers who received PPP loans to stay afloat and save jobs, we have agreed to conform to the current federal tax code to exclude forgiven PPP loans from gross income for small businesses organized as pass-through entities.”

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