Legislature Passes Landmark Climate Roadmap Bill

Representative Mike Connolly along with his Cambridge and Somerville colleagues in the Massachusetts Legislature recently passed landmark climate legislation that overhauls the state’s climate laws, drives down greenhouse gas emissions, creates clean energy jobs, and protects environmental justice communities.

The bill, An Act Creating a Next-Generation Roadmap for Massachusetts Climate Policy (S.9), sets a 2050 net-zero greenhouse gas emissions limit, as well as statewide limits every five years; increases the requirements for offshore wind energy procurement, bringing the statewide total to 5,600 megawatts; requires emission reduction goals for MassSave, the state’s energy efficiency program; and, for the first time, establishes the criteria in statute that define environmental justice populations. The legislation also increases support for clean energy workforce development programs including those targeting low-income communities and improves gas pipeline safety.

"This legislation will put Massachusetts on the path to creating a cleaner, greener and healthier world," stated Rep. Connolly. "I'm pleased to see the final bill includes language based on legislation I previously introduced to increase Massachusetts' percentage of renewable electricity. The bill also includes a municipal opt-in stretch energy code which was a top priority for the City of Cambridge to achieve their Net Zero Action Plan goals. Let me be clear, this bill is just one step, not a last step, and we will need to take further action on climate this session to enact a more rapid transition to 100% renewable energy, which is the only just and sustainable way forward. Ultimately, we need to pass a Green New Deal and implement related policies at every level government."

The Climate Roadmap legislation includes, among other items, the following provisions:

  • Sets a statewide net zero limit on greenhouse gas emissions by 2050 and mandates emissions limits every five years, as well as limits for specific sectors of the economy, including transportation and buildings.
  • Codifies environmental justice provisions into Massachusetts law, defining environmental justice populations and providing new tools and protections for affected neighborhoods.
  • Requires an additional 2,400 megawatts of offshore wind, building on previous legislative action, and increases the total procurement to 5,600 megawatts in the Commonwealth.
  • Directs the Department of Public Utilities (DPU), 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 and regulations related to training and certifying utility contractors.
  • Increases the Renewable Portfolio Standard (RPS) by 3 percent each year from 2025 – 2029, resulting in 40 percent renewable energy by 2030.
  • Establishes an opt-in municipal net zero energy stretch code, including a definition of "net zero building."
  • Prioritizes equitable access to the state’s solar programs by low-income communities.
  • Establishes $12 million in annual funding for the Massachusetts Clean Energy Center in order to create a pathway to the clean energy industry for environmental justice populations and minority-owned and women-owned businesses.
  • 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 offset their electricity use and save money.
  • Requires utilities to include an explicit value for greenhouse gas reductions when they calculate the cost-effectiveness of an offering of MassSave.
  • Creates a first-time greenhouse gas emissions standard for municipal lighting plants that requires them to purchase 50 percent non-emitting electricity by 2030 and achieve net zero by 2050. 
  • Sets benchmarks for the adoption of clean energy technologies including electric vehicles, charging stations, solar technology, energy storage, heat pumps, and anaerobic digestors.

Governor Baker signed the Bill on March 26, 2021; this was the culmination of a months-long process to pass this bill into law. Governor Baker vetoed a similar bill passed in January, at the end of the previous legislative session. Rep. Connolly joined with House Progressives and climate organizers in advocating to House leadership that the bill be taken up quickly, despite the Governor's veto. The Governor returned the bill to the Legislature a few days later with suggested amendments. The House and Senate adopted some of Governor Baker's technical changes but rejected his attempts to substantively alter the scope of the bill.