Charlie Baker returns climate bill to lawmakers, with amendments

Source: By DAVID KLEPPER, Boston Globe • Posted: Tuesday, February 9, 2021

Most of the changes suggested by Baker on Sunday are technical in nature.

Governor Charlie Baker delivers his State of The Commonwealth Address from his ceremonial State House office.
Governor Charlie Baker delivers his State of The Commonwealth Address from his ceremonial State House office. –Erin Clark/Globe Staff

Massachusetts Gov. Charlie Baker returned a sweeping climate change bill to lawmakers Sunday, offering a long list of proposed amendments to a bill he had previously vetoed.

In a letter to lawmakers, Baker wrote that he’s confident that the changes would put the state on track to attaining a net-zero greenhouse gas emission limit by 2050.

The Democrat-controlled House and Senate initially passed the bill in early January, in the waning hours of the last legislative session. Despite supporting much of it, Baker vetoed the measure, saying that without changes, some provisions could hurt the economy.

Lawmakers passed the bill a second time just weeks into the new legislative session, giving Baker’s administration time to offer its recommended changes.

The bill would also create renewable energy jobs, boost production of offshore wind, enhance efficiency standards for appliances and expand access to solar power for low-income families.

Most of the changes suggested by Baker on Sunday are technical in nature, impacting the details of how the state hopes to reach its renewable energy goals. One amendment proposed by the governor would give specific sectors of the economy more flexibility in reducing emissions, as long as the state hits its overall target.

The bill — and the amendments — are a critical step toward realizing the state’s plan to eliminate greenhouse gas emissions by 2050, according to state Energy and Environmental Affairs Secretary Kathleen Theoharides.

“The governor is looking forward to signing the amended bill,” Theoharides told The AP.

It’s now up to lawmakers to decide whether to agree to Baker’s changes or try to enact the bill as they originally crafted it, despite Baker’s objections.

Ben Hellerstein, state director of the advocacy group Environment Massachusetts, urged lawmakers not to approve any changes that would weaken the bill, which he called “an important step.”

“We will need to go further in 2021 to put Massachusetts on track to 100% renewable energy,” he said.