Charlie Baker to sign sweeping climate change bill

Source: By STEVE LeBLANC, Associated Press • Posted: Sunday, March 28, 2021

The bill seeks for the state to reach a net-zero greenhouse gas emission limit by 2050.

An offshore wind farm near Block Island, R.I.
An offshore wind farm near Block Island, R.I. –Chang W. Lee/The New York Times

BOSTON (AP) — Massachusetts Gov. Charlie Baker said Thursday that he plans to sign a sweeping climate change bill, ending months of shuttling the legislation back and forth between the Democratic-controlled Legislature and the Republican governor.

Asked at the end of an unrelated press conference whether he was planning to sign the bill, Baker replied “yes” without additional comment.

Massachusetts lawmakers last week sent the bill back to Baker, with the Massachusetts House voting 146-13 in favor of the bill and the Senate voting 39-1 to again approve the legislation.

Last week’s votes came after the House and Senate overwhelmingly approved the bill during the waning days of the prior formal session in January.

Baker subsequently vetoed the bill, prompting lawmakers to quickly pass the bill early in the new legislative session to get it back to Baker’s desk.

Baker and lawmakers both support a key element of the bill — creating a net-zero greenhouse gas emission limit by 2050.

The bill includes additional steps like incremental goals every five years to reach a 50% reduction in emissions by 2030 before meeting the 2050 goal.

The legislation would also strengthen protections for “environmental justice populations” — typically lower income communities facing greater health risks from pollution — and create a specialized energy code that would allow for net-zero building construction for towns that want it.

Other elements of the legislation include: requiring an additional 2,400 megawatts of offshore wind, increasing the total authorization to 5,600; setting appliance energy efficiency standards for a variety of appliances including plumbing, faucets, computers, and commercial appliances; improving gas pipeline safety; and creating benchmarks for the adoption of clean energy technologies like electric vehicles, charging stations, solar technology and energy storage,

Democratic Senate President Karen Spilka said in a statement last week that the bill “will put our Commonwealth on a path to lowering harmful carbon emissions, add fuel to our growing green economy and improve the lives of those living in underserved communities. ”

Baker had previously said he supported much of the legislation, but was concerned some elements of the bill could end up slowing the economy as it tries to rebound from the pandemic.

Most of the changes suggested by Baker were technical in nature, including details about how the state could reach its renewable energy goals. Baker had also expressed concern that some elements of the bill could make it harder to build desperately needed housing.

Rep. Jeffrey Roy, a Franklin Democrat and supporter of the bill said last week that lawmakers took Baker’s suggestions into consideration, and adopted some of the technical changes.

Baker’s press office did not say when the governor plans to sign the bill.