WITH LITTLE FANFARE and no drama, the House and Senate on Thursday enacted and sent to the governor the same climate change bill he vetoed on January 14.
The Senate approved the bill on a series of voice votes and the House enacted it by a vote of 144-14, with 13 of the 31 Republicans voting no along with Rep. Colleen Garry, a Democrat from Dracut.
The last time the governor got the bill it was at the end of the 2019-2020 legislative session – too late for him to make amendments and send it back to the Legislature for action, so he pocket-vetoed it. This time he is expected to amend a number of sections he objects to, including the requirement that the state cut emissions 50 percent below 1990 levels by 2030. The administration favors a 45 percent reduction.
It’s unclear whether the Legislature will insist on the version sent to the governor.
In a brief speech in the House, Rep. Thomas Golden Jr. of Lowell hailed House Speaker Ron Mariano for leading the charge for quick re-passage. “Thank you very much, Mr. Speaker, for holding the line and ensuring that this bill becomes law,” he said.
Over in the Senate, Sen. Michael Barrett of Lexington, who has locked horns with the administration over the bill, said he had had several conversations with officials at the Executive Office of Energy and Environmental Affairs over the last 10 days.
“I think they’ve been useful to both sides,” he said of the conversations. “I sense some receptivity there.”
Business groups have concerns about some aspects of the legislation. Tamara Small, the CEO of NAIOP Massachusetts, which represents commercial developers, said in an email that provisions calling for the creation of a net-zero energy code “create immense uncertainty for our industry.” She said any developer with a project in the works now would have to think twice about proceeding until the term is defined in regulation.
“Aside from the costs associated with such a requirement, there are very serious hurdles to doing this, including electrification of thermal heating (distribution capacity limits), eligible renewable energy (currently scarce and very expensive under certain definitions ), and challenges with different building types (lab vs. office vs. multifamily),” she said.
Building trades groups are saying the measure would put many of their workers out of jobs. Rick Dimino, the president and CEO of the business group A Better City, also had concerns. “The foundation of the climate bill is strong, but some key amendments are needed to address implementation concerns, especially relating to the net zero stretch energy code for buildings,” he said. “The goal of updating the stretch energy code is commendable. However, the current bill language lacks clarity regarding process and scope and establishes an infeasible timeline for adopting an updated code.”
The climate change legislation calls for a new statewide emission target every five years starting in 2025 and accompanying goals in six different industry subsectors, including electric power, transportation, and commercial and industrial heating and cooling.
Associated Industries of Massachusetts, the state’s largest business group, is recommending that the first emission target be set for 2030 since it’s almost too late to set in motion changes for 2025. AIM also recommends doing away with the targets in industry sub-sectors.