COULD GOV. CHARLIE Baker veto the climate change bill?
It seems hard to believe, but several supporters of the sweeping legislation say they are hearing troubling reports coming out of the Baker administration as the clock winds down to the Thursday night deadline.
Some advocates and lawmakers, who asked not to be identified, said they are hearing the governor could possibly veto the bill. “I’m worried,” said one of the people.
The legislation, which is viewed as a tool kit for achieving net zero carbon emissions by 2050, includes a lot of tools the administration wants – energy efficiency standards for appliances, authorization for much larger offshore wind procurements, introduction of the term “environmental justice” into state law, and increased funding for the Massachusetts Clean Energy Center. If signed into law, advocates say the measure would be the most ambitious climate bill in the nation.
But there are also provisions in the bill the administration isn’t thrilled about. The bill is prescriptive, requiring the administration to set emission goals in five-year instead of 10-year increments. The measure also requires the establishment of specific targets in six industrial sectors – electric power, transportation, commercial and industrial heating and cooling, residential heating and cooling, industrial processes, and natural gas distribution and service.
Perhaps the biggest issue is the legislation’s emissions goal for 2030. The bill calls for a 50 percent reduction below 1990 levels, but the administration favors a 45 percent target. Kathleen Theoharides, the governor’s secretary of energy and environmental affairs, has said 50 percent would be “unnecessarily disruptive” to the economy and costly for those people who can least afford it.
“Forty-five percent hits that balance of being aggressive enough to ensure we get to net zero while not being cost-prohibitive to our economy,” she said.
Normally, the governor would just send the bill back with amendments changing some provisions to his own liking and a back and forth between the administration and the Legislature would ensue. But after the bill sat in a conference committee for more than five months, the Legislature approved it on January 4 and went out of existence the next day, when new lawmakers for the 2021-2022 session were sworn in.
The timing means, according to most analysts, that Baker can only sign the bill into law or veto it in its entirety. The two other major bills sitting on the governor’s desk, which deal with economic development and transportation bonding, are spending authorizations where the governor can exercise his line-item veto.
One source said administration officials are upset about being boxed in to an up or down decision on the climate change bill. The source said the administration is exploring whether there is any way to amend the bill and even considering a veto.
“I’m hopeful that Gov. Baker can see all of the many benefits of this bill,” said one advocate. “It would be heartbreaking if it doesn’t pass.”