Climate bill will bring cleaner energy, more efficient buildings to Massachusetts

Media Contacts
Ben Hellerstein

Former State Director, Environment Massachusetts

BOSTON – State legislators sent a bill to Gov. Charlie Baker’s desk yesterday to reduce energy waste and help transition Massachusetts’ buildings and transportation system from fossil fuels to clean energy.

The votes in the House and Senate came one day after President Joe Biden’s visit to the site of the former Brayton Point coal plant in Somerset, where he called climate change a “clear and present danger.”

“I am deeply grateful to Speaker Mariano, Chair Michlewitz, Chair Roy, my colleagues and the many advocates and constituents who understand that this climate crisis is only going to get worse, threatening our environment, our economy, and our safety and resulting in loss of life and spread of disease,” said state Rep. Marjorie Decker (Cambridge). “This legislation will help us meet the demand for renewable energy while also adopting pieces of the clean energy bill that I have been leading on, along with my colleague Rep. Sean Garballey. This bill moves us much closer to a Commonwealth powered by clean energy.”

“I am very pleased that many of the provisions that we have worked on in the 100% Clean Act are on Gov. Baker’s desk awaiting his signature,” said state Rep. Sean Garballey (Arlington). “The urgency to address climate change is felt in every corner of our Commonwealth. This legislation is critical in making sure Massachusetts meets its climate goals. I am grateful and appreciative to Speaker Mariano, Chairman Roy, Rep. Marjorie Decker and all of our advocates across Massachusetts who made this issue a number one priority for our future.”

“We must meet the urgency of the climate crisis with broad-spectrum strategies in sustainability,” said state Sen. Becca Rausch (Needham). “Energy-efficient buildings are better buildings — and better buildings are a crucial component of our Commonwealth’s efforts to reduce carbon emissions and combat climate change. I am proud that my amendment to create statewide energy reporting standards for existing large buildings was preserved in the final version of An Act Driving Clean Energy and Offshore Wind, moving all of us closer to a carbon-free Commonwealth.”

The bill (H.5060) emerged Wednesday night from a conference committee appointed to reconcile different versions of clean energy and climate legislation passed by the House and Senate earlier this year. Both chambers voted to approve the final bill by a wide margin, including support from Democrats and Republicans.

If signed into law by Gov. Baker, the bill will require the owners of large buildings — such as offices, apartment buildings, hospitals, and universities — to disclose their energy use each year. The Department of Energy Resources will make this data publicly available, along with an annual report that identifies the best opportunities to improve energy efficiency and convert fossil fuel heating systems to clean technologies like air-source and ground-source heat pumps.

This energy disclosure requirement is based on the Better Buildings Act (H.3366, S.2232), filed by state Sen. Becca Rausch and former state Rep. Maria Robinson. Similar policies are already in place at the municipal level in Boston and Cambridge, as well as states like Colorado and Maryland.

“Making buildings more energy-efficient and converting heating systems from fossil fuels to clean energy sources is a win-win-win for Bay Staters,” said Deirdre Cummings, legislative director for MASSPIRG. “It will protect our health, our environment and save money.”

“Lawmakers have taken a major step to meeting Massachusetts’s ambitious climate targets. The investments approved by the legislature will spur efforts to clean buildings and curb climate pollution across the Commonwealth’s economy, which in turn will help companies, consumers, workers, and families thrive,” said Alli Gold Roberts, senior director, state policy, at Ceres. “We urge Gov. Baker to sign this legislation into law promptly and cement his legacy as a leader of bipartisan progress in confronting the climate crisis and building a competitive, innovative, low-carbon economy.”

“The U.S. Green Building Council applauds the inclusion of large building energy reporting in the conference committee climate bill and urges Governor Baker to sign the bill into law. Disclosing and reporting energy use is a critical first step to improving performance and reducing energy costs,” said Elizabeth Beardsley, senior policy counsel for the U.S. Green Building Council. “The green building community looks forward to working with state agencies to support effective implementation of these policies and to ensure benefits to residents of all income levels.”

“On this very hot week, coming off a month of truly terrible news for the climate, I am so grateful that Massachusetts has chosen to move forward on clean energy generation, electric vehicles, and building energy reporting, plus a pilot to allow towns to require new construction to be fossil-fuel-free,” said Laura Spark, senior policy advocate for Clean Water Action. “All of these of move us closer to the kind of future we need to be creating for our children and grandchildren.”

“The Institute for Market Transformation applauds the state legislature and advocates who made the 2022 climate and clean energy bill a reality,” said Lotte Schlegel, executive director of the Institute for Market Transformation. “With the passage of this bill, Massachusetts joins other cities and states from Boston to California at the leading edge of climate action in adopting building benchmarking and transparency laws. These policies inform policymakers and communities on building energy and emissions performance and are a bedrock foundation for effective climate action in existing buildings.”

The bill also includes a number of provisions from the 100% Clean Act, filed by state Reps. Marjorie Decker and Sean Garballey and former state Sen. Joseph Boncore (H.3288, S.2136):

  • A requirement for 100% of the cars sold in Massachusetts to be electric vehicles by 2035;
  • A timeline for the MBTA to achieve an all-electric bus fleet, and assistance for regional transit authorities (RTAs) to adopt electric buses; and
  • The ability for up to 10 cities and towns to adopt local policies requiring new buildings to use fossil-fuel-free heating and appliances, an important step toward safer, healthier homes and businesses for everyone in Massachusetts.

“During his visit to Somerset on Wednesday, President Biden said that when it comes to fighting climate change, he won’t take no for an answer. With this bill, Massachusetts is saying ‘yes’ to climate action,” said Ben Hellerstein, state director for Environment Massachusetts. “This bill could be the defining piece of the Governor’s climate legacy. I hope he’ll do the right thing and sign it into law.”

“For young people, transitioning Massachusetts to 100% renewable energy is a no-brainer,” said Julia McLaughlin, organizing director for MASSPIRG Students. “We’re proud of what we’ve accomplished this legislative session and we’re going to stay in this fight until all of our energy comes from safe, pollution-free sources.”

“Vote Solar applauds the Massachusetts Legislature, and especially the conferees, for coming together to pass House Bill 5060, an exciting piece of climate legislation that will have tangible impacts on the health and economic well-being of our communities,” said Elena Weissman, Northeast Regional Director for Vote Solar. “The provisions passed yesterday will expand access to affordable rooftop solar, support long-term solar industry growth, and establish expert committees to provide recommendations on grid modernization and transmission. While there’s more work to do to advance equitable energy access and address environmental injustices for Massachusetts’ most overburdened communities, this bill’s passage is cause for celebration.”

Gov. Baker has ten days to decide whether to sign the bill into law or veto it.