Massachusetts Governor Asks Lawmakers To Alter Climate Bill

BOSTON (AP) — Gov. Charlie Baker sent back to lawmakers on Friday a bill mandating some of the steps Massachusetts needs to take to meet a goal of net-zero greenhouse gas emissions by 2050.

In a letter to lawmakers, the Republican governor said he agreed with much in the bill, but suggested some changes.

“This bill contains a number of commendable ideas that, if implemented well, would be of significant benefit to the Commonwealth,” Baker wrote. “However, as drafted, certain sections of the bill would be difficult or impossible to implement.”

Baker acknowledged there is a small window of time to agree on a final bill — the Legislature's formal session concludes at the end of the day on Sunday — but said he was returning it in the hopes of reaching a compromise he will be able to sign.

While the bill encourages the development of offshore wind, which Baker supports, he said the state needs to look to other sources of what he described as clean energy to meet its emissions goals. To do that Baker said he's again asking lawmakers to put $750 million in federal American Rescue Plan Act funds into a clean energy investment fund.

Baker also said the legislation needs to do more to ensue improvements to energy transmission systems.

The Massachusetts House approved the bill on a 143-9 vote. The Senate then voted 38-2 in favor of the bill before sending it to Baker last week.

The bill takes more steps toward battling tailpipe emissions to help slow climate change.

It would increase to $3,500 the rebate for qualifying purchases and leases of zero-emission passenger cars and light duty trucks costing $55,000 or less, and offer an additional $1,000 to purchasers who are trading in an internal combustion vehicle.

New vehicle sales would be required to be zero emission starting in 2035 while new Massachusetts Bay Transportation Authority bus purchases and leases would also be required to be zero emission by 2030 with the entire transit fleet transitioning to zero emission by 2040.

The legislation seeks to combat so called “range anxiety” for electric cars by encouraging the creation of more charging stations.

The bill would let agricultural and horticultural land be used for solar panels as long as they don’t impede the continued use of the land for agricultural or horticultural uses.

Under the bill, 10 cities and towns would be allowed to require fossil fuel-free new construction, as long as each community first meets the 10% affordable housing target set by state law and also exempts life sciences labs and health care facilities from the all-electric requirement.