AIMING HIGH ON CLIMATE CHANGE:
Let’s Aim High
There can be no higher priority than saving the planet from our current catastrophic course.
Massachusetts is small, but given our history of leadership and exceptional resources in education, brain power, and technology, we should be a beacon of progressive energy policy for the country.
I am an environmentalist who cares deeply about addressing climate change and protecting our environment. Working as a public finance lawyer, I helped the City of Brockton finance the development of one of the first municipal solar farms in Massachusetts more than a decade ago. I led the campaign to adopt the Community Preservation Act in Brookline, currently serve on the Advisory Board for the Trust for Public Land, and previously served on the board of the Brookline Greenspace Alliance.
I’m proud to have been a member of the Patrick Administration as the Secretary of Administration and Finance. In that position, I helped Governor Patrick increase investment in land conservation and urban parks to record levels during the State’s worst fiscal crisis in decades. I launched the Accelerated Energy Program to “green” 700 state facilities in 700 days, reducing both energy costs and greenhouse gas emissions. I played a key role in developing the financing plan for the pier in New Bedford that is now serving as a launching pad for offshore wind farms. And I oversaw the investment of federal stimulus funds, including for the development of the Wind Technology Testing Center in Charlestown.
When I’m Governor, we will aim high and make Massachusetts a leader again when it comes to taking on climate change. We will set ambitious goals to address climate change, and we will work with a sense of urgency toward meeting them.
In order to ensure that we meet or exceed the Commonwealth’s Global Warming Solutions Act requirement to reduce greenhouse gas emissions by 80% below 1990 levels by 2050, we will set an interim goal of reducing greenhouse gas emissions by 50% below 1990 levels by 2030. Toward that end, we will also seek to source 50% of our energy from renewable sources by 2030 and 100% of our energy from renewables by 2050.
We will accelerate our transition to renewable energy sources.
We will fix, improve and electrify our public transportation system, which is currently the sector that emits the most greenhouse gas emissions.
We will be the first state in the nation to adopt carbon pricing.
We will increase energy efficiency efforts.
We will change our regulatory structure to align electric and gas utility company incentives with our public policy objectives. Instead of the utility company interests driving energy policy, the public interest will drive energy policy.
We will be proactive in taking steps to mitigate the impacts of climate change by implementing adaptation strategies that will protect our people and property to the greatest extent possible.
We will follow environmental justice principles to ensure underserved communities not only share in the benefits of our energy transition, but that they also don’t disproportionately bear the brunt of the impacts of climate change.
And we will not only be ambitious about addressing the threat of climate change, we will be ambitious about taking advantage of the opportunity it presents. The clean energy sector is among the fastest growing sectors in the world, and we can create thousands and thousands of jobs right here in Massachusetts if we are intentional about it.
Not Satisfied with the Status Quo
Climate change is upon us—not a threat in some distant future. Unprecedented hurricanes, massive fires throughout the West, a blisteringly hot summer world-wide, and melting glaciers all warn us that the climate is changing now. And it’s not changing just in remote locations. Flash floods swamped Worcester this summer. Boston has seen record high-tide flooding during the last year, as well as nor’easters that submerged neighborhoods as storms pounded the entire east coast. The Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development lists Boston as eighth among the world’s major cities most threatened by flooding from sea-level rise. And the recent report of the UN panel on climate change makes clear that we are all in for much worse much sooner than we thought without bold action now.
Meanwhile, the Baker Administration is not being bold enough and is falling behind. We are now off-track to comply with the Global Warming Solutions Act requirements (note: requirements, not goals) of a 25% reduction in greenhouse gas emissions from 1990 levels by 2020 and an 80% reduction in greenhouse gases by 2050.
Governor Baker is slow-walking our transition to renewable energy sources, and in some ways is hindering that transition by supporting constraints on solar development and supporting the expansion of natural gas pipeline infrastructure. He has made no real effort toward electrifying our transportation system, dropped the ball on measures to modernize the electric grid, done virtually nothing to implement the State’s environmental justice policy, allowed the utilities’ interests to drive our energy policy, failed to do enough to plan for and address the impacts of climate change, and lost 3,000 jobs in our solar industry in the last year alone.
It is no wonder that a group of environmental organizations gave the Baker Administration an overall grade of C in this year’s Massachusetts Energy and Environment Report Card.
Principles and Proposals
Here are the principles that will drive my Administration’s approach to addressing climate change:
One: Maximize energy efficiency and conservation. There are no cheaper megawatts than the ones we avoid using. The Commonwealth has made a good start to addressing efficiency, but we have much further to go. The State’s energy efficiency programs should do a much better job of serving renters and other hard-to-reach populations, and should commit to moving off oil, propane, gas, and baseboard electric heat and to efficient heat air-source pumps.
Two: Electrify the economy with clean electricity. That means replacing fossil fuels on the electric grid with renewable resources like solar and wind, and it means using that clean electricity not just to keep the lights on, but also for transportation and heating buildings.
Three: Align law and regulations with public policy objectives. The challenges associated with climate change have outstripped our current laws and regulations. Our regulatory structure provides huge incentives to the utilities to build large infrastructure projects like natural gas pipelines. We should be providing incentives to the utilities to modernize the energy system in ways that encourage the development of renewable resources. The failure to put a price on carbon emissions and to eliminate the net metering cap on renewable resources are other glaring examples of the non-alignment of law with our policy objectives.
Here is my legislative agenda on energy and climate change:
- Price carbon. Under my leadership, Massachusetts will be the first state to put a price on carbon emissions. Our program should be revenue neutral for low- and middle-income households and for businesses, but I support using at least a portion of the proceeds from higher-income individuals to make one-time investments needed to accelerate our transition to a clean energy economy (e.g., building electric charging stations; electrifying public transit).
Ideally, we would adopt a carbon pricing or cap-and-trade program with other regional states to multiply the impact in reducing greenhouse gas emissions (similar to the approach taken through the Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative). That’s why I will immediately seek to meet with the Governors of other states in our region with the hope of agreeing on a regional approach. But if there is a lack of interest or commitment from other states in the region to move quickly to adopt a program together, we will do it alone.
- Increase the Renewable Portfolio Standards requirement to three percent annually. Given the State’s important requirement for offshore wind procurement, the failure to increase the Renewable Portfolio Standards by that amount, as opposed to the two percent just enacted this summer, will undermine the market for renewable energy and result in our failing to meet our ambitious goals.
- Increase and accelerate the State’s offshore wind development. In 2016, State legislation required the electric utilities to purchase 1600 megawatts of offshore wind. That is a great start. Legislation that just passed this summer authorizes but doesn’t mandate a further offshore wind procurement of an additional 1600 megawatts. This additional 1600 megawatts should be a mandate. Offshore wind is by far the State’s biggest renewable resource as well as an entirely new industry for Massachusetts. But if we don’t commit to a larger offshore wind future on an accelerated timeline, we run the risk that New York and other states will monopolize the eastern offshore wind industry. Moreover, it is clear from Vineyard Wind’s surprisingly low price in response to a State procurement that offshore wind provides financial benefits to Massachusetts’ ratepayers.
- Remove the net metering caps and new residential solar charge. Net metering caps place arbitrary statutory limits on the amount of solar power and other kinds of renewable energy that can receive the state subsidies that facilitate the growth of renewables. This limits the development of renewables, which are the energy resources we need the most. With net metering caps, our market for solar and other kinds of renewable energy can operate only in fits and starts. The new charge authorized by the Baker Administration on residential solar also creates a disincentive for development of renewables. We must both accelerate the development of solar power in Massachusetts and make the benefits of solar accessible and affordable for all communities.
- Require solar power on all new buildings on which it is viable. California has just enacted a similar law, estimating that the electricity cost savings will exceed the additional construction costs.
- Stop the expansion of natural gas pipeline infrastructure. To be unequivocally clear: unlike Governor Baker, I oppose new natural gas pipeline infrastructure and the expansion of existing pipelines. We don’t need it, and it will just further our dependence on fossil fuels. As Governor, I will do everything in my power to stop new natural gas pipelines.
- Make environmental justice a reality instead of a rhetorical talking point. Climate change disproportionately affects poor communities and communities of color, and these communities bear a disproportionate environmental and public health burden from polluting industries. Equity should be codified in statute and implemented by every Commonwealth agency.
- Adopt appliance standards for every single type of appliance for which standards are not preempted by federal law. Under federal law, the U.S. Department of Energy sets standards for many household and industrial appliances. For appliances that are not covered by federal law, Massachusetts should collaborate with other states to set environmentally protective standards.
With strong leadership and a bold, coherent vision, the Governor can do a great deal to address climate change even without statutory changes. The Baker Administration has failed to use the power or the bully pulpit of the Governor’s office to provide leadership or vision for environmental protection or clean energy. I am committed to undertaking the following measures:
- Appoint Commissioners of the energy agencies who have a history of commitment to and experience with progressive energy and climate policy.
- Instruct the Department of Public Utilities immediately to open a proceeding designed to align utility incentives with the Commonwealth’s energy and climate requirements. This is a pressing issue. We provide incentives to the utilities to build natural gas pipelines, when we should be facilitating the development of more renewable resources with speedy and responsive interconnection processes. And we need Commissioners of the energy agencies who are up to the job.
- Accelerate the repair and replacement of leaking natural gas infrastructure, and pursue and explore innovative approaches to replacing that infrastructure, such as district-based energy sources. There are over 15,000 leaks across Massachusetts, which leak methane into the environment that contributes to climate change, pose safety concerns, and cost ratepayers money. And as the Merrimack Valley tragedy reminded us, we need much stronger oversight of the gas companies performing this work and maintaining our gas pipeline infrastructure. I will hire multiple times the number of inspectors at the Department of Public Utilities to proactively oversee the gas companies’ work, rather than rely on the gas companies to oversee themselves and put public safety at risk.
- Adopt programs that will reward customers who use power when it is least expensive and encourage conservation when power is expensive. This will reduce the amount of new energy infrastructure we need to build and reduce both prices and emissions.
- Adopt a comprehensive energy plan to assure that the programs we adopt are designed actually to achieve our climate-related objectives.
- Ensure that the energy agencies prioritize much more ambitious energy efficiency programs, including the provision of incentives for the design and construction of high-performing, net zero energy buildings that produce as much or more energy than they consume.
- Fix, improve and electrify our transportation system. We need to make our public transit systems reliable and convenient so people want to use them and get off our congested roads. That will require both improving the public transit that exists and investing in targeted expansions that will also improve mobility, grow our economy and improve quality of life. We need to electrify our entire transportation system, including trains, buses, cars, trucks and other vehicles. And we need to make it easier and safer for people to walk and bike.
- Transition the State’s vehicle fleet to electric vehicles.
- Ensure the installation of electric vehicle chargers throughout the Commonwealth to support the statewide transition to electric vehicles.
- Work with the other New England states to ensure that ISO-NE programs advance state climate policies rather than hindering them.
- Install solar panels on all existing State buildings on which orientation and shading permit and build all new State buildings to a net zero energy standard.
- Support the State’s Board of Building Regulations and Standards, which writes the State’s building code, in promulgating a building code that is consistent with the State’s energy and climate objectives, including the dual goals of reducing greenhouse gas emissions and protecting buildings from the impacts of climate change.
- Develop a statewide plan for mitigating the impacts of climate change through adaptation strategies. This will be a high-profile initiative that will likely need subsequent legislation to authorize the implementation of the plan.
In addition to taking bold action to address the threat of climate change, I will make it a priority to take advantage of the opportunity climate change presents to grow jobs throughout Massachusetts. We have all the assets to be a leader in the clean energy sector if we are intentional about it.
I will work with the Clean Energy Center and industry stakeholders to develop an economic development initiative to support our effort to make Massachusetts a leader in the clean energy sector. With over 109,000 jobs in Massachusetts, clean energy already represents 2.3 percent of our Gross State Product. By developing more solar and offshore wind right here in Massachusetts, we will be creating jobs here like installing solar panels. But we can create even more jobs here in Massachusetts by exporting innovative new technologies, research capabilities, manufacturing, financing and other assets and capabilities.
Massachusetts should be the unchallenged front-runner among the states in progressive energy policy and groundbreaking technology developments. I will provide the leadership we need to leverage state, university, and industry resources to assure that future.