Mass Power Forward: Glad for Environmental Justice, Ready to build on this foundation for more in 2021
Climate activists have been advocating for bold climate justice action since day one of the current legislative session, which began in January of 2019. Members of the Mass Power Forward Coalition, a state-wide coalition of over 200 groups, have been working for environmental justice, a just transition to 100% clean, renewable energy and getting legislation passed that responds to the reality of our situation.
On Monday, January 4th, both chambers finally released a final compromise version of the climate Roadmap Bill: S.2995. The coalition celebrated the inclusion of environmental justice in particular, the creation of a net zero stretch building code, and giving municipalities greater control over the quality and efficiency of new construction projects. The bill builds upon the 2008’s Global Warming Solutions Act by creating interim carbon emissions targets for 2030, 2035, 2040 and 2045 as well as ‘sub limits’ for major sectors (e.g. electric power, transportation, heating and cooling). While this bill represents a significant step forward, work remains to address emissions in Massachusetts. The legislation unfortunately fails to include a commitment to source 100% of the state’s electricity from renewable sources in a reasonable timeline and does not fully tackle our state’s largest source of greenhouse gases: the transportation sector.
Maria Belén Power, Associate Executive Director, GreenRoots Inc, said, “We are thrilled that the Massachusetts Legislature together with the Governor have enacted a historic climate bill that includes critical environmental justice language. After decades worth of work, the Commonwealth will finally have a strong definition of environmental justice populations, allowing the most vulnerable communities across the State the protections they deserve. For far too long Black, Brown, poor and immigrant communities have been disproportionately impacted by polluting facilities and dangerous infrastructures, affecting their public health and quality of life. This is a significant first step in reversing decades of environmental racism and injustice. We are deeply grateful to all of the legislative sponsors and the Governor for their leadership, and to our friends, allies and supporters across the Commonwealth for their unwavering commitment to racial and environmental justice.”
Sofia Owen, Staff Attorney at ACE (Alternatives for Community and Environment): “Environmental racism continues to be a reality in Massachusetts. Black, Brown, and low-income communities have been targeted with decades of pollution, resulting in higher rates of asthma and health issues that make it harder to breathe and higher risks of contracting COVID-19. We are grateful that the environmental justice population definition and other critical protections were included in the climate bill sent to the Governor’s desk. We urge Governor Baker to sign the bill and bring us closer to environmental justice in the Commonwealth.”
In response, Jacob Stern, Deputy Director of the Sierra Club Massachusetts Chapter said:
“By adding interim carbon pollution reduction targets and enshrining a definition of environmental justice in law, this bill serves as a critical and necessary step forward. Our window for climate action is closing and we must act urgently to embrace a fossil fuel-free future. We call upon Governor Baker to sign this bill into law.”
“The 2018 IPCC Report (Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change) estimated that we have twelve short years to make drastic changes, not to avoid the catastrophe that is already unfolding, but to mitigate its inevitable impact. How we think about energy must change. Too many people have already been forced to sacrifice their homes and their health due to our collective dependency on fossil fuels. We are glad to see that finally, Massachusetts legislators included Environmental Justice in the bill being sent to the Governor. This is an important step forward but there is more work to be done and there is no more time to lose. We have to make bold leaps forward to make up for lost time. Governor Baker, we call on you to do your part and sign this bill today,” says Laura Wagner, Executive Director of UU Mass Action.
In response, Cabell Eames, Legislative Manager for 35O Massachusetts said:
“For the last two years, our members have been fighting for climate legislation that reflects the sobering IPCC report that came out in 2018. An Act Creating a Next Generation Roadmap certainly takes great strides in addressing the emergency we face, with significant gains in wind, appliance efficiency standards, and the setting of explicit emission reduction goals. It is equally important to see the bill’s environmental justice language as continuing to ignore these communities would have been unforgivable. We urge Governor Baker to sign this bill swiftly and without pause.”
In response, Sylvia Broude, Executive Director of Community Action Works said:
“This bill is a meaningful step forward for communities on the frontlines of the climate crisis who for too long have been sacrifice zones, forced to breathe air polluted by fossil fuel power plants or fracked gas infrastructure. It codifies environmental justice into law and expands the state’s commitment to truly clean, renewable energy sources like off-shore wind. We urge the Governor to sign the bill as soon as possible and lead our state to take even stronger action in the coming year.”
In response, Sarah Dooling, Executive Director Massachusetts Climate Action Network Executive Director said:
“We thank the Conference Committee for listening to advocates on the need for climate legislation. We now urge Governor Baker to immediately sign the Next Generation Roadmap legislation. Environmental justice communities will be legally recognized, cities and towns will have the option for net zero stretch codes and net zero buildings, and in nine years, renewable energy sources will account for at least 40% of our electricity. We have more work to do, and this toolkit is the first step on the road to a just transition. Please sign the bill, Governor Baker, and ensure the future health and safety of our Commonwealth.”
Ben Hellerstein, State Director for Environment Massachusetts, issued the following statement:
“With this legislation, Massachusetts will take important steps toward a cleaner, healthier future. If passed into law, it will ensure that at least 40% of our electricity comes from renewable resources by 2030, while providing for 2,400 megawatts of additional offshore wind procurements. We think Gov. Charlie Baker should sign this bill as soon as it reaches his desk. That being said, we can’t be satisfied with a few steps in the right direction. It’s time to break into a sprint. This bill isn’t the finish line — it’s the first few steps out of the starting blocks. Let’s make 2021 the year Massachusetts takes the lead in the race to 100% renewable energy.”