Both branches of the Massachusetts Legislature have greenlit a new climate bill, bringing months of negotiations to an end.
The new agreement “preserves the central ideas of bills that each branch had passed separately,” Senator Michael Barrett and Representative Jeff Roy, co-chairs of a conference committee appointed to reach a compromise on the legislation, said in a statement.
“We’re proud,” Barrett said.
The legislation was filed in the wee hours of Thursday morning and received formal approval later in the day. It now heads to Governor Charlie Baker, who will have 10 days to review it and offer amendments.
Barrett said he is confident the Legislature has enough votes to override a veto. But they lose their power to do so when the session ends on July 31, so if Baker vetoes it after that point, the bill dies.
Here are some of the most important provisions in the legislation:
Ten towns and cities have been seeking to ban gas hookups in new buildings. The bill would allow them to do so as soon as 120 days after the bill passes — but with caveats.
To implement the bans, communities must first have at least 10 percent of their housing considered affordable, in compliance with state law.
All life sciences labs and health care facilities must also be exempt from the bans on gas in new buildings, the bill states.
It would also require the state to collect data on the impacts of such bans on greenhouse gas emissions, building construction costs, and customers’ electricity bills.
The key focus of the House of Representatives’ work on the bill was expanding the state’s offshore wind industry. The bill would increase research into offshore wind and ensure businesses owned by women, people of color, and veterans are part of the new industry.
It would also establish a commission of fishing industry representatives to review the industry and recommend policies. And it would give tax breaks to firms that are likely to contribute substantially to the “manufacture, fabrication, and assembly” of materials needed for offshore wind farms.
The bill also takes control over awarding offshore wind energy contracts away from utilities such as Eversource and National Grid and gives it to the state Department of Energy Resources. Because utilities have investments in offshore wind development, critics have raised concerns they might act out of self-interest when it comes time for picking bid winners.
Currently, the state has a price cap that requires each new offshore project to offer power at a lower price than the one brought online before it, which some worry has discouraged bids. The bill wouldn’t eliminate the price cap but would only apply it when there are two or fewer bidders.
Roy said all the House’s priorities made it into the final bill, noting it was filed hours after President Biden discussed the importance of offshore wind in Somerset.
The timing was “poetic,” he said. “He picked Massachusetts because we are so well poised to lead in this industry,” he said.
The bill removes woody biomass from the state’s “renewable portfolio standard,” meaning that wood-burning power plants won’t count toward renewable energy goals in Massachusetts or be eligible for state clean energy subsidies.
It exempts a handful of small facilities that are currently in the program.
Future of gas
The Department of Public Utilities has come under fire for allowing utility companies to play an outsized role in writing the industry’s plans to move away from fossil fuels.
The bill would prevent the agency from approving those plans without an adjudicatory proceeding, pumping the brakes on the process and pushing the decision on the plans into the next governor’s administration.
The bill makes changes to Mass Save, a state program that provides energy efficiency incentives to consumers.
Starting with the next Mass Save plan, which will run from 2025 to 2027, the legislation would end all Mass Save incentives to install fossil fuel infrastructure in buildings, except when the fuel is used as a backup for an electric heat pump.
The bill would expand the state’s electric vehicle incentive program, increasing the government rebate from $2,500 to $3,500 for electric cars and light-duty trucks that cost $55,000 or less.
It would also offer an additional $1,000 to people who are trading in an internal combustion vehicle and requires the state to offer rebates to medium- and heavy-duty zero-emission vehicles.
Right now, rebates are only available to residents within 30 days after they purchase an EV. But the new bill would allow the state to make rebates available when a purchase is made or a lease is signed.
The legislation would also require that the state’s bus fleet reach zero emissions by 2040.
Samantha Gross and Jon Chesto of the Globe staff contributed to this report.
Dharna Noor can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow her on Twitter @dharnanoor.