Environmental groups have been a bit wary lately of Governor Charlie Baker, largely because he continues to embrace natural gas as a key part of the region’s energy mix.
But Baker just gave enviros a reason to celebrate — and to join him at a press conference. He filed a long-anticipated bill Tuesday that would make Massachusetts the first state to require home sellers to share energy efficiency grades for their houses with potential buyers, starting in 2021.
This bill has been in the works for months. But until the past few days, no one outside of the administration seemed to know for sure whether Baker would follow through with the promise (or threat, depending on your viewpoint) that his bill would make these assessments mandatory.
The residential building sector contributes to roughly a quarter of the state’s greenhouse gas emissions. Matt Beaton, a former home efficiency consultant who now oversees Baker’s energy offices, sees this bill as another important step to curb pollution. It could spur consumers to replace their windows or seal their doors, for example, reducing energy consumption.
Now comes another dance with the Legislature. The Senate approved a similar provision in 2016, but it was dropped amid negotiations with House leaders. The real estate industry will put up a fight again, saying this bill would add another burden to an already complicated process, hurting lower-income neighborhoods in particular. And Baker and Beaton have only four months before roll-call votes are done for the year.
Baker’s popularity among voters remains sky high. But he’s got an election coming up. In this liberal state, it still might help to give environmental groups a reason to stand by his side.