What’s in the Senate Clean Energy Omnibus Bill
by TIM CRONIN, POLICY ASSOCIATE
Earlier today the Senate Committee on Global Warming and Climate Change released its final clean energy omnibus bill. The 71-page document contains over 100 sections addressing nearly every topic in clean energy. Below is a breakdown of the bill’s key sections, and a discussion of the next steps for the ambitious legislation.
What is an Omnibus Bill?
An omnibus bill is used by the legislature to combine many smaller, separate bills into one package of policies that can be collectively passed together . Oftentimes omnibus bills are centered around a single theme – in this case clean energy.
Massachusetts’ last attempt at a true omnibus clean energy bill was in 2016. The bill that resulted focused heavily on out-of-state procurement, as opposed to more comprehensively addressing a range of issues associated with climate change across the state. Further compounding the lack of action, President Trump’s policy decisions in Washington, changes in the New England energy market, and new clean technology make a new omnibus bill addressing climate change even more necessary.
What Does the Bill Do?
Like any omnibus bill this one is ambitious, with provisions that cover nearly every topic in clean energy. Below are the key parts of the bill, along with a list of other important provisions.
Moves the State Towards a Price on Carbon
- Requires the state to adopt a ‘market-based compliance mechanism’ (i.e. carbon pricing or cap-and-trade) to reduce carbon pollution for the transportation sector, for industrial processes, and the residential building sector.
- Establishes a review process every three years to ensure mechanism is on track to achieve the goals of the Global Warming Solutions Act (GWSA).
- Mechanism would be phased in between 2020 and 2022.
Expanding and Empowering the Global Warming Solutions Act
- Sets intermediate emissions targets for 2030 and 2040.
- Aligns the GWSA’s pollution reduction goals with those of the Paris Climate Agreement.
- Municipal light plants would be required to report emission like utilities currently do.
Accelerates Renewable Energy Development
- Establishes a 3% annual increase in the Renewable Portfolio Standard.
- Eliminates the current cap on net metering.
- Reverses the decision from the Eversource Rate Case.
- Expands the state’s ability to solicit large-scale energy procurements.
Climate Adaptation & Management
- Modeled on Climate Adaptation Management Plan legislation
- Establishes a grant program to assist regional agencies in the development and implementation of CAMP.
- Compiles data, reports, and studies to aid state agencies and localities in protecting against climate related vulnerabilities.
- Creates a coastal buyback program.
Reforms Public Utilities
- Reforms the state’s Department of Public Utilities.
- Gives the state Attorney General additional oversight of utilities.
- Reduces the role of utilities in selecting their own procurement projects.
Modernizing the Electric Grid
- Implements policies that modernize our electric grid
- Prioritizes local clean energy over expensive long-distance transmission of electricity.
- Expands protections for consumers.
- Based off of H3396/S1831 ‘An Act relative to solar power in environmental justice and urban communities’ (Rep. Holmes / Sen. Chang-Diaz)
- Ensures EJ & low-income communities can benefit from solar energy.
- Compensation to low-income solar and to community shared solar net metering with a minimum threshold of low-moderate income customers.
- Incentivizes projects that expand access to communities facing barriers.
- Directs the MA Department of Energy Resources to address barriers like income, housing type and language in their program design.
Other Important Provisions:
- Enables towns & cities to enter into community empowerment agreements
- Creates incentives for anaerobic digestion
- Expand Electric Vehicle (EV) usage through new incentives
- Restricts the expansion of compressor stations
- Establishes standards for energy efficiency products and buildings
- Divests state pension system from fossil fuels
- Establishes a Green Infrastructure Bank
- Sets ambitious energy storage targets of of 1,766 MW by 2025.
- Prohibits a “pipeline tax” on energy consumers.
Next Steps for the Bill
Since the omnibus bill originated in the Senate, it now sits in the Senate Committee on Ways and Means, where must be voted out before being voted on by the full State Senate. After approval by the Senate, it will move to the House of Representatives where it will be go through a similar process. Any changes made by the House must then be reconciled in a Conference Committee by members of both chambers, before being sent to the Governor for approval.
Similar to the 2016 Clean Energy Omnibus bill, this one will likely make it through the Senate without many major roadblocks. The challenge will come from the House, whose stricter hierarchy and opposition to some of the provisions in the bill will make passage in its current form unlikely. Any bill passed by the House will likely lose or water down a number of its ambitious provisions such as the RPS increase, net metering expansion, pension divestment, and more.
Climate XChange and our coalition partners will advocate in both the Senate and House for Section 67, which requires the state to establish a market-based mechanism for pollution reduction (such as carbon pricing). If implemented, the policy would help promote many other parts of this bill, move the state toward achieving its GWSA mandate, and boost the local economy through reinvestment. Other provisions in the bill are important, but this specific section has the greatest long-term potential to cut greenhouse gas emissions by the amount needed to stabilize our climate.
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Reach out to your state lawmaker (whether in the Senate or the House) and tell them to support the Senate’s Omnibus Bill and its carbon pricing mechanism. Search for your legislator here.
TIM CRONIN POLICY ASSOCIATE
Tim assists in coordinating CABA’s Policy Program, and is a young professional with experience in community organizing and state politics. He is currently pursuing a B.A. in Economics at Stonehill College. Tim has previously studied Politics, Philosophy, and Economics (PPE) at Oxford University, and has interned at the State House and in local government. He currently serves as student-body president at Stonehill College where he has continued to fight for sustainable initiatives such as fossil fuel divestment, expanding the college’s solar farm, and reducing food waste. Tim is on the board of a local civic association in his hometown of Weymouth, and is the founder of the community nonprofit Green Weymouth. Tim enjoys reading The Economist, listening to podcasts, and exploring state parks in his free time.