DEAR JO, given that our federal legislators will not act on climate change in the near future, what can the Massachusetts Legislature do this year to address the urgent problem of climate change?
— Sherry Morgan,
DEAR SHERRY: Thank you for this question and for asking a similar question during the Green New Deal town hall event featuring Sen. Ed Markey and Congressman Jim McGovern.
Like many people in our district, I’m both heartened and emboldened by Congresswoman Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez’s Green New Deal charge to Congress. We can and must create a 21st century green jobs economy that will address the climate crisis head-on. Kudos to Markey and McGovern for helping to drive this burgeoning movement forward at the national level.
The Massachusetts Legislature has its own urgent work to do and a responsibility to constituents and to our planet to act on smart environmental and energy policy. Further delays will ultimately be more expensive for the state in the long run and catastrophic for our children.
Yet to date, the commonwealth has not done enough to promote the construction of an energy infrastructure that would enable us to power our communities using renewable resources. And we still have policies that stifle the solar sector but promote the construction of natural gas pipelines — to name just two areas that need acceleration.
It’s clear to me that I have a strong mandate from constituents in our Hampshire, Franklin, and Worcester district to act decisively on climate. That’s why I asked Senate President Karen Spilka to appoint me to the Senate Committee on Global Warming and Climate Change, where I’ll be able to directly represent our district on a committee charged with combating climate change.
I also filed legislation on critical issues like modernizing our energy grid so that we can both produce and store green energy, making solar interconnectivity more affordable for all, and creating the net-zero energy construction mandates necessary to curb the significant greenhouse emissions from the construction sector. More about my bills can be found here: https://senatorjocomerford.org/issues/.
I’m also co-sponsoring legislation like Rep. Jen Benson’s carbon pricing bill. Benson’s legislation would disincentivize the use of fossil fuel by putting a price on carbon and, in doing so, generate funds to build the energy infrastructure we need.
This session, the Legislature must also do away with solar net metering caps, which put a limit on the amount of solar energy that can be sold back to the electricity grid. Additionally, the renewable portfolio standard, which mandates the percentage of our electricity that must come from renewable sources, currently increases by 2 percent every year. This standard must be changed to increase at a rate of 3 percent per year in order for the state to hit the goals laid out in the 1990 Global Warming Solutions Act.
The Legislature must also look at the laws surrounding gas pipelines. Right now, if a gas company petitioned the Department of Public Utilities to build a pipeline through our district, I would not have the right to intervene in that proceeding, and DPU would not be forced to consider the impact of that pipeline on climate change. Bills have been filed to address each of these issues, and the Legislature can and should take action on all of these energy-related bills — and more — this session.
What’s more, amid this climate crisis, we must take a holistic approach because the work to address climate change extends into all sectors like transportation, which is responsible for another estimated 40 percent of greenhouse gas emissions, as well as agriculture as farmers lead an exploration around how we can best use our land to store carbon.
I am glad that Gov. Charlie Baker is working with other New England states to develop a regional greenhouse gas initiative for transportation. I have also filed legislation to examine restarting passenger rail service between North Adams and Boston to take cars off the road, and legislation to support farmers in innovative agriculture processes, which will increase soil health so that it can sequester more carbon dioxide.
Immediate action on climate change demands bold action in the Legislature, driven by the tireless and smart advocacy of the people of our district. I am grateful to work in partnership with groups like Climate Action Now and Mothers Out Front, and I join you in cheering on student leaders, like those Northampton and Amherst, responsible for a student climate strike a few weeks back.
Young people are leading us forward into what must be a time when government at every level ceases to steal the future of rising generations of young people and begins behaving as if we’re in the middle of a crisis. Which we are.
State Sen. Jo Comerford represents 160,000 people living in 24 cities and towns in the Hampshire, Franklin, Worcester district in the Massachusetts Legislature.
Read this article at the Daily Hampshire Gazette
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