On July 11, I joined 87 other Massachusetts residents, representing Mothers Out Front and several groups of allies, at a Climate Action Call to urge Charlie Baker to sign the climate bill that recently passed the Massachusetts House and Senate.
At Mothers Out Front’s monthly Climate Action Calls, participants learn about a specific climate issue, take meaningful action, and connect with fellow activists, all in 45 minutes.
A Legislative Win for Massachusetts
The call took place just one day after the Massachusetts House and Senate voted to enact H.5060, An Act Driving Clean Energy and Offshore Wind. This considerable piece of legislation advances many aspects of the complex process required to decarbonize Massachusetts’s buildings, transportation, and energy supply, to address air quality issues that disproportionately affect our most vulnerable communities, and to unlock the economic potential of the green transition for our state.
The bill includes many of the policies Mothers Out Front has spent the last two years advocating for, through our Climate Action Calls and other activities. Our advocacy, in partnership with our allies, played a key role in the inclusion of these policies:
> Update the “Future of Gas” proceedings at the Department of Public Works. These changes will delay rollout of the gas utility’s plans to invest ratepayer dollars in new gas infrastructure.
> Allow 10 cities and towns to pilot innovative clean energy standards, minimizing the use of fossil fuels in new buildings and major renovations.
> Support a shift to neighborhood-scale geothermal heating on a large scale.
> Allow the Department of Public Utilities to authorize gas companies to generate, distribute, and/or sell renewable thermal energy.
> Reform the Gas System Enhancement Plan to allow the use of funds – ratepayers’ fees – for networked geothermal heating and cooling.
> Exclude biomass (burning wood chips) from the Renewable Energy Portfolio Standard.
Reaching out to the Governor
The next step for this bill is to be signed into law by the Governor. As our legislative experts, Andra Rose and Brad Dye, shared with us on the call, the legislature uses time as a bargaining chip at the end of the legislative session. Once the bill reaches the Governor’s desk, he has ten days to either sign it into law, veto it, propose changes, or do nothing, in which case the bill becomes a law without his signature. If Baker vetoes the bill, the legislature must meet before July 31 to override the veto.
During the call, we used Mothers Out Front’s climate action toolkit to urge Governor Baker to sign the bill into law. We reached out to him by phone, by email, and on social media. We appealed to him to think about his legacy, his children, and his grandchildren – and we made the economic case for addressing climate change and moving Massachusetts’s infrastructure into the future.
One Mothers Out Front member, Kari Percival, wrote in her note to Gov. Baker, “We need systemic solutions, built to scale. Our communities depend on big solutions like networked geothermal to effectively decarbonize our economy. The fossil fuel industry has already demonstrated we cannot look to them for leadership to transition to a 100% renewable energy infrastructure. We must rely on democracy, our government, and ourselves for intelligent solutions.”
Reflecting on Our Progress and the Challenges Ahead
At the start of the call, we took stock of the climate emergency we were in – with temperatures climbing that week to 100, Brookline Chapter Member Diane Sokal reminded us, “The work we are doing is valuable. Every bit of warming matters, every choice matters, and every voice matters. If we can’t get a federal bill on climate through Congress, we can get a state bill passed in Massachusetts. We can still get local climate projects done. All of that matters – it will matter to our children and our grandchildren, and it will matter most for people living on the front lines of climate change.”
While the bill passed on July 21 doesn’t contain every policy that we fought for this term, it represents meaningful progress for Massachusetts and for the climate. Mothers Out Front will keep fighting for just and equitable policies that support clean air and clean heat in all Massachusetts communities. This bill is a reminder that it is possible to achieve major progress for climate in our state.
Charlotte Dobbs is a volunteer with Mothers Out Front in Belmont.