On the 11th hour of the 11th day in the last month of the legislative term, senior staff representing six of the most prominent and active climate advocacy organizations along with constituents delivered a joint letter to House Committee on Ways and Means Chairman Jeffrey Sanchez, D-15th Suffolk, asking him to move forward clean energy legislation.
The organization particularly want House Bill 4575 and House Bill 2913, which would increase the rate of renewable energy required by utilities to produce (also known as the Renewable Portfolio Standard, or RPS) and codify environmental justice into law, respectively.
The organizations present included the Massachusetts Sierra Club, 350 Mass Action, Clean Water Action, Toxics Action Center Campaigns, Environment Massachusetts, and ELM Action Fund.
“As a climate justice advocate, I know that time is of the essence. Our communities can’t wait till next session. Heat waves, floods and storms are happening now,” said Claire Miller of Toxics Action Center, also a constituent of Sanchez's.
On Thursday night, Sanchez will speak in Jamaica Plain at a town hall on Climate Change, and like these organizations’ leaders, residents are looking forward to hearing reports of concrete action from Sanchez.
The environmental justice bill (House Bill 2913) would codify into law protections for environmental justice communities that have so far existed only in executive orders. Notably, this bill has also been favorably recommended by two separate committees -- the Committee on the Environment, Agriculture, and Natural Resources, as well as the Bonding Committee.
The letter references the public health harms of fossil fuels, as well as study citing the job creation and economic activity this legislation would create -- all without increasing electricity bills. The groups are advocating that Sanchez not just favorably release the RPS bill from his committee, but increase the rate of growth to 3% per year rather than the current 2% per year that the bill contains. A 3% per year increase would match a companion bill in the Senate and would set the state to achieve 50% renewable energy by 2030, the same targets set by other climate-leading states like California, New York, and Hawaii.
“Releasing a bill with a 3% increase/year of renewable would put us on par with states like California, New York, and Hawaii that are paving the way with clean energy leadership, while ensuring low-income communities and communities of color are not unduly burdened with pollution is just human decency,” said Craig Altemose, Executive Director of 350 Mass Action. “Failing to act at this moment would be to sacrifice our climate leadership at the exact time that federal inaction requires us to step up.”
For the legislation to advance, Chairman Sanchez must release the bill from his committee in time to for the full House of Representatives to vote on the bill in time for the formation of a conference committee by July 17, 2018.
Vignesh Ramachandran is a member of 350 Mass Action