By Samantha J. Gross
Boston University Statehouse Program
BOSTON — A clean energy bill which includes controversial carbon pricing is expected to be released from committee Monday afternoon.
The bill, proposed by Sen. Michael Barrett, a Lexington Democrat and members of the Senate Global Warming and Climate Change Committee, would create a fee for fuels that contain carbon, like home heating and motor fuel. The money raised would be returned to residents and businesses in the form of rebates for adapting carbon-reducing measures.
The bill would also include renewable energy and climate change adaptation proposals.
Barrett told the Statehouse News Service that if the bill passes, the Legislature must select a carbon pricing scheme for transportation by 2020, for commercial and industrial buildings by 2021 and for residential buildings by 2022.
Rep. Jennifer Benson, a Lunenburg Democrat, filed a similar bill to promote green infrastructure.
The Statehouse News Service reported last week that committee Chairman Sen. Marc Pacheco, D-Taunton, will not “take a stance” on whether the carbon pricing scheme should be neutral, raise revenue for the state, or be a cap and trade system.
Acton Democrat Sen. James Eldridge, who recently filed a bill to transition Massachusetts to 100 percent renewable energy, said the fee could serve as an incentive for people to live greener lives.
He used solar power as an example, saying he believes the cost-saving technology is enough of a reason for people to install panels on their homes.
“With carbon pricing, the impact of that slightly higher cost will hopefully get people to drive less,” he said. “Then you use that revenue to invest in green infrastructure or public transportation. That’s how you reduce emissions.”
Ben Hellerstein, director of nonprofit advocacy group Environment Massachusetts, said the carbon pricing bill creates a disincentive on the use of dirty energy to encourage people to make more sustainable choices
“It’s a really important tool in our toolbox to accelerate the transition away from dirty energy to things like solar and wind,” he said. “We want to see as much of that revenue as possible reinvested in clean energy programs.”
Carbon pricing is not the only talk of clean energy legislation in the Statehouse. Students, faculty and environmental advocates held a press conference Tuesday outside the House chamber, urging colleges to become 100 percent reliable on renewable energy.
Eldridge attended along with Cambridge Democrat Rep. Marjorie Decker, Hellerstein and a representative from Massachusetts Public Interest Research Group.
“I saw (100 percent renewable energy) as an aspirational goal,” Eldridge said. “But we’ve seen lots of towns and cities adopt it, and hopefully many other colleges will too.”
The student MassPIRG chapter at UMass Lowell has been active in this campaign, working with the school to put the pressure on lawmakers who have sway on the state level.
UMass Lowell’s climate action plan aimed for the school to reach carbon neutrality by 2020 — a goal the university reached in 2015.
“By 2030, we want to be 100 percent efficient,” said MassPIRG coordinator and UMass Lowell senior Sabrina Zerzouri. “Then eventually, rely on wind and solar. Climate change evokes superstorms and wildfires, and it all affects the residents of Massachusetts and Lowell.”
Another bill endorsed by the Environment Committee imposing greenhouse gas emission reduction requirements for 2030 and 2040 will also be amended next week to include an array of clean energy policies, the Statehouse News Service reported. The bill will include measures to allow customers to sell back more solar energy to the grid, require that electricity suppliers use more renewable power and develop efforts to adapt to climate change.
Barrett could not be reached for comment.