Sometimes, “mostly dead” is just a pause before successfully storming the castle. On January 14, Governor Baker vetoed the climate bill that passed the Massachusetts Legislature on January 4 with overwhelming support (see our posts here, here, and here). I couldn’t resist the Princess Bride reference, but despite the veto, it is probably a stretch to refer to the bill as even “mostly dead.”
In his Veto Letter, the Governor endorsed the broader goals of the bill – “The Commonwealth needs bold and urgent action on climate change” – and went out of his way to assert “agreement with many of its provisions.” He justified his veto based on the timing at the end of the legislative session and a list of specific concerns. First, he asserted that provisions in the bill would work against the intent of newly enacted Housing Choice legislation. Specifically, he worried that a net zero energy stretch code could slow housing development. Second, he criticized the lack of provisions on climate change adaptation. Third, he criticized the approach to environmental justice as insufficient. Fourth, he raised concerns that the bill could frustrate nascent regional clean energy procurement efforts. Fifth, he criticized the specific interim reduction targets as “not supported by scientific and detailed analysis.” His primary concern on this point appears to be that in setting a 5% more aggressive reduction target for 2030 (50% below 1990 emissions rather than the 45% below 1990 emissions) and in demanding sector-based limits, the Legislature was disregarding the effort and analysis that went into his administration’s recently released 2050 Decarbonization Roadmap. Finally, he raised a general concern that the bill could negatively impact sectors of the economy affected by COVID-19. Perhaps recognizing the legislative resolve behind the bill, the Governor expressed a willingness to work with the Legislature to quickly pass improved legislation.
Legislators (including the House Speaker and Senate President) have not been shy about announcing their intent to push the bill forward in the new session despite the veto. There has been talk of refiling immediately and holding votes as early as this week. And with a veto that carefully announces support for the bill’s goals and specifically expresses a desire to act on the issues raised in the bill, it appears likely that something will move ahead quickly whether the Legislature sticks to its guns and pushes the bill forward largely unchanged or makes minor changes to address the Governor’s concerns.
Taking a step back, if the conversation is really about whether Massachusetts’s 2030 greenhouse gas emissions target should be set 45% below 1990 levels or 50% below 1990 levels based on the best assessments of achievability and cost, that is not a terrible place to be.