Following the House, Senate passes version of climate bill

BOSTON (AP) — Legislation outlining steps Massachusetts needs to take to meet its goal of net-zero greenhouse gas emissions by 2050 cleared a key hurdle late Thursday when the state Senate voted 37-3 to approve the sweeping climate bill.

The bill’s passage sets the stage for negotiations with the Massachusetts House which last month passed its own, more narrowly focused bill.

Both Democratic-led chambers hope to come up with a single compromise proposal to ship to Republican Gov. Charlie Baker before the end for the Legislature’s formal session on July 31.

The Senate bill tries to address climate change in three areas — renewable energy, transportation and buildings.

The bill would set aside $100 million for an investment fund to support the clean energy industry while updating the process of bringing more offshore wind energy online. It would allow solar panels on agricultural and horticultural land and supporting emerging technologies like nuclear fusion, networked geothermal and deep geothermal energy.

It would also increase to $3,500 the rebate for the purchase of many zero-emission passenger cars and light-duty trucks, offer another $1,000 for buyers trading in an internal combustion vehicle, deploy more car charging stations across the state, and require new developments to allocate 10% of parking spaces to charging stations.

The bill aims to reduce the use of fossil fuels in the construction of buildings by letting a handful of communities participate in two demonstration projects. One would allow all-electric building construction by local option. A second would restrict the use of fossil fuels in new construction projects.

Buildings are an often overlooked source of greenhouse gas emissions, according to Ben Hellerstein, state director of the advocacy group Environment Massachusetts.

“Better buildings are possible,” he said in a written statement. “We can make our buildings much more energy-efficient, and we can replace fossil fuel heating with clean, electric alternatives like heat pumps.”

Critics say the Senate bill would increase costs for residents, small business owners, ratepayers and consumers.

“Many states are trying to provide tax relief for consumers and small businesses due to the high cost of inflation and states having extra money from over taxation. The Massachusetts state senate is taking another approach by passing a multifaceted climate bill which aims to restrict energy supplies, and options for consumers while mandating costly alternatives,” Paul Diego Craney of the Massachusetts Fiscal Alliance, said in a statement.

The Massachusetts House last month passed its own bill that aims to modernize the electrical grid and improve the procurement process for offshore wind.

Both bills come a year after Baker signed a climate change bill into law that set the goal of net-zero emissions by 2050.

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