Massachusetts, to its credit, is serious about reducing the carbon emissions that are fueling climate change. The new standards issued Friday by the administration of Governor Baker should help Massachusetts make strides in that ongoing effort.
A year ago, the state Supreme Judicial Court agreed with environmentalists in ruling that the state was not doing enough to comply with the state 2008 Global Warming Act. The governor's response Friday to the SJC decision was criticized as insufficient by environmentalists, while the electricity industry said it was unfair and counterproductive. This is a difficult balance to strike, and the dual responses suggests that the governor may have succeeded in threading the needle.
The new rules will, according to the administration, enable the state to stay on point to reduce its carbon emissions 25 percent below 1990 levels by 2020, as required by the 2008 act (Eagle, August 12.) Beginning next January, the rules will reduce emissions from power plants, natural gas leaks, electrical systems components and parts of the transportation sector.
The New England Power Generators Association criticized the plan Friday because it is so heavily weighted on reductions by the fossil fuel industry. However, this is where the greatest gains can be made in the shortest time to meet the demands of the 2008 act and comply with last year's clear ruling by the SJC. The association argues that more must be asked of the transportation industry, and the state has pledged to register 300,000 electric vehicles by 2050, as compared to the 11,000 such vehicles in the state today. The state, however, is largely at the mercy of the nation's electric car industry, which is lagging compared to the progress in that field being made in Europe.
The new regulations will also require utility companies and other power providers to obtain 16 percent of their energy from clean sources, such as wind and solar, in 2018. In an editorial board meeting at The Eagle Friday, Peter Rothstein, president of the Northeast Clean Energy Council, and the council's government relations executive Dan Bosley — the long-time state representative from North Adams — made the point that an expansion of the state's Renewable Portfolio Standard (RPS) would increase access to clean energy while boosting a growing industry that provides jobs in the state. Under the RPS, utilities must increase their purchase of clean energy by 1 percent each year. Bills before the Legislature would push that to 2 or 3 percent, which would be in keeping with efforts in nearby states like Rhode Island.
The administration acknowledged that the new regulations could cause utility costs for ratepayers to climb as much as 2 percent a year. Compared to rate increases requested by Eversource this is a modest hike, and residents get something in exchange — cleaner air and a role in the fight against global warming, a fight that must be won for the health and welfare of future generations.