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Senate Agrees To Some Baker Climate Bill Amendments

A few days later than leadership had hoped, the Senate amended and passed on to the House the climate policy bill that has been bouncing between the Legislature and governor's office for more than two months.

The Senate voted 39-1 to adopt a great majority of the amendments that Gov. Charlie Baker suggested when he returned the bill unsigned at the beginning of February, shuttling the legislation to the House for possible passage on Thursday. Baker would then have to decide whether to sign the bill or veto it as he did in the final days of the last legislative session when his ability to offer amendments had expired.

The Senate had attempted to advance the bill on Thursday, but the Republican caucus delayed its consideration after being given less than a day to review the latest version. Sen. Ryan Fattman, a Sutton Republican, cast the lone vote of dissent Monday.

"Global warming is generating large-scale spectacles — fire in California, floods in the Midwest, freezing infrastructure in Texas — but this particular legislation is not about mega-events. It's about dealing with our business, our everyday climate business right here at home. If you compare Massachusetts and its admissions with emissions across the world or even across the United States, it's the differences that pop out in you," Sen. Michael Barrett of Lexington said.

He added, "Transportation are 42% of the Massachusetts problem compared to 29% in the U.S. Buildings are 27% of our issue, compared to about 12% in the U.S. ... It's pretty clear why we put a special emphasis on lower emissions in this bill from transportation and buildings."

The bill is designed to push Massachusetts toward net-zero carbon emissions by 2050, establish interim emissions goals, adopt appliance energy efficiency standards, and address needs in environmental justice communities. And while Baker has said he supports those aims, his administration and key lawmakers have not seen eye-to-eye on many of the finer details of the legislation.

Though the Senate amendment agreed to Monday incorporated most of Baker's amendments — many of them technical in nature — it did not go along with Baker's most meaningful proposals.

The Senate rejected Baker's request to change the Legislature's requirement that emissions in 2030 be at least 50% lower than 1990 levels to a 45% target. It also rebuffed Baker's amendment that would strip some language from a proposed new municipal building code that promotes "net-zero" construction, though senators agreed to some tweaks for that provision. The Senate also preserved the legal standing of sector-specific sublimits the original bill proposed but agreed to adopt a change so that the executive branch would not be held legally liable if one sublimit is not met in a year in which the state's overall target was met.

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