Carbon pricing bills in Massachusetts

Carbon pricing packed the Gardner Auditorium in the Massachusetts State House on Tuesday. David Schreiber, representing JCAN and the Climate Action Business Association, was present for an open hearing by the Joint Committee on Telecommunications, Utilities and Energy on two proposed bills designed to put a fee on carbon. Activists consider carbon pricing crucial to assure that our state would meet it's goal of reducing greenhouse gas emission to 20% of 1990 emission levels.

The bills are H1726, proposed by Rep. Jen Benson (Acton, Boxboro, Harvard, Lunenburg and Shirley) and S1821, proposed by Senator Michael Barrett (Bedford, Carlisle). They add a fee to carbon fuels and include mechanisms for returning the revenue produced to the residents and businesses in the state. The Senate bill is revenue neutral, whereas the House bill reserves 20% for the expansion of green infrastructure. Both increase compensation to residents of rural areas because they lack access to public transportation and thus must spend more on fuel than those in metro areas.

Sen Mark Pacheco also offered a bill (S1869) to be invoked if neither of the others pass. This bill would close a loophole in the existing Global Warming Solutions Act of 2008 by setting a very specific trigger to activate the carbon fee already built into that act if the state failed to meet its 2020 goal.

Among those giving testimony in support of these bills were a number of legislators from both the House and Senate, as well as a House Representative from Rhode Island who urged Massachusetts to pass a carbon fee so that RI would follow. Perhaps the most striking testimony was given by a 14-year-old girl from Western Massachusetts who said her generation demands that carbon be reduced so that she and her generation may have a world that they can live in after the committee members have passed on.