As the new Massachusetts Legislative session gets started, climate change is getting a lot of attention. Representative Jennifer Benson (D-Lunenberg) has introduced H.2370 An Act to Promote Green Infrastructure and Reduce Carbon Emissions. One hundred and six legislators cosponsored the bill, one of the highest number of cosponsors for any piece of climate legislation this year.
H.2370 requires coal, gas and oil distributors to pay a charge for the pollution their products emit. The fee would start relatively low and increase over the cost of five years. Seventy percent of the revenue raised by the fee would be returned to consumers and 30% would be invested in a Green Infrastructure Fund, which will provide the state and municipalities with new resources for renewable energy, energy efficiency, clean transportation and resilience projects. The GIF will make an estimated $300 million available in Year One of the bill’s passage, rising to $600 million by Year Five.
Carbon fees increase the cost of dirty fuels and provide an incentive for businesses and consumers to move to cleaner options. Currently, dirty fuels are artificially cheap, because producers do not have to pay for the damage their products cause–pollution, illness, climate change. A carbon fee requires producers to pay a fee that covers some of these costs. The United Nations has urged governments worldwide to adopt carbon pricing policies.
In Massachusetts, Jennifer Benson’s bill has attracted strong support in part because the legislation is crafted with strong protections for low and moderate income people.
First, if the bill is enacted, all Massachusetts households will receive rebates each year. Rebates are structured to be larger for low and moderate income households. This means that these households will receive rebates that equal or exceed their projected increase in energy costs.
Second, forty percent of the money in the Green Infrastructure Fund must be spent on projects that benefit low income households or communities. Low income is defined as at or below sixty percent of state median income.
Third, the bill sets aside a portion of revenues from home heating fuels for investment in the state’s Fuel Assistance program, making an additional $19-26 million available for people who need help paying their home heating bills.
Additional features of the legislation include extra rebates for rural households, who must drive longer distances than urban and suburban residents, and supports for impacted economic subsectors.
Massachusetts Campaign for a Clean Energy Future is excited to support this ground-breaking legislation which will reduce greenhouse gas emissions while ensuring that people at all income levels can benefit from the transition to a clean energy future.