By Representative Paul Tucker (D-Salem)
Before taking on the job of state representative, I spent 32 years as a member of the Salem police force. I know that preventing something bad from happening is better than responding after harm has already occurred.
That is one of the reasons I am a proud cosponsor of H2810, “An Act to Reduce Greenhouse Gas Emissions and Promote Green Infrastructure.” Scientists everywhere are telling us the time to act on the climate crisis is now. Change is never easy, but it will be harder if we wait and allow people to suffer.
Introduced by state Rep. Jennifer Benson, D-Lunenberg, H2810 creates a carbon fee on all fossil fuels sold in the state. It returns 70% of revenues from the carbon fee to Massachusetts households and vulnerable businesses. And it invests the remaining 30% in renewable energy, energy efficiency, clean transportation and resilience. H2810 is the perfect prevention part of the equation to accompany state Rep. Thomas Golden’s bill H3997 that, if passed, would address the impacts of the growing climatecrisis. A carbon fee is a charge on gas, oil and coal distributors for every ton of carbon dioxide their products release when burned. It requires polluters to pay for the cost of polluting the atmosphere and contributing to the global warming that is creating the climate crisis. The fee starts low and increases slowly over time, giving all of us an incentive to shift from dirty fuels to cleaner options.
Nobody wants to pay more for energy — and many people, especially low and middle income households, don’t have the ability to pay even a little bit more. That is why most of the revenues from the carbon fee go right back to consumers. On average, low and middle income households — and all households that conserve energy— will get rebates that are the same as, or slightly larger than, any increase in energy costs.
The remaining revenue from the carbon fee — a projected $400 to $600 million per year — will be available to cities and towns for initiatives that address the warming climate. That means the carbon fee will be paying for the infrastructure we need to move to a cleaner economy. The fee could provide money for new transit lines, community solar, renewable energy installations, and financial programs to enable tenants and homeowners to invest in housing upgrades.
H.2810 requires that 40% of investments be used for projects that benefit low and middle-income households. This is crucial, because lower income people are least able to make the transition to clean energy and are most vulnerable to the potential impacts of the climate crisis.
In addition, $16-28 million of the funds raised each year will be added to the state’s fuel assistance program. Plus, the bill provides protections for workers and loans for small businesses.
Addressing our climate crisis is a huge task. The United Nations is urging all governments to “put a price on carbon” and economists believe that carbon pricing is one of the best things we can do to lower greenhouse gas emissions.
H2810 uses a “polluter pays” model to raise hundreds of millions of dollars each year for the new energy and transportation infrastructure our state needs. I am proud to support this bill and look forward to working with my fellow legislators to get it passed this session.