A Green New Deal for Massachusetts
“The fight against climate change isn’t about just one issue — it’s the whole ballgame. Climate change touches every problem we face today and it threatens the future of our families and communities. We have the tools and resources to meet this crisis and build a better future for our state. The only question is: do we have the urgency and the courage?”
Climate change is an existential threat to our state, our country, and our world — and it’s not just coming, it’s already here.
This year alone, Massachusetts residents faced record-breaking heat and rainfall, and more damaging storms than ever before. The United Nations Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change recently called climate change a “code red for humanity.” The predicted rise in sea levels as a result of climate change means that significant portions of the densest part of Boston, as well as other low-lying coastal communities like Revere and Quincy, could be under water in the next few decades.
And, while all Massachusetts residents will feel the effects of climate change and face a level of risk, lower-income communities and communities of color are likely to be the most significantly impacted. Our state has the third-highest number of affordable housing units at risk of coastal flooding in the country, and Boston is among the top cities in the country where historically redlined neighborhoods are overlaid with flood zones.
Unless we act now, this crisis will only deepen.
As a mother and a public servant, I refuse to accept that future for our kids and our state. That’s why I’ve been proud to stand with advocates and lead the fight for climate justice. Together, we’ve already won key legislation to commit the state to net-zero greenhouse gas emissions by 2050 and write environmental justice into Massachusetts law. We organized 28 legislators this year to call for ending state incentives for new fossil fuel infrastructure. I’ve also repeatedly filed legislation to create equitable access to solar energy and protect communities that have been disproportionately impacted by pollution.
Now, we must go further. We know how to win the fight against climate change — by building a green economy that not only sustains our planet, but all of our families as well.
Massachusetts can meet this moment and lead the nation with a Green New Deal for our state to build a future that is not just cleaner, but better. Our state must:
Transition Massachusetts to completely renewable energy, by:
Meeting our state’s electricity needs with 100% renewable, carbon-free energy by 2030
Eliminating all carbon emissions from new buildings by 2030 and transitioning existing buildings to become zero-carbon by 2045
Expanding, electrifying, and making fare-free public transit systems across the state, including establishing East-West rail and robust regional transit networks
Blocking the development of new fossil fuel infrastructure projects
Invest in building the 21st century green energy economy to power this transition, including creating tens of thousands of new, good-paying jobs right here in Massachusetts, while creating workforce development opportunities for women, people of color, limited English proficient residents, and workers without college degrees.
Defend low income communities and communities of color from the disproportionate impacts of pollution and climate change, and leverage the growth of the green energy sector to build generational wealth in these communities.
A 21st Century Green Energy Economy
Massachusetts will create tens of thousands of good-paying jobs through green energy and energy efficiency
The rapidly-expanding green energy industry offers an unprecedented chance for our state — to grow our economy, expand economic opportunity, and make sure the benefits of this new industry are shared equitably by all Bay Staters.
In addition to helping us curb climate change and improve the quality of the air we breathe, the burgeoning green energy and energy efficiency industry is already creating new opportunities for workers, businesses, and entrepreneurs across the country. Massachusetts has the opportunity to create tens of thousands of new jobs — from installing solar panels, building wind turbines, and retrofitting buildings to the sales, planning, finance, and numerous other jobs that ensure green projects are designed, funded, implemented, and paid for.
Developing this industry and building our green energy future in Massachusetts will require active investment in workforce development and providing a just transition for workers shifting from the oil and gas industry. It will also require ensuring projects hire local residents at family-sustaining wages. You get what you pay for with projects like these — and it’s critical that we don’t miss out on the opportunity of a lifetime to ensure that vibrant businesses and good jobs of the future are located here in Massachusetts.
Finally, it will require a specific focus on equity: we must make sure that communities that have for generations been most exposed to the health impacts of our consumption of fossil fuels, often working class communities and communities of color, are included and prioritized in this new economy at all levels — from job training opportunities to hiring to launching and contracting with new green businesses.
To ensure our state takes full advantage of the economic opportunities of a green energy transition, our state should:
Develop our green workforce pipeline by working with employers, UMass, community colleges, and trade schools to develop workforce training programs to allow tens of thousands of Massachusetts residents to launch a career in the clean energy economy, and ensuring that those efforts prioritize communities of color and other environmental justice communities. In the Legislature, I have been a strong advocate for green jobs training programs, recently winning $7.5 million in law for new funding to support training programs at two-year colleges that heavily serve students of color. We must also support our residents who work in the gas, oil and HVAC industries in transitioning to other types of work, including working with trade unions, Mass Save, community colleges, and trade schools to train these workers for jobs deploying clean heating and cooling systems and other clean energy technologies.
Invest in emerging clean energy technology in Massachusetts to spur economic growth while sparking innovation that can help us reach our climate change goals. Our state should work with the Massachusetts Clean Energy Center, workforce development agencies, higher education institutions, and investors to develop clean tech business incubators like the successful Greentown Labs. In 2008, Massachusetts made a $1 billion investment in the life sciences industry over ten years; today, our state is the number one life sciences cluster in the world. We can use this experience to inform similar public-private partnerships to hasten the growth of businesses that develop renewable energy, retrofit buildings, electrify our transit, and support climate resilience.
Prioritize clean energy and efficiency projects that create good jobs with family-sustaining wages right here in Massachusetts. As we continue the development of our world class offshore wind resources and dramatically expand installation of solar panels, we must take advantage of the opportunities this presents to grow our local economy and create high quality jobs, particularly in communities of color. This means we must leverage our state clean energy procurement and economic development funding to prioritize Massachusetts businesses that will invest in developing a high-skilled local workforce, that pay prevailing wages, and who are committed to being good neighbors by operating in partnership with local communities.
Require diversity and inclusion to be a factor in contract award decisions to ensure the green economy is also driving our economic development goals. Closing the racial wealth divide must be at the core of economic development efforts, which means that it must be a factor in all state contracting decisions. In the Legislature, I’ve been a leader on efforts to create statewide goals and accountability measures for state agencies in contracting with minority-owned businesses — an area where Massachusetts has performed poorly for years — including pushing for legislation that is a model for how our state should prioritize equity in contracting and investments. We will also provide technical assistance and greater access to capital to help women- and minority-owned businesses, worker-owned cooperatives, tribes, Indigenous organizations, and businesses with a diverse workforce grow, succeed, and win contracts in the emerging clean energy economy and supply chain.
A Clean Energy Future
Massachusetts will transition to 100% renewable, carbon-free clean electricity by 2030
The future of our planet depends on us eliminating the use of fossil fuels, the burning of which is causing climate change, harming our health, and contributing to environmental injustice. Twenty percent of our state’s greenhouse gas emissions come from power plants that supply our electric grid. To meet our climate targets we must rapidly convert to carbon-free sources of energy to power our electric grid.
The good news is that the price of renewable energy has decreased dramatically over the past decade, which means that electricity generated by renewable sources is now less expensive than that generated by fossil fuels. At the same time, solar power and wind offer not just a more sustainable future, but also an opportunity to build a thriving new industry, create generational wealth in communities of color, and address environmental injustices.
Unfortunately, right now on Beacon Hill, lobbyists from the same big utility companies that profit off of the expansion of the gas system are writing the plan for the future of gas in our Commonwealth. Massachusetts needs a governor who will get serious about transitioning our state to clean energy by putting an end to the creation of new fossil fuel infrastructure in Massachusetts and putting our public dollars into building a clean energy future.
To protect the health of our communities and build a sustainable, prosperous future, our next governor should:
Transition to meet Massachusetts’ electricity needs with 100% renewable, carbon-free energy by 2030 by establishing a 100% clean electricity standard for all suppliers in the Commonwealth and working closely with the New England grid operator and other New England states, while investing in the development of clean energy sources through the Massachusetts Clean Energy Center. A combination of onshore and offshore wind and large- and small-scale solar, together with energy storage, is capable of meeting all of our energy needs in the Commonwealth and then some: indeed, estimates suggest that offshore wind alone could generate more than 19 times as much electricity as Massachusetts currently consumes on an annual basis. Massachusetts has all the natural resources it needs to power our future with clean, renewable power, and our state should put our skilled workers, innovative companies and entrepreneurs, as well as the full power of the state, behind building that better future.
Use the full powers of the executive branch to block future fossil fuel infrastructure projects in Massachusetts. Expanding new fossil fuel infrastructure, like new gas lines, at a point when we are actively transitioning to clean energy makes no financial sense for anyone but the fossil fuel industry and utility companies. In addition to slowing us down in reaching our climate goals, it diverts funding that could be used to build new clean energy infrastructure — and future generations will be the one to pay the bill.
Reform the Department of Public Utilities (DPU) to prioritize and expedite our transition to clean energy while protecting low-income consumers and environmental justice populations. Under its current leadership, the DPU has shown itself to be far more focused on protecting the interests of utilities and fossil fuel companies than on rapidly building the clean energy system we need for our future. For example, a recent report revealed that utility companies are on track to spend $20 billion dollars (a Big Dig-level expenditure) on replacing or repairing our natural gas infrastructure that should be phased out — instead of investing it into building the clean, resilient, sustainable energy system of the future.
The DPU, along with other state agencies, must get serious about decarbonizing our state in a way that prioritizes impact, health, and equity. This means that the leaders of the DPU must listen to and collaborate with a broader array of public stakeholders, which includes community leaders, public health experts, and climate scientists — not just utility insiders. It must also consider a wider array of factors in its decisions, including public health and equity — which it is now statutorily required to do thanks to a legislative amendment I sponsored. Our next governor should immediately appoint a new slate of DPU commissioners who are committed to a progressive energy agenda and who have demonstrated experience relevant to implementing the kind of bold transformative changes that our energy system needs.
Stand with communities that are fighting for a healthier future for their children. For too long, working class communities and communities of color have been exposed to inequitable health risks as a result of disproportionately high concentrations of polluting facilities. We must aggressively use the regulatory vehicles available to state government — including new tools to protect environmental justice populations written into recent legislation — to block fossil fuel and other carbon-emitting projects (such as burning biomass) that will increase air pollution and other environmental hazards. I also will support reforming the Energy Facilities Siting Board to better protect the health of families in environmental justice populations and to expedite the development of responsibly-sited clean energy projects that reduce air pollution and mitigate climate impacts, while ensuring that any burdens from the new, necessary, electrical infrastructure are shared equitably and do not perpetuate environmental injustice across the Commonwealth. Finally, our next governor must prioritize environmental justice populations as the state invests in new safer, affordable, clean energy technologies, to ensure that those who paid the greatest price for our fossil fuel economy reap the benefits of the new clean energy economy first.
Healthy, Sustainable, Energy-Efficient Buildings
Massachusetts will eliminate emissions from new buildings by 2030 — and from all buildings by 2045
Right now nearly a third (27%) of our greenhouse gas emissions in Massachusetts come from oil and gas burnt to heat and provide hot water to residential and commercial buildings, with another fifth (19%) the result of electricity usage. We can and must do better than this.
Tackling climate change requires us to dramatically reduce our energy usage while shifting what we can from fossil fuels to clean electricity. In addition to making our buildings more energy efficient, technological advances mean that we are increasingly able to build and retrofit zero energy buildings that produce as much energy as they consume, reducing our carbon footprint while improving indoor air quality and health. Other emerging technologies, such as advances in geothermal technology, present even more opportunities for us to end our reliance on natural gas affordably and equitably.
Effectively implementing these technological changes requires state investment and active support. Right now, however, the state’s energy efficiency programs such as Mass Save continue to incentivize gas conversions and lag in serving communities of color and renters, while falling far behind their goals for electrification, continuing our fossil fuel dependence.
Current law sets 2050 as a target for achieving net-zero building emissions, but we need to be more aggressive. Our next governor should set the target for 2045 to meet the accelerating climate crisis.
Our next governor should:
Champion and implement legislation to transition gas utilities to clean, carbon-free heating. Right now, gas companies are spending billions replacing gas pipeline infrastructure that will become obsolete in the next few decades, as we shift toward renewable sources of energy. Instead of doubling down on gas, we need to redirect our energy system investments into modern decarbonized infrastructure, based on technologies like networked geothermal systems and heat pumps, that can provide safe, reliable, clean and affordable heat. At the same time, we must ensure a just transition for natural gas workers by providing training and support for workers to transition into clean heat jobs, and assist consumers in replacing appliances and upgrading buildings to make the transition away from natural gas. The Future of Heat bill, which I am proud to co-sponsor, provides a blueprint for doing exactly that.
Reform our state energy efficiency programs and incentives, such as Mass Save, to ensure they are working aggressively to green our buildings, and that the program benefits are accessible to all. Our current Mass Save program is administered by utility companies and some municipal entities with oversight from the Department of Energy Resources (DOER) and the DPU. While Mass Save has been a national success story in years past, today it is not moving with enough urgency to deploy clean heating technologies like heat pumps, address costly health risks in homes, and make sure that the energy efficiency upgrades we all pay for through our utility bills are equally accessible to all communities, including renters.
Alarmingly, Mass Save’s most recent three-year plan, currently pending DPU review, continues to incentivize existing gas customers to upgrade to more efficient gas equipment rather than moving to electrification, locking in our dependence on fossil fuels instead of moving beyond it. Our next governor must push Mass Save to look beyond just energy savings to prioritize our decarbonization goals and health needs, to focus on homes and communities with unsafe air quality and high asthma rates, and to make modifications to the program to make it easier for lower-income homeowners, renters, individuals who live in multifamily buildings, and people whose first language is not English to participate in these programs. And if they aren’t able to get the job done, our state should pass legislation to move the program’s administration to a third party.
Establish greenhouse gas emissions reductions requirements for large buildings, such as offices, apartment buildings, labs, universities and hospital campuses. A relatively small number of large buildings produce a significant percentage of our total emissions. Requiring these buildings to increase their efficiency can have a significant impact on emissions — through installing more efficient appliances and lighting, reducing heat loss through walls and windows, and converting their heating systems to electric heat pumps and other carbon free technologies. Although our state currently requires new buildings to meet minimum energy efficiency standards, no such standard exists for existing construction. The City of Boston recently updated its large building energy performance standards, and Massachusetts should establish a similar system for the entire state. To ensure achieving these goals is feasible, our next governor should work with our congressional delegation to secure funding for critical facilities like hospitals to install resilient, carbon-free energy systems — ensuring they can operate during even the most extreme weather events and serve as anchors of healthier, more resilient communities.
Expand state support for building and retrofitting green, zero-carbon schools, particularly in our highest-needs districts. Upgrading our school buildings to increase energy efficiency and install modern, fossil fuel-free HVAC and power systems makes sense on every level: it’s good for the future of our planet, better for the health of our students, and it’s cost-effective over the long haul. An energy-efficient school district with 4,000 students can save as much as $160,000 a year in energy costs, which means in many cases these projects pay for themselves — and then some — over time. It can be a challenge, however, for schools to secure the upfront capital for these projects, and to manage the complexities of planning, finance, procurement and installation. Our state should bring together representatives from local school districts, the Massachusetts School Building Authority, the Massachusetts Department of Energy Resources, and Mass Save to identify and implement innovative financing approaches and technical assistance to support planning and project management so we can dramatically expand the number of green schools in our state.
Partner with communities most impacted by pollution and climate change and prioritize their solutions. The legacy of racial bias in housing policies in our state and our nation means that communities of color today are more exposed to pollution and more vulnerable to climate impacts like heat and flooding. Our next governor should support policies to prioritize homes and communities most impacted by extreme heat and indoor and outdoor air quality problems, such as programs to retrofit low-and moderate-income housing in Gateway Cities and other similar communities where residents may otherwise lack opportunity to switch to cleaner, more energy efficient sources of power, and to improve indoor air quality by installing air filters in buildings located close to polluting facilities and infrastructure. Using solar equity legislation I have filed in the Senate as a model, our next governor should ensure low- and moderate-income residents have greater access to programs to incentivize adoption of solar technology. We should also pass legislation and increased investments in green spaces, flood mitigation, preserving existing mature trees and planting new ones, and other measures to reduce unequal climate impacts.
Expand & Decarbonize Transportation Infrastructure
Massachusetts will transition to a statewide, fully electric public transit system
Transportation is a top source of carbon emissions in Massachusetts. The impacts of this pollution affect all of us, but are also borne inequitably: one recent study showed that, on average, residents of color in Massachusetts are exposed to 26% to 36% more vehicle pollution than white residents.
Unequal transit access also creates obstacles to economic prosperity for the communities that need it most, all while trapping our residents in some of the worst traffic in the country.
We must make bold new investments in a system that has been chronically underfunded for decades to decarbonize our transportation systems, expand access to public transit, and incentivize more sustainable ways for people to get from place to place:
Transition Massachusetts’ existing public transit systems to clean sources of power by directing our public transit agencies to halt the purchase of any new fossil fuel-powered buses and produce and execute plans for full MBTA bus fleet electrification by 2030 and full electrification of the RTA system and Commuter Rail by 2040, with three Commuter Rail lines electrified by 2025. This will require an overhaul of multiple aspects of bus and train infrastructure – from garages to tracks to platforms – and provides an opportunity to create new green jobs across the state.
Stabilize and expand our public transit systems statewide to reduce fossil fuel emissions and connect communities — including developing East-West Rail to knit the whole state together and a robust Regional Rail system. We can accomplish the latter by revamping our Commuter Rail system into a frequent, electrified regional rail, providing all-day 15-minute to 30-minute train service. We also must increase operating budgets at the RTAs and MBTA to ensure they have the staffing necessary to plan for and execute both electrification and service expansion. These interventions will make trains a substantially more viable option for thousands of commuters. Our next governor must work with local and community leaders to address displacement concerns, and ensure that transit expansion and associated development benefit existing residents while also attracting sustainable growth and development.
Incentivize use of public transit by moving to a fare-free system. To avert climate impacts for residents in every region and cut down on traffic, our state must do all it can to encourage use of public transit. One way to do this is by eliminating fares, particularly on buses. Fare-free buses that allow all-door boarding spend significantly less time idling while boarding and discharging riders, leading to significantly faster rides. This cuts down on vehicle emissions while reducing commuting times, making the bus a much more attractive transportation option for many. Our next governor’s first budget should include funding to remove fares from MBTA and RTA buses immediately. Our state should lead the charge to identify additional sources of funding — such as repealing tax breaks for corporations that shift their income to off-shore accounts — to transition to a completely fare-free MBTA.
Increase access to and affordability of electric vehicles (EVs), including electric school buses, and expand EV support infrastructure. Electric vehicles can be a win-win for both our environment and consumers: they provide carbon-free access to transportation as well as significant savings on fuel and maintenance. Unfortunately, our current system for incentivizing the increased use of EVs serves mostly wealthy communities and is too narrow in its focus on cars. Our state should support local school districts in purchasing electric school buses (ESBs) to replace high-polluting diesel buses, reducing our carbon emissions while improving the quality of the air our children breathe on buses. In addition to helping schools secure newly available federal money for electric school buses, the state can play a role in helping schools purchase ESBs, such as facilitating large group purchases to help schools obtain ESBs at a reduced cost, and bringing utility companies and school districts together to accelerate the use of creative Vehicle to Grid (V2G) financing partnerships, as was recently done in the town of Beverly. For individuals and families, our state should increase access to EVs for all Bay Staters by providing financing assistance and larger upfront rebates to low- and moderate-income consumers, as well as providing incentives for the purchase of used and leased EVs. We should expand EV rebates to any zero-emission option, including e-bikes and e-scooters.
We must also dramatically increase access to EV charging infrastructure, particularly along our highways, at workplaces, and at multi-family residences, as well as for renters and individuals without access to off-street parking. State government can support expansion of EV infrastructure by adopting more forward-looking EV-ready standards for new multifamily homes, buildings and parking lots, and investing in charging infrastructure in communities where it is lacking, especially areas overburdened by pollution.
Promote alternatives to driving such as biking, walking and Bus Rapid Transit. In designing a sustainable transportation future, we must aim for fewer people driving cars by providing them with better alternatives. In addition to expanding public transit options, our state should make support strong investment in shared streets programs that promote walking and biking infrastructure and ensure equitable access to that infrastructure. Our next governor can work with cities and towns to think creatively about street improvements like bus/bike lanes and Bus Rapid Transit (BRT) that can cut down commuting times. Our next governor should also support local leaders in the public and private sectors working toward transit-oriented development that prevents sprawl, promotes walking and biking, and creates vibrant, connected communities.
Massachusetts will prepare to protect communities from extreme weather events
As we build out our clean energy system to limit the worst impacts of climate change, we must also recognize that climate change is already here, and it’s already impacting communities across our state. Massachusetts residents are at increasing risk from flooding, heat waves, power failures due to massive storms, and other dangerous impacts of climate change.
Our next governor should take action to protect the safety and economic health of our state by:
Creating a Cabinet on Climate and Resilience, led by a senior member of my staff and consisting of secretaries and directors of a variety of state agencies with authority over housing, municipal affairs, public safety, transportation, workforce, and finance to coordinate state, regional, and local climate resilience planning. This cabinet will engage local communities and tribes in municipal and regional-level risk assessments, planning, and adaptation efforts.
Building an energy system that is less fragile and more resilient, as well as being renewable. Climate change means that extreme weather events are happening with increasing force and frequency. Decarbonization of transportation and heating technology will also place increasing demands on our electricity grid. Making sure the energy systems our communities count on are prepared for these stressors means planning ahead. We must invest in microgrids around vital infrastructure, like schools and first responder stations, so these critical locations are able to continue serving their communities in the wake of extreme weather events. Increasing adoption of rooftop and community solar, coupled with energy storage infrastructure on the grid, will also make our communities less vulnerable both to large-scale outages and strains on the grid from high demand. To this end, we should amend our state building codes to require rooftop solar panels be installed on all new buildings where feasible at the time of construction, as California did in 2018.
Ensure resilient transit infrastructure. With extreme weather events becoming more common, we must prioritize building climate-resilient transportation infrastructure. Our next governor should direct MassDOT and the MBTA to calculate the full costs of solving for climate vulnerabilities in our networks and create accompanying resilient design standards, then budget for these projects through capital planning.
Note: This plan was updated on February 1, 2022 to clarify language describing the transition to meeting Massachusetts’ electricity needs with 100% clean energy.