Local Government and Politics, News

Rep. Lori Ehrlich announces two bills to combat climate change

If Rep. Lori Ehrlich has her way, Massachusetts would take big steps to combat climate change. (File Photo | Owen O'Rourke)

If Lori Ehrlich has her way, Massachusetts would take two big steps to combat climate change. The Marblehead state representative has proposed a pair of bills to reduce carbon emissions produced by the state’s heating and transportation sectors. Should both bills pass, they would help drive Massachusetts toward its greenhouse gas emissions goals for 2050.

“I began my career in public life in 1997 as an advocate and a mom fighting for the health of my community located downwind from an old coal-burning power plant,” Ehrlich said in a statement announcing the bills. “We’ve made great strides since then, and now it is time to turn to the other major sources of emissions from our state. History has shown that by doing so, we can create good jobs and grow our economy while making our state a healthier place to live.”

The first bill, an act for utility transition to using renewable energy, or the FUTURE Act, would force Massachusetts to move away from natural gas and toward more sustainable sources of thermal energy. It would help the state’s gas utilities shift toward energy generation outlined in the state’s Renewable Energy Portfolio Standard, such as solar, wind, hydro, and geothermal power.

The bill also forces companies to provide tighter control of gas and methane leaks. In 2017, there were 27,731 leaks reported in Massachusetts, and 15,829 still unrepaired, according to the statement.

The other bill, the act to advance modern and sustainable solutions for transportation, or MASS Transportation Act, would establish a board to take funds generated from the new Transportation and Climate Initiative (TCI) and plow the money into renewable energy research.

The initiative, joined by nine states and Washington D.C., reduces transportation emissions through the use of a cap-and trade system. The region has a cap on the total amount of transportation emissions allowed. Companies can then trade for space under the cap with cleaner companies, creating a market-based approach to controlling emissions. Over time, the overall cap is lowered to create a net reduction in greenhouse gas.

The TCI’s structure closely follows the decade-old Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative (RGGI, affectionately pronounced “Reggie” by supporters), which helped Northeast states from Maine to Maryland power plant emissions by 35 percent, according to Ehrlich.

“We can’t just ‘believe’ in science; we have to heed its warning,” Ehrlich said. “As our world devolves into climate chaos and mass migrations, it will become increasingly important to show it can be done setting an example for other states and nations.”

The FUTURE Act currently has 51 co-sponsors across both major parties in the House. The MASS Transportation act sports more than 70 co-sponsors, including Lynn State Sen. Brendan Crighton.

“Both the FUTURE Act and the MASS Transportation Act are breaking new ground in clean energy policy, and I am looking forward to working with my colleagues to get this done,” Ehrlich said.

More Stories From Marblehead