The state of Massachusetts is preparing to launch a pilot program that aims to reduce greenhouse gas emissions by requiring new construction and major renovation projects to use cleaner electric options instead of fossil fuels. The program will authorize 10 cities and towns to implement these requirements within their borders, and nine of the spots have already been filled.
However, one spot recently opened up, and now the Governor and officials face the decision of which municipality should secure the last spot. The final selection could have a significant impact on the program’s scope and serve as a test of the new governor’s commitment to cutting emissions.
Boston, Somerville, Salem, and Northampton are among the potential candidates for the last spot. These cities and towns, like the others already in the program, want to limit the use of fossil fuel infrastructure in buildings. Buildings are responsible for about 35% of the state’s emissions, making it a crucial sector to address in order to achieve net-zero carbon emissions by 2050.
The program was created through a clean energy law signed by Governor Charlie Baker, who initially had concerns about the impact on development and housing shortages. To qualify, a city or town had to vote in favor of the new clean energy building requirements locally and submit a petition to the Legislature for permission to implement them.
While the initial selection process prioritized communities in the order they applied, selecting a substitute does not follow a rigid queue. The Department of Energy Resources will consider factors such as local support, diversity, compliance with zoning and affordable housing requirements, and investments in the electric grid.
Applications for substitute communities are due by November 10, and a decision will be made by March 1, 2024. Currently, there are no official applications from municipalities vying for the last spot, but Boston, Somerville, Salem, and Northampton have already approved home rule petitions seeking permission to limit fossil fuels in the building sector.
The Healey administration’s decision on the final spot could transform the program. Boston, with its large population and significant real estate development, would more than double the number of participants in the pilot program. Regardless of the outcome, this initiative is a vital step towards reducing greenhouse gas emissions and transitioning to cleaner energy sources in Massachusetts.
– Fossil fuel infrastructure: The network of pipelines, storage facilities, and other structures used to extract, transport, and distribute fossil fuels such as oil and gas.
– Greenhouse gas emissions: Gases, such as carbon dioxide, methane, and nitrous oxide, that trap heat in the Earth’s atmosphere and contribute to global warming.
– Net-zero carbon emissions: Achieving a balance between the amount of carbon dioxide emitted and the amount removed or offset from the atmosphere, resulting in no net increase in carbon dioxide levels.