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Massachusetts lawmakers quickly approve climate change bill for second time

Demonstrators from the Massachusetts chapter of Extinction Rebellion protested outside the Mass. State House on Jan. 14, 2021. They were concerned Gov. Charlie Baker would veto sweeping climate legislation that would commit Massachusetts to becoming carbon neutral by 2050. John Tlumacki / The Boston Globe

BOSTON (AP) — Massachusetts lawmakers quickly approved a sweeping climate change bill Thursday for a second time, shipping it back to Gov. Charlie Baker just weeks after he vetoed the measure.

The Democrat-controlled House and Senate had approved the bill earlier this month in the waning hours of the last legislative session.

Baker opted to veto the bill, but time had run out on the ability of lawmakers to address the veto, so Senate President Karen Spilka and House Speaker Ronald Mariano — both Democrats — decided to bring the bill back before lawmakers just weeks into the new legislative session and approve it again.

“Time is of the essence and we could not let a delay hamper our efforts to protect future generations,” Spilka said in a press release following the vote. “The necessary tools included in this legislation will soon lead to lower emissions, a thriving green economy, and cleaner air and water for all.”

The Senate engrossed the bill on a voice vote before noon on Thursday, shipping it to the House, where it was engrossed on 144-14 vote. Both chambers then enacted the bill, sending it to Baker’s desk.

Rep. Thomas Golden, one of the sponsors of the bill, hailed the decision to quickly approve the proposal a second time, saying it was too urgent to delay.

“This particular piece of legislation is going to build on over two decades of green legislative accomplishments,” the Lowell Democrat said moments before the House vote.

The bill would put the state on a path to attaining a net-zero greenhouse gas emission limit by 2050 in part by setting new statewide limits every five years to help the state reach the goal.

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The bill would also create renewable energy jobs and boost the state’s production of offshore wind by 2,400 megawatts for a total of 5,600 megawatts. It would also write into state law the criteria used to define “environmental justice populations” — typically lower income communities at greater health risks from pollution.

In addition, the bill would enhance energy efficiency standards for appliances, create equitable access to solar for low income individuals and toughen gas pipeline safety following a series of gas explosions in Lawrence, Andover and North Andover in September 2018.

Baker has said he supports much of the bill.

His administration has released a plan that also seeks to eliminate greenhouse gas emissions by 2050 and includes a requirement that all new cars sold in the state be electric by 2035 and that 1 million homes be converted from fossil fuel to electric heat.

But Baker has said the Legislature’s bill could increase the cost of housing, possibly prevent the construction of affordable developments and potentially impact large sectors of the economy just as the Commonwealth is beginning to recover from the pandemic recession.

Baker hopes to use his veto authority to press for changes in the bill, although it has been approved by wide enough margins in both chambers to pass despite any Baker objections.

The bill has won the backing of environmental groups who had criticized Baker’s decision to veto the measure.

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