Massachusetts Leads on Clean Electricity—Let's Take On Clean Transportation

August 11, 2017 | 2:01 pm
Daniel Gatti
Former contributor

Massachusetts today finalized new regulations under the state’s Global Warming Solutions Act that will establish limits on pollution from in-state power plants. Now we need to tackle transportation head on.

The Baker administration support for power plant regulations shows that in Massachusetts, climate change and clean energy remain a bipartisan issue, with both parties and all branches of government working together to achieve our climate limits.

In particular, today’s regulations show the state is continuing to lead on the production of clean electricity. Since 1990, Massachusetts has cut pollution from its electricity use almost in half, from 28 MMT in 1990 to 16 MMT in 2013. These additional regulations, together with last year’s clean energy bill and the recent shutdown of the last coal plants in the state will reduce emissions from electricity even farther, to 8.6 MMT by 2020.

Where the state has struggled is in reducing emission from other sectors, especially transportation. Transportation emissions are actually higher today than they were in 1990.

That’s why it was good to hear that Department of Environmental Protection Secretary Matt Beaton promised new action to address emissions from transportation:

The whole world right now is wrestling with the transportation sector and the challenges around dealing with it relative to climate mitigation. We’ve been in a number of conversations about identifying solutions for transportation, whether it’s done on a regional basis. It is a big challenge. We recognize that challenge, we see it as a challenge as well. But we are confident that in the very near future some of the efforts and the conversations we are having with our colleagues in other states and other provinces in Canada that there will be great strides to better understand what our options are for transportation solutions.

We think that a regional approach to addressing transportation pollution is a great idea.

Massachusetts has a long history of working with other states in the Northeast region to craft successful climate policies such as the Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative (aka RGGI).  Under RGGI, the Northeast region has established a regional limit on emissions from power plants, required polluters to purchase emission allowances under that cap, and invested funds in efficiency and renewable energy programs that reduce pollution and save consumers money. RGGI has helped the Northeast region cut emissions while creating jobs and reducing electricity expenses.

Two of our neighbors in Canada, Quebec and Ontario, have recently joined California in implementing a “cap and invest” policy similar to RGGI, but also covering transportation emissions.  This policy has allowed Quebec and Ontario to dramatically scale up their investments in clean transportation projects, such as electric cars and buses and public transportation. Analysis shows that a similar policy in the Northeast region, together with additional policies to clean up transportation, could reduce emissions by 40%, save consumers up to $72 billion and create over 90,000 jobs in the region by 2030.

If Massachusetts leads the Northeast region towards a regional “cap and invest” policy, we could create a clean, modern transportation system for our region. Funds from such a program could finance much needed investments in expanded and more reliable mass transit, a regional network of fast-charging stations for electric vehicles to ease driver “range anxiety”; van pools for rural employees who need a cost effective way to get to work; incentives to ensure that automated vehicles and ridesharing services go electric; and new programs that will take polluting gas guzzlers off the road and make highly efficient and electric vehicles affordable for all drivers.

Such a program would not only improve our environment and our public health, but it would improve our economy, create jobs, and ensure Charlie Baker a strong legacy on climate change.

We look forward to working with Secretary Beaton, Secretary Pollack, and the rest of the Baker administration as they take on the challenge of transportation pollution.