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Massachusetts Pursues Rapid Implementation of Global Warming Solutions Act

Beveridge & Diamond, P.C. - Massachusetts Client Alert, July 6, 2009

The Massachusetts Global Warming Solutions Act, Chapter 298 of the Acts of 2008, adopted sweeping mandates to catalogue and reduce greenhouse gas emissions in Massachusetts. The first significant steps required by the Act were to adopt rules that require the reporting of greenhouse gas emissions by the largest emitters in the state and to establish a baseline assessment of statewide greenhouse gas emissions in 1990, which will be used to measure future changes and progress towards the 80% reduction mandated by 2050.  Both of these steps were recently completed, and the public planning process for the first round of emissions reductions has commenced.

The Massachusetts Department of Environmental Protection (MassDEP) adopted an annual greenhouse gas reporting rule late in December, 2008, and substantially modified the rule in April, 2009.  For a discussion of the reporting rule, see http://www.bdlaw.com/news-483.html and http://www.bdlaw.com/news-573.html.

MassDEP completed and published the baseline assessment on July 1, 2009.  As required by the Global Warming Solutions Act, the assessment both estimates the greenhouse gas emissions within Massachusetts in 1990, and predicts future emissions in 2020 if no measures are imposed to lower emissions. These companion estimates are to be used to measure progress towards the Act’s requirements to (i) set an economy-wide greenhouse gas emissions reduction target of 10 - 25% below 1990 levels by 2020, and (ii) implement additional reductions each following decade through 2050, at which time the Act requires an 80% reduction from the 1990 baseline.

The baseline assessment estimates that approximately 94 million metric tons of carbon dioxide equivalent were emitted in Massachusetts in 1990 and that the same amount would be expected to be emitted in 2020 if no additional measures were imposed to lower emissions.  Nearly 84 of the 94 million metric tons were attributed to fossil fuel consumption, with transportation (28.9), electricity generation (25.6) and residential (15) comprising a significant majority of the emissions. The remainder of the emissions were attributed to the combustion of non-fossil fuel gases (3.8), solid waste and wastewater management (3.6), electricity imports (2.0), industrial processes (0.7) and agriculture (0.4).

The 2020 projection does not take into account reductions that are expected from the Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative, in which Massachusetts is a participant, or from the revised federal Corporate Average Fuel Economy (CAFE) vehicle efficiency standards, as those programs had not been implemented at the time of the cutoff for consideration established in the Global Warming Solutions Act.  Consequently, the reductions in emissions to be achieved through those programs will be credited towards the reductions mandated by the Act.

The next implementation steps under the Global Warming Solutions Act are the establishment of a goal for greenhouse gas emissions reductions of between 10 - 25% by 2020, and a plan to attain that goal.  The Executive Office of Energy and Environmental Affairs has recently established a Climate Protection and Green Economy Advisory Committee, as required by the Global Warming Solutions Act, and an interagency climate policy team, both of which appear to be charged with making recommendations on these two steps. The Advisory Committee has created seven work groups to study emissions reduction opportunities in different economic sectors.  The interagency climate policy team has established twelve work groups to review and evaluate strategies and options that can be used to achieve the greenhouse gas emissions reductions called for in the Act.  It is not clear how the Advisory Committee and the interagency policy team will interact or collaborate.

The interagency work groups will be holding a series of public meetings throughout July, 2009 to hear presentations from climate change experts.  The information to be gathered is intended to be used to identify greenhouse gas reduction policies and strategies.  A list of presenters and schedules is available from the MassDEP web site at http://www.mass.gov/dep/air/climate/index.htm. [See tab for Public Discussions with Experts: Greenhouse Gas Reduction Policy].  As of the date of publication of this summary, the scheduled meetings were as follows:

  • Economy-Wide Price of Carbon  -  July 7, 2009  3:00-5:00 p.m.
  • Development Patterns & Travel Behavior  -  July 8, 2009, 3:00-5:00 p.m.
  • Materials & Waste Management  -  July 9, 2009, 2:00-4:00 p.m.
  • Low Carbon Fuel Supply  -  July 9, 2009, 3:00-5:00 p.m.
  • Energy Sector Sequestration  -  July 9, 2009, 10:00 a.m.-12:00 noon.
  • Building Efficiency & Energy Consumption  -  July 13, 2009, 10:00 a.m.-12:00 noon
  • Transportation Vehicle Efficiency  -  July 14, 2009, 9:00-11:00 a.m.
  • Forests  -  July 13, 2009, 10:00 a.m.-12:00 noon.
  • Agriculture  -  July 17, 2009, 1:00-5:00 p.m.
  • Industrial Process Emissions (Non-Energy) and Industrial Energy Efficiency  -  July 15, 2009, 9:00 a.m.-12:00 noon.

For more information on the implementation of the Global Warming Solutions Act, please contact Stephen Richmond at srichmond@bdlaw.com.