Climate Change and Sustainability in Massachusetts in the Current Political Climate Reply

Deregulation around climate change has had scientists, citizens, and organizations deeply unsettled in recent months. If looking from the outside in at the message being sent by the federal government, it appears that the U.S. has deprioritized sustainability and is actively revoking its support for the fight against climate change. It wouldn’t be out of place to think this, either. For example, in recent months, the U.S. has pulled out of the Paris Agreement, passed an executive order to revoke the Clean Power Plan, and most recently, the U.S. has revoked a ruling to ban hydrofluorocarbons (HFC’s) in refrigeration and air conditioning.

Regarding HFC’s…

  • On 8/8/17, a federal court ruled that HFC’s cannot be banned.
  • The reversal is due to a technicality in how the Clean Air Act is being used to support the EPA’s effort to ban HFC’s.
  • HFC’s have been and are of increased concern due to their high global warming potential, relative to CO2. In other words, for every one unit of CO2 removed from the environment, a one unit addition of HFC’s to the environment negates the CO2 removed from a global warming standpoint, and leaves the atmosphere with even more greenhouse gas (GHG).

But not so fast! There is a very different story unfolding in Massachusetts (and many other states around the U.S.).

First, for some country-wide good news related to the revoked HFC ban, despite this ruling, U.S. chemical companies are still committed to producing climate friendly HFC alternatives, per the Montreal Protocol in which approximately 150 countries vowed to phase out HFC’s beginning in 2019.

Meanwhile in Massachusetts, on August 11, 2017, Massachusetts published six final regulations to reduce GHG emissions in the Commonwealth. Granted, this was in response to a Supreme Judicial Court ruling (Kain v. DEP, May 2016), requiring the Commonwealth to “beef up” its emission reductions efforts. Enter Governor Baker’s Executive Order No. 569 – “Establishing an Integrated Climate Change Strategy for the Commonwealth” – and the resulting amendments (or new regulations) made to meet 2020 statewide emissions limits set in the Global Warming Solutions Act (GWSA). Below, those regulations are summarized, and more details can be found on the MassDEP website.

 

Regulation 310 CMR 7.72

Reducing Sulfur Hexafluoride Emissions from Gas-Insulated Switchgear (GIS)

What is it? Establishment of annually declining, mass-based limits added to existing max leak rates for SF6.
Who is affected? -Large utilities

-Federal reporting GIS owners

Why Was it implemented? Adding the mass-based limits is accounting for potential SF6 increased emissions associated with deployment of new GIS equipment – not accounted for prior to revision.

 

Regulation 310 CMR 7.73

Reducing Methane Emissions from natural Gas Distribution Mains and Services

What is it? Establishment of annually declining emission limits on Massachusetts gas operators in 2018, 2019, and 2020. This regulation establishes the annually declining limits on GHG emissions.
Who is affected? -All Massachusetts gas operators

-Gas operators with a Gas System Enhancement Plan (GSEP) order from Department of Public Utilities (DPU)

Why Was it implemented? Emissions limits were not established in the Clean Energy and Climate Plan for 2020. It simply required updates and fixes to leaks. Per the GWSA, limits needed to be imposed to ensure reductions.

 

Regulation 310 CMR 7.74

Reducing CO2 Emissions from Electricity Generating Facilities

310 CMR 7.75

Clean Energy Standard

What is it? Two regulations to reduce CO2 emissions from Power plants in Massachusetts.

7.74 sets a minimum percentage of electricity sales that utilities and competitive suppliers must procure from clean energy sources.

7.75 sets a sector-wide, annually declining limit on aggregate CO2 emissions from twenty-one large fossil fuel-fired power plants in Massachusetts.

Who is affected? -All owners and operators of an electric generating facility
Why Was it implemented? These two regulations are intended to increase procurement of clean energy (from utilities) and ensure emissions reductions associated with fossil fuel-powered power plants.

 

Regulation 310 CMR 60.05

Global Warming Solutions Act Requirements for Transportation

What is it? Establishment of annually declining aggregate targets on CO2 emissions from Massachusetts’ transportation system.
Who is affected? -MassDOT; MPO’s; RTA’s; DEP; EOEEA
Why Was it implemented? Previous regulation did not include requirements for the MassDOT to meet enforceable limits on carbon dioxide (CO2) emissions.

 

Regulation 310 CMR 60.06

CO2 Limits for State Fleet Passenger Vehicles

What is it? New regulation setting limits on CO2 from passenger vehicles owned and leased by the Commonwealth’s Executive Offices.
Who is affected? Executive Offices that own or lease 30 or more passenger vehicles, as determined by the MassDEP.
Why Was it implemented? To reduce CO2 emissions from certain Commonwealth owned or leased vehicles through imposition of mass-based limits that decline each year from 2018 through 2025.   This requires each Executive Office to monitor, record, and report CO2 emissions from vehicles.

 

Industry in Massachusetts has stayed on course in terms of preparing for and doing their part to mitigate climate change through often extensive sustainability programs. Consistent with these efforts is the message that Massachusetts continues to stay the course as well, as evidenced by these new regulations.

For more information on this topic, please contact Cristina Mendoza at 508-970-0033 ext. 128 or by cell at 774-249-2418, or email cmendoza@capaccio.com.