BOSTON (State House News Service) – Fearing the state may be losing momentum in its efforts to reduce carbon emissions, Sen. Marc Pacheco said Wednesday the committee he chairs would be recommending a bill to retrofit 1 million homes over the next decade to make them more energy efficient.
Pacheco joined other legislators, union leaders, community activists and youth organizers to highlight bills they said would create jobs while also helping to meet the state’s climate goals and address food insecurity.
The lobbying push came on a day when most legislative committees faced a deadline to make or postpone decisions on the thousands of bills filed this session. For many bills, the deadline will mark the end of line for this two-year session, while some will get favorable recommendations and committees will extend the timeline to make a decision on others.
“Here we are a year after the state and our Legislature passed a pretty important climate bill that set some pretty important goals in place and we just believe we’re moving too slow,” said Lee Matsueda, executive director of Community Labor United and a leader with the Massachusetts Renews Alliance.
The alliance organized a virtual briefing to put pressure on committees to favorably report out three pieces of legislation – the Building Justice with Jobs Act (S 2226, H 3365), the Food Justice with Jobs Act (S 495, H 967), and a bill known as Food Justice Frontline (S 564, H 973).
“We’re never going to meet net zero by 2050 it we don’t address 40 percent of the problem, and that’s in our built environment,” Pacheco said.
While the Taunton Democrat does not lead the committee with jurisdiction over the Building Justice with Jobs Act, Pacheco said he worked with his co-chair Rep. Antonio Cabral to attach the language to a separate energy bill moving through their Committee on State Administration and Regulatory Oversight.
“Unfortunately, I don’t have any announcements today in terms of the favorable list coming out of the Telecommunications, Utilities and Energy Committee. The bill is not on the list to be passed out in a favorable disposition, so there is a lot more work to be done,” Pacheco said.
The building retrofit bill would require 1 million homes to be renovated to become more energy efficient over the next 10 years, with homes prioritized for upgrades in low-income communities and jobs set aside for labor unions.
“These careers lead to financial stability,” said Brian Doherty, with the Greater Boston Building Trades Unions.
The initiative would require a significant ramping up of retrofitting work after fewer than 500 homes were renovated for energy efficiency in 2020, according to Mass Save. Pacheco’s office has also been working on potential financing solutions, including the availability of low- and no-interest loans through the U.S. Department of Energy.
The provisions of the Building Justice with Jobs Act was added to a bill known as the “Spark Act” (H 3243 / S 2014), which would update the state building codes to require that all new construction and renovation in Massachusetts include the infrastructure needed to support vehicles, appliances and heating systems that run on electricity.
Though Pacheco helped find a way to advance the energy efficiency bill, the future of the two food insecurity bills prioritized by advocates remained uncertain.
“We all remain hopeful that things will be reportedly out favorably or at least extended so we can continue these important conversations,” said Rep. Adrian Madaro, of East Boston.
The two bills would establish public awareness campaigns focused on food access programs such as
the Supplemental Nutritional Assistance Program (SNAP) and the Healthy Incentive Program
(HIP) and provide capital grants for community groups to create public gardens where healthy sustainable foods can be grown.
“The introduction of community gardens can reduce the impact of food deserts in low-income ares,” said Nelly Medina, of Jobs with Justice.