Testimony to MassDEP, M.G.L. chapter 21N, section 3(d) (from the Global Warming Solutions Act)

I testified to the Massachusetts Department of Environmental Protection (“MassDEP”) yesterday regarding means of enforcing limits as required by the Massachusetts General Laws, Chapter 21N, Section 3(d), otherwise known as (a portion of) the Massachusetts Global Warming Solutions Act, as recently interpreted by the Massachusetts Supreme Judicial Court, in Kain & Others vs the Massachusetts Department of Environmental Protection. Below are my verbal comments, although I presented them ad libitum to keep them shorter, so others would have time to speak. (I was the first one to testify.) I have also submitted written comments which are available as a PDF document here.

Thank you for this opportunity to testify regarding the Global Warming Solutions Act (“GWSA”) and the roles of MassDEP and EER.

I would like to make three points, and I will leave further details and documentation to the
written version of my testimony.

  1. Measure emissions, don’t merely accumulate self-reported numbers and project trends.
  2. Compliance with GWSA is a large challenge for the Commonwealth. Its management and administration deserves additional people and additional funding. The Department and its allied teams in DPU and DOER should propose such in the next budget cycle.
  3. Use the markets, and stop getting in their way when they can help achieve the purposes of the GWSA.

On the first point, the 2020 Plan for implementing GWSA as recently clarified by the Supreme Judicial Court continues to only make sense if only goals were being pursued, but not limits. I mean these terms narrowly, in the manner they were used in the SJC case. To assure annual reductions in emissions, assessments of their point-in-time volumes must necessarily take much less than a year to complete. I urge the Deparment to pursue a campaign of scientifically monitoring emissions independently of its established system of reporting, even if such reports are based upon ANSI standards. Language to support such monitoring activities is in the GWSA itself and in the SJC’s decision. There are several ways this can be done, which I have detailed in my written statement. For example, such a system is in place in California, operated by that state’s EPA and its Air Resources Board. Such measurement is cheaper than onerous life cycle inventories of greenhouse gas emissions and reporting.

On the second point, compliance with GWSA limits is a big job. It is bigger than compliance with mercury reduction two decades ago, when the MassDEP staff was double what it is presently. The legislature cannot seriously expect such enforcement without providing adequate staffing and funding to the Department and its allied teams, DPU and DOER. This administration can begin by proposing additional staff in its budget. The means by which these funds are raised might help nudge us collectively towards the GWSA’s limits. Staff can be thinned as GWSA limits are met.

On the third point, in my opinion, the legislature and the administration are indirectly making the achievement of GWSA limits more difficult. By leaving and sometimes creating obstacles in the way of the markets and technological innovators, they are costing the Department and the Commonwealth more time and treasure than otherwise would be needed to achieve GWSA limits. I speak of the energy revolution which attends the dramatic improvements exemplified by the experience curves for solar PV and storage. While administration and legislature have done much to introduce the Commonwealth to these technologies, and they should be thanked for their efforts, they also support and introduce roadblocks, such as caps on incentivized participation. These impede free market competitive challenges and aggressive innovation, primarily by small companies. The road to the 2050 GWSA limits is made all the much harder by equivocating about how we can continue to use fossil fuels and still decarbonize. No company has the early retirement of their fossil fuel infrastructure on their depreciation schedules.

Thank you for listening.

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One Response to Testimony to MassDEP, M.G.L. chapter 21N, section 3(d) (from the Global Warming Solutions Act)

  1. Pingback: Why natural gas is a problem for the Massachusetts GWSA | Hypergeometric

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