SJC Agrees that Massachusetts Has Failed to Implement a Key Piece of the Global Warming Solutions Act
The SJC ruled unanimously that the state has not done enough to comply with the 2008 Global Warming Solutions Act, which requires Massachusetts to cut its greenhouse gasses by 25% below 1990 levels by 2020.
The SJC read the Act to require MassDEP to set “volumetric limits on multiple greenhouse gas emissions sources” by 2012 and to reduce those limits every year. It held that existing MassDEP regulations – regarding low-emission vehicles, emissions of one particular industrial gas and to a regional utility cap-and-trade system – did not meet that requirement.
The Court did not set a deadline for MassDEP to issue regulations that comply with the Act, but presumably the agency will take its mandate seriously and issue those regulations as soon as practicable.
The regulations the Act require are one piece of the energy/climate change puzzle. Massachusetts experienced a 5% increase in carbon emissions last year – the first increase since 2010 – attributable in part to the recent closing of a nuclear power plant, which spurred an increase in the use of carbon-emitting natural gas.
Moreover, this decision comes as the Legislature is debating comprehensive energy legislation that would import clean hydroelectric power, and shortly after it passed a stopgap measure to raise net metering caps. The decision may strengthen the hand of advocates for increased investments in alternative energy.
The ruling was a victory for plaintiffs Massachusetts Energy Consumer Alliance and Conservation Law Foundation, whose staffer Jennifer Rushlow (a former A&K attorney) led the suit – as well as for all Massachusetts residents who enjoy clean air.
It was also a victory for A&K’s long-time pro bono partner Alternatives for Community and Environment, client the Town of Duxbury and a Nobel Peace Prize-winning climate scientist from Tufts, on whose behalf Art Kreiger and Jessica Wall filed an amicus brief supporting CLF’s position.
Duxbury beach photo credit: muffinman71xx