Both area state senators joined their colleagues in supporting legislation to combat climate change, but the Republican Party says the measures will turn Massachusetts into another California.
Sens. Paul Feeney, D-Foxboro, and Becca Rausch, D-Needham, voted with the overwhelming majority of the Senate in passing three climate change bills last week.
Rausch said she met with Attleboro High School students the day before the vote and they urged her to back the legislation. She said she also received letters from King Philip Regional Middle School students on the cause and will be meeting with them.
“The message my district sent about the urgency of climate change legislation came with particular force from young people,” she said in a press release.
“I am thrilled to support and encourage their activism and advocacy,” she said. “They are the generation that will inherit our planet; they know, as do scientists around the globe, that we must be dauntless in our environmental protection policies; and their voices must be centrally valued in this debate.”
In a telephone interview, Feeney said the measures are needed to slow carbon emissions and their impact on the climate.
“Climate change is an existential threat. It is the challenge of a generation,” Feeney said.
He said he was able to get an amendment attached to the climate change bill that will provide job training for fossil fuel industry workers who are displaced by changes called for in the legislation.
One bill, approved by a 36-2 vote, sets a goal for Massachusetts to reach zero net carbon emissions by 2050.
Another mandate is for the MBTA to buy zero-omission vehicles such as electric trains. A third bill, which passed 35-2, sets standards for low-flow faucets and shower heads.
But, Jim Lyons, chairman of the Massachusetts Republican Party, said the state Legislature has become obsessed with copying California, which has laws similar to the ones proposed in the bills.
In a press release, he cited examples of Democrat senators praising California for becoming a leader on climate change. He said their statements were radical and “absolutely insane.”
He also said the bills will result in higher costs and higher taxes.
“And here’s the dirty little secret about these radical new standards they’re after — these lawmakers, with their big pay raises, won’t be affected,” he said. “It will be the hard-working Massachusetts taxpayer that will get stiffed again, all so these Democrats can brag to each other they’re saving the world at their next cocktail party.”
Feeney said the climate change bill calls for a charge on carbon emissions, but would leave the details of how to implement it to the administration.
Sen. Michael Barrett, D-Lexington, author of the climate change bill, told The Sun Chronicle there are three options for the governor on fees.
The one he favors, he said, is revenue neutral, meaning it would not give the government more money to spend.
He said under his suggestion, people would pay a carbon fee on fossil fuel, or “market-based compliance mechanism,” to discourage the use of fuels such as gasoline. But the consumers would get the money back in a rebate.
The government would not keep the money, he said, but the fee on the fossil fuels would encourage people to change their behavior and use less of them.
Other options include a gasoline tax in which the government would use the money on transportation projects, or a “cap and trade” system of buying and selling credits, he said.