Wondering How States Will Respond to West Virginia v. EPA? Massachusetts Provides An Early Answer

Those wondering what states can do to at least partially ameliorate the impacts of West Virginia v. EPA need look no farther than Massachusetts, which issued its Clean Energy and Climate Plan for 2025 and 2030 the same day that the Supreme Court extended its crusade against the modern world by limiting EPA’s authority to regulate in the absence of a clear delegation by Congress.

First, a caveat.  There is no panacea.  Whatever states do, they can’t do everything, and they certainly cannot fully replace federal regulations.  The fundamental problem of climate change remains economic – we don’t have regulations in place forcing those whose products emit GHG to internalize the costs imposed by those emissions.  Until we do, everything else is just a patchwork.

That being said, states such Massachusetts can do a lot, and the CECP for 2025 and 2030 gives some sense of the ambition.  First, the goals.  Massachusetts will – it says here – reduce GHG emissions by 33% from 1990 levels by 2025, and will reduce them 50% by 2030.  Here are three important parts of the plan, addressing electrification, buildings, and transportation:

  • Continued rapid buildout of offshore wind. Massachusetts will continue to enter into PPAs with wind project developers.  It will also take a number of steps to build the broader offshore wind marketplace through a range of downstream efforts, including workforce development.
  • “Rapid, cost-effective deployment of heat pumps by 2030.”
  • Buildout of EV charging infrastructure.

All of this is great, and I’m confident that the steps Massachusetts takes will help incentivize innovations that will drive these technologies down the cost curve.  What’s important to note here, though, is that all of these developments rely on a combination of economic incentives and good old-fashioned, government regulation.

 

  • Offshore wind incentives are paired with regional and state limits on GHG emissions.
  • The deployment of heat pumps will be encouraged, not just by economic incentives, but also by regulations, effective as early 2024, that will impose limits on GHG emissions from buildings.
  • The massive shift to electric vehicles will be encouraged through government programs to facilitate EV charging infrastructure – and by regulations that will prohibit sales of non-electric vehicles after 2035.

States can do a lot.  And Massachusetts is doing a lot and will continue to do so.  And the Massachusetts economy will benefit.  But if our eyes are on the prize of driving net emissions down to zero economy-wide, the federal government is going to have to have tools to do so – tools that are blessed by the Supreme Court.

2 thoughts on “Wondering How States Will Respond to West Virginia v. EPA? Massachusetts Provides An Early Answer

  1. I urge caution assuming MA can deliver on its ambitious Plan. The Plan ASSUMES timely implementation in the New England jurisdictions notorious for finding ways to “just say no”. See for example the ten-plus years to kill Cape Wind and Maine’s protracted delay of transmission to bring Canadian hydro into play. Where does large scale renewable capacity get approved? That would be in states that “just say yes”. In a 2021 report by the American Clean Power Association, Texas had almost 20,000 MW of renewable projects underway or in advanced development, including about 7,000 MW of ONSHORE wind. Mass., the only New England state to make the top ten, had only about 3,500 MW in advanced development, essentially all offshore wind. On quick read, the MA Plan, like recent Federal policy announcements, appears to say nothing about either consolidated or distributed onshore wind. Why is that? Please don’t claim it’s “easier to approve and implement” offshore in New England. I think that (as you state) if the economics are made good, such evidence is lacking.

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