Time to Make Good on Global Warming Solutions Act

Shanna Cleveland

In 2008, the Massachusetts legislature unanimously passed the strongest climate change mandates in the nation, and Governor Patrick signed it into law. One of the key pieces of that law, the Global Warming Solutions Act (GWSA) was a direct command to the Massachusetts Department of Environmental Protection to put regulations in place that would establish legally enforceable emissions reductions.

The legislature spoke clearly and unmistakably, dictating that:

“The Department shall promulgate regulations establishing a desired level of declining annual aggregate emission limits for sources or categories of sources that emit greenhouse gases.”

The statute provided the Department with ample time to develop the regulations, setting a date of January 1, 2012, for establishing the regulations and an effective date of January 1, 2013. Now, six years later, that mandate remains unmet.

For years, Conservation Law Foundation (CLF), Mass Energy Consumers Alliance, clean energy companies and children concerned for their future have called upon the Department to comply with the law. However, the Department has refused, and so CLF, Mass Energy and four youth plaintiffs have gone to court to force the Department to follow the law.

Climate Action Delayed is Climate Action Denied

Why are these regulations so important and why have they been delayed?

There is no doubt that Governor Patrick has been a leader on clean energy and that much good work has been done as a result of the GWSA, but there remains one clear, unequivocal mandate that has yet to be met. The GWSA required the Massachusetts Department of Environmental Protection to adopt regulations establishing “declining annual aggregate emissions limits” for greenhouse gas emissions sources. The regulations were supposed to be adopted by January 1, 2012, and were to have taken effect by January 1, 2013. As yet, no such regulations have been adopted.

The harmful consequences of this inaction have prevented Massachusetts from fully unlocking the potential of the clean energy economy and have jeopardized our ability to meet the strong mandates of the GWSA. For example, there is no regulatory framework to ensure that all energy infrastructure decisions in Massachusetts are consistent with the GWSA’s mandates, and, despite beating out other states, Massachusetts has been falling behind on meeting the targets it established for reducing greenhouse gas emissions through energy efficiency programs.

The absence of these regulations is becoming even more clear as the battle over New England’s energy future is being waged. If the Department had established the regulations required by the GWSA and set declining annual aggregate emissions limits in the electricity and heating sectors, for example, power plant developers, like Footprint, and pipeline developers, like Kinder Morgan, would have a clear standard to meet in demonstrating that their projects will comply with the mandates of the GWSA.

Instead, organizations like CLF have been forced to step into the regulatory void to ensure that appropriate conditions are imposed on these types of projects. Without regulations, project developers and agency officials are left to proceed on a case-by-case basis without any certainty about whether these new projects will sink efforts to meet the GWSA mandates to reduce greenhouse gas emissions by 25% below 1990 levels by 2020, and by at least 80% below 1990 levels by 2050 – mandates that were unanimously adopted. Ironically, had these regulations been in place for the last two years, Massachusetts might have seen increased investment in energy efficiency and renewable energy generation that would have mitigated the price spikes we’ve seen these past two winters by reducing our dependence on natural gas.

Regulations Spur Action and Innovation

Climate change–inducing greenhouse gas emissions have real impacts, and the cost of inaction is high. Hurricane Sandy caused more than $60 billion in damages and Tropical Storm Irene and Winter Storm Nemo had devastating economic impacts here in Massachusetts. The toll will continue to rise as climate change leads to more frequent and intense tropical storms, flooding, and extreme weather events such as heat waves and droughts. Massachusetts has already begun to experience the impacts of climate change that the GWSA mandate is intended to prevent, putting our youth, our economy, and our energy systems at risk.

However, climate change regulations can inspire innovation and spur  economic growth. Just as the Clean Air Act regulations regulating smog and acid rain spurred the power industry to develop new technologies and paved the way for cleaner energy, climate regulation has spurred the clean energy economy. One of the reasons that Massachusetts was able to bounce back more quickly from the 2008 recession was that the clean energy revolution had already begun. Massachusetts has put almost 100,000 people to work in the clean energy industry.

Without these regulations in place, the hue and cry for unlimited new investment in natural gas threatens the continued growth of local resources and local clean energy technologies. The imperative for decisive action is clear. We can’t afford to wait any longer to protect Massachusetts, especially our youth, from the impacts of climate change. Please stand with us to call on the Governor and the Governor-Elect for Climate Action.

Focus Areas

Climate Change

7 Responses to “Time to Make Good on Global Warming Solutions Act”

  1. Leonard Johnson

    Excellent post and great work. It is indeed imperative to accelerate the pace of renewable low/zero-emissions energy development and efficiency improvements. For Massachusetts, the ongoing debates surrounding energy infrastructure should be centered on the most cost-effective solutions to meeting our energy needs within the constraints of achieving the vitally important GWSA emission reduction mandates. I agree that state programs and incentives have been effective in bolstering early success for clean energy installations, but the pace of development will need to increase dramatically to make a significant dent in our overall energy budget and meet GWSA targets. Many thanks to CLF for taking urgent action to bring the vision, and mandates, of the Global Warming Solutions Act to reality.

  2. Anne-Marie Lambert

    In addition to GHG regulations, we are in critical need of climate change adaptation regulations, also specified in the GWSA. State storm water regulations are not keeping up with climate change, especially regarding increasingly frequent intense rain events. Without changes to regulations related to controlling storm water run off associated with up-to-date estimates of precipitation events (25-year storm, 100-year storm, etc.), the percentage of impervious surface in our watersheds will continue to rise, undersized storm water management systems will continue to be permitted, and even more flooding will be the result.

    The information below came from either books or downloaded from the Internet

    People in the USA, are being told by the U.S. government and media that global warming is man-made. If that is true, how can the government and media explain the high temperatures the earth has experienced in past years when there were far fewer people? Let us look back in the world’s history: for example, between roughly 900AD and 1350AD the temperatures were much higher than now. And, back then there were fewer people, no cars, no electric utilities, and no factories, etc. So what caused the earth’s heat? Could it be a natural occurrence? The temperature graph at the bottom of this article shows the temperatures of the earth before Christ to 2040.

    In the book THE DISCOVERERS published in February 1985 by Daniel J. Boorstin, beginning in chapter 28, it goes into detail about Eric the Red, the father of Lief Ericsson, and how he discovered an island covered in green grass.

    In approximately 983AD, Eric the Red committed murder, and was banished from Iceland for three years. Eric the Red sailed 500 miles west from Iceland and discovered an island covered in GREEN grass, which he named Greenland. Greenland reminded Eric the Red of his native Norway because of the grass, game animals, and a sea full of fish. Even the air provided a harvest of birds. Eric the Red and his crew started laying out sites for farms and homesteads, as there was no sign of earlier human habitation.

    When his banishment expired, Eric the Red returned to congested Iceland to gather Viking settlers. In 986, Eric the Red set sail with an emigrant fleet of twenty-five ships carrying men, women, and domestic animals. Unfortunately, only fourteen ships survived the stormy passage, which carried about four-hundred-fifty immigrants plus the farm animals. The immigrants settled on the southern-west tip and up the western coast of Greenland.

    After the year 1200AD, the Earth’s and Greenland’s climate grew colder; ice started building up on the southern tip of Greenland. Before the end of 1300AD, the Viking settlements were just a memory. You can find the above by searching Google. One link is:


    The following quote you can also read about why there is global warming. This is from the book EINSTEIN’S UNIVERSE, Page 63, written by Nigel Calder in 1972, and updated in 1982.

    “The reckoning of planetary motions is a venerable science. Nowadays it tells us, for example, how gravity causes the ice to advance or retreat on the Earth during the ice ages. The gravity of the Moon and (to a lesser extent) of the Sun makes the Earth’s axis swivel around like a tilted spinning top. Other planets of the Solar System, especially Jupiter, Mars and Venus, influence the Earth’s tilt and the shape of its orbit, in a more-or-less cyclic fashion, with significant effects on the intensity of sunshine falling on different regions of the Earth during the various seasons. Every so often a fortunate attitude and orbit of the Earth combine to drench the ice sheets in sunshine as at the end of the most recent ice age, about ten thousand years ago. But now our relatively benign interglacial is coming to an end, as gravity continues to toy with our planet.”

    The above points out that the universe is too huge and the earth is too small for the earth’s population to have any effect on the earth’s temperature. The earth’s temperature is a function of the sun’s temperature and the effects from the many massive planets in the universe, i.e., “The gravity of the Moon and (to a lesser extent) of the Sun makes the Earth’s axis swivel around like a tilted spinning top. Other planets of the Solar System, especially Jupiter, Mars and Venus, influence the Earth’s tilt and the shape of its orbit, in a more-or-less cyclic fashion, with significant effects on the intensity of sunshine falling on different regions of the Earth during the various seasons.”

    Read below about carbon dioxide, which we need in order to exist. You can find the article below at:


    Of the 186 billion tons of carbon from CO2 that enter earth’s atmosphere each year from all sources, only 6 billion tons are from human activity. Approximately 90 billion tons come from biologic activity in earth’s oceans and another 90 billion tons from such sources as volcanoes and decaying land plants.

    At 380 parts per million CO2 is a minor constituent of earth’s atmosphere–less than 4/100ths of 1% of all gases present. Compared to former geologic times, earth’s current atmosphere is CO2- impoverished.

    CO2 is odorless, colorless, and tasteless. Plants absorb CO2 and emit oxygen as a waste product. Humans and animals breathe oxygen and emit CO2 as a waste product. Carbon dioxide is a nutrient, not a pollutant, and all life– plants and animals alike– benefit from more of it. All life on earth is carbon-based and CO2 is an essential ingredient. When plant-growers want to stimulate plant growth, they introduce more carbon dioxide.

    CO2 that goes into the atmosphere does not stay there, but continuously recycled by terrestrial plant life and earth’s oceans– the great retirement home for most terrestrial carbon dioxide.

    If we are in a global warming crisis today, even the most aggressive and costly proposals for limiting industrial carbon dioxide emissions and all other government proposals and taxes would have a negligible effect on global climate!

    The government is lying, trying to use global warming to limit, and tax its citizens through “cap and trade” and other tax schemes for the government’s benefit. We, the people cannot allow this to happen.

    A temperature graph normally goes here that shows the Earth’s Temperature from -2400 to guesses in +2400.

    If the Earth’s temperature graph is not shown above, you can see this temperature graph at the link:

  4. Paul Lauenstein

    Unfortunately, the Massachusetts Department of Environmental Protection (DEP) cannot be relied on to obey the law. In 1986, the Massachusetts Water Management Act required DEP to establish Safe Yield water withdrawal limits for all the state’s watersheds before issuing water withdrawal permits to municipalities. DEP went ahead and issued 20-year water withdrawal permits without determining Safe Yield as required. After the permits expired almost a quarter century later, DEP started to issue new permits, but were stopped by a lawsuit filed by two watershed protection groups. The judge ordered DEP to determine Safe Yield before issuing the new permits, as required by the Water Management Act, so DEP determinted Safe Yields that were so high that then-Governor Patrick made DEP rescind them and try again. The new Safe Yields are still higher than current withdrawals in every watershed in the state, including watersheds deemed “Highly Stressed” by the Massachusetts Water Resources Commission–a clear violation of the spirit if not the letter of the law.

  5. Pamela Kelly


    If not stopped, the Proposed Kinder-Morgan Pipeline (carrying Tennesse Gas Co fracked gas, 2.2billion (with a “B”) cubic ft/DAY, a size to rival the XL) will be traversing the best rural agricultural land in the NE (The CT River Valley), crossing the Ct River, entering the Montague Plains Aquifer, before heading North to cross NH on its way to Dracut, and from there, transported by a pipeline already in place, headed to Nova Scotia Liquid Natural Gas ports.

    It’s bill of goods that Kinder-Morgan wants to sell to the rate payers of electricity in Massachusetts and NE with the argument that this gas is “needed for the public good.” Clearly the studies done by energy expert David Keith and CLF show that this is a scheme to actually HIKE the price of gas, by putting us into competition in the European or Japanese market. We cannot burn this gas without ading significantly to the earth’s greenhouse emissions

    Rep. Paul Mark’s legislative proposal (H2878) to create a GREEN BANK, administrating a Commercial PACE program that does not include natural gas as a “clean” energy, would make a very significant difference in getting to a sustainable energy future. We need the backing of CLF in rewriting the legislation that has been so successful in CT for MA. PLUS, it would give us an INVESTMENT mechanism that makes great sense for our DIVESTED money! And “Commercial entities include churches, and apartment buildings of 5 or more, where most of our lower income people live.

    Not familiar with C-PACE or Green Banks? Connect with http://www.PACEnow.org and check out a summary of the award-winning CT PACE program from Clean Energy State Alliance. (CESA). Pam Kelly

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