Area lawmakers sign on to carbon pricing bill

  • Traffic on the Coolidge Bridge, which crosses the Connecticut River to connect Northampton and Hadley, backs up in the mid-afternoon, Thursday, Oct. 4, 2018. Vehicle exhaust is a major contributor to poor air quality and the geography of the river valley causes polluted air to become trapped in the northeast.

Staff Writer
Published: 2/11/2019 12:24:21 AM

NORTHAMPTON — More than 100 legislators, including many from western Massachusetts, are co-sponsoring a bill that would put a price on carbon.

Filed in mid-January by Rep. Jennifer Benson, D-Lunenburg, the House bill has the co-sponsorship of more than half the House of Representatives, plus some senators.

Many area lawmakers are in support; co-sponsors include Reps. Lindsay Sabadosa, D-Northampton, Dan Carey, D-Easthampton, Mindy Domb, D-Amherst, Natalie M. Blais, D-Sunderland, and Sen. Jo Comerford, D-Northampton.

“I believe the climate crisis should be, and is, at the forefront of everyone’s mind,” Comerford told the Gazette. “Carbon pricing is, I think, one of the most important pieces of the puzzle because we do have to make a dramatic shift.”

The bill proposes that the price start out at $20 per ton of carbon dioxide equivalent, with a $5 increase each year until the price reaches $40 per ton. Carbon dioxide equivalent refers to the It’s assessed on “fossil fuel wholesalers when the product enters the state,” according to a fact sheet on the bill Comerford provided.

Thirty percent of the revenue would go into a “green infrastructure fund,” which will go toward clean energy and transportation, as well as climate resiliency initiatives.

In an area like western Massachusetts, that could be beneficial for public transportation, Sabadosa said. “Our area of the state could use that infusion,” she said.

The remaining 70 percent of the funds would be given back to residents and businesses, similar to a tax refund. Rebates for low- and middle-income families would be higher than the estimated increases they would see in fossil fuel prices, according to the fact sheet.

In the law’s first year, a low-income family of four would get roughly $800, and by the fifth year that rebate would double as the fee increased, the fact sheet said.

Every household would get a rebate, and the bill provides several options for when that money would be doled out, but the state Department of Revenue would have to decide, according to Benson’s office.

The bill would give higher rebates to rural areas where there’s more reliance on driving, and it also provides a $1 million fund for workers who are negatively affected by the “shrinkage of fossil fuel industries.”

Sabadosa said with rising sea levels and changing weather patterns, the Earth is at a tipping point. She pointed to the U.N. Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, which showed that keeping warming under 1.5 degrees Celsius above pre-industrial levels, the goal set by the Paris Climate Agreement, would require “rapid and far-reaching” changes.

“The state is finally saying we really need do something,” Sabadosa said.

Benson introduced similar legislation last session, and the bill has nearly double the number of co-sponsors this session.

Currently, no other state has successfully passed a carbon fee, though other states, such as New Hampshire, are currently considering one.

Greta Jochem can be reached at

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