[MWDN] MetroWest lawmakers team up to combat climate change, focus on large buildings
By Cesareo Contreras / Daily News Staff
Posted Jul 8, 2019 at 5:16 AM
Updated Jul 8, 2019 at 2:12 PM
A bill filed by state Sen. Becca Rausch, D-Needham, and state Rep. Maria Robinson, D-Framingham, would require property owners of all buildings that contain at least 15,000 square feet of space to adhere to new reporting requirements and energy efficiency standards.
Large building owners may soon be required to be more transparent and cognizant about the amount of energy their buildings consume as a way to better combat climate change.
A new bill filed by state Sen. Becca Rausch, D-Needham, and state Rep. Maria Robinson, D-Framingham, would require property owners of all buildings that contain at least 15,000 square feet of space to adhere to new reporting requirements and energy efficiency standards.
The bill, An Act Establishing Building Energy Performance Standards S. 2011, recently received a favorable report by the Joint Committee on Telecommunications, Utilities and Energy and is now being reviewed by the Senate Committee on Ways and Means.
The goal of the bill is two-pronged, Rausch told the Daily News.
Not only will large building owners be required to provide to the state accurate yearly energy reports - which will be available to the public online - they will also need to follow new energy efficiency standards that will be set by the state Department of Energy Resources.
“We have to take action now to address climate change,” she said. “This is not a full-scale comprehensive solution, but it is a step in the right direction.”
Currently, only buildings constructed after the state updated its building codes to include energy efficiency standards need to adhere to those rules. That started in 2008 when Massachusetts created the Green Communities Act, according to Environment Massachusetts State Director Ben Hellerstein, who is a strong advocate of the bill.
The new bill will require all buildings 15,000 square feet and larger to follow energy efficiency regulations, regardless of when they were built, Rausch said.
While various cities throughout the country have implemented similar measures - including Boston - Massachusetts would become the first state to pass such a statewide bill, Rausch said.
Should the law go into effect, large building owners have until June 15 of each year to file their energy reports to the state.
In 2021, the Department of Energy Resources (DER) will establish specific energy performance standards for each type of property. Property owners will then have five years to meet those standards before facing penalties. Certain DER-established exemption criteria will apply, however.
As part of the proposed law, the Department of Energy Resources is also expected to provide incentive and financial assistance programs for qualifying building owners.
Framingham Sustainability Coordinator Shawn Luz said that while he is still learning about the bill’s inner workings, he is glad Rausch and Robinson are tackling the issue.
“I think it’s a really interesting and important step to start taking a look at our existing buildings,” Luz said. “What the Board of Regulations and Standards is doing is affecting a lot of our new buildings, but I would say in all communities looking at our existing buildings is extremely important.”
Ashland Sustainability Committee Chairman Matthew Marshquist said the bill will mesh nicely with other initiatives that municipalities have been working on to address climate change.
“In Ashland, we are looking at net-zero measures to implement, but we may come up with an idea that fits very well with Ashland and I think this bill will still allow us to have our own pathway to doing that,” he said.
Utah Nickel of Holliston, who is part of the 350MA Upper Charles Climate Action Node, a chapter of the statewide climate action group 350 Massachusetts, said he sees the bill as helping “reduce the waste out of our inefficient buildings.”
“I love to see this happening at the state level,” he said.