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Testimony in Favor of 100 Percent Renewable Energy and Electric Vehicle Fleets

By Matt Casale
Director, 21st Century Transportation Campaign

To Chairman Barrett, Chairman Golden, and members of the committee:

Thank you for the opportunity to present this testimony in favor of the following bills: An act to transition Massachusetts to 100 percent renewable energy (HB2836 and SB1958) and An act to promote zero-emission vehicle fleets by 2035 (HB2872 and SB1929). Together, these bills are critical to building a healthy and sustainable future for Massachusetts. 

The 100 percent renewable energy act, introduced by Reps. Decker and Garballey in the House and Sen. Eldridge in the Senate, will repower Massachusetts with 100 percent renewable electricity by 2035 and 100 percent renewable energy economy-wide (including heating and transportation) by 2045. 

Fossil fuels are polluting our air and water, harming our health, and changing our climate in dangerous ways. They are making our communities vulnerable to extreme weather and other life altering changes. Fortunately, we can envision a future where all of the energy we use to power our homes, our businesses, and our transportation system comes from clean, renewable sources like solar and wind. Importantly, the bill also ensures that the communities that have been most impacted, and will continue to be impacted, by fossil fuel pollution benefit from the transition to renewable energy.

Transportation, in particular, is a sector where we are not doing nearly enough. Transportation is the largest source of greenhouse gas emissions in the commonwealth, and air pollution from transportation is driving childhood asthma and other respiratory diseases in the state. The transportation network of Massachusetts’ future is the transportation network envisioned by the 100 percent renewable energy act: one with fast, reliable and clean train and bus service, one with robust and safe walking and biking options, and one where all of the vehicles on our roads are electric. Then not only will we have a cleaner transportation system, but we will also have a better,  more efficient, and more equitable transportation system.

The 100 percent renewable energy act will require that we reconcile our transportation and energy challenges to put us on a definite and accountable timetable towards clean energy and transportation networks. 

An act to promote zero emission fleets highlights some of the current problems with our transportation network and represents an important step towards achieving the goals of the 100 percent renewable energy act. While complementing the 100 percent renewable energy act, this bill would require the electrification of public and private vehicle fleets, including buses (by 2035), government owned vehicles (by 2026), and privately owned and operated vehicles used for commercial ride-sharing and ride-hailing (by 2035).

Buses play a key role in our transportation system, carrying children daily to and from school and moving Bay Staters around our cities and regions. Public transportation makes our communities more sustainable, more livable, and more accessible for people of all ages and abilities.  Buses in particular reduce the number of individual cars on our roads, reducing traffic and pollution. Yet, the vast majority run on diesel, a highly polluting fuel with significant negative health effects, or compressed natural gas, the extraction of which has serious climate impacts. All-electric buses are here, and they’re cleaner, healthier and often cheaper for transit agencies, school districts and bus contractors to run in the long-term compared to diesel and alternative fuel buses. They are also highly visible, providing great opportunities for public education on electric vehicles (EVs) just by being on the road. And because they travel in highly populated areas and carry some of our most vulnerable passengers (like school children), accelerating the electrification of buses has significant public health benefits.

The electrification of government owned vehicle fleets presents an opportunity for significant cost savings while also allowing the state to lead by example. We have ambitious goals for EV adoption in Massachusetts. State government should be at the forefront of the transition.

While ride-hailing services like Uber and Lyft are helping increase mobility for many people throughout the commonwealth, the data is clear that (contrary to what many people thought would happen) they have resulted in increased vehicle miles traveled in the commonwealth -- meaning worse traffic, but also increased emissions of greenhouse gases and other pollutants harmful to public health and the environment. Requiring these fleets to go fully electric will help mitigate the harms of the proliferation of these kinds of personal mobility services. 

We have the opportunity to make Massachusetts a leader in clean transportation and clean energy, and more importantly, to build a better, cleaner and healthier future for our children and grandchildren. Let’s not pass up that opportunity.

Thank you for your hard work on these bills and for considering our testimony.

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