New Regulations to Reduce Emissions, Advance Market for On-Road Clean Trucks Enacted
According to a press release issued by the Massachusetts Department of Environmental Protection (DEP), the agency filed emergency regulations to further reduce transportation emissions and accelerate the adoption of zero-emission vehicles (ZEV) at the end of December.
The emergency regulations immediately adopt California’s Advanced Clean Trucks regulation, which requires an increasing percentage of ZEV truck sales starting with Model Year 2025 and ramping up through Model Year 2035, accelerating the market for medium and heavy-duty ZEVs. The filing of the emergency regulations commences the start of a public comment period and the coordination of a public hearing in February 2022, and, ideally, will help reduce emissions of nitrogen oxides (NOx), toxic air contaminants, and greenhouse gases from on-road vehicles.
Massachusetts law requires the Commonwealth to adopt California motor vehicle emissions standards as long as those standards achieve, in the aggregate, greater emissions reductions than federal standards. Massachusetts first adopted the California Low Emission Vehicle (LEV) program regulations in 1991 and has amended it many times to remain identical to the California LEV program. This latest amendment involves emission standards for Model Years 2025 and later medium- and heavy-duty vehicles and engines.
Emergency authorization of the regulation was needed as the federal Clean Air Act (CAA) requires states that adopt the California standards to do so at least two model years before the standards take effect, in this case, January 1, 2022 for vehicles labeled as Model Year 2025, which starts on January 1, 2024. The filing of emergency regulations begins a three-month process towards making the changes permanent, which will include a public hearing on the amendment set for January 21, 2022, and a 30-day public comment period which ends on January 31, 2022.
In particular, the emergency regulations adopt the latest revisions to the California medium and heavy-duty vehicle and engine regulations. Those revisions include: the Greenhouse Gas (GHG) Phase 2 Standards for Model Year 2025; the Heavy-Duty Omnibus Regulation, which contains a comprehensive set of emission standards and other emission-related requirements for heavy-duty vehicles and engines; and the Advanced Clean Trucks Regulation, resulting in ZEV sales starting in Model Year 2025 and ramping up through Model Year 2035, accelerating the market for medium and heavy-duty ZEVs. In addition to reducing pollutant emissions, the regulations will lead to reduced fuel consumption and fuel costs and maintenance due to more fuel-efficient engines and vehicles and next-generation zero-emission trucks.
According to the MassDEP, agency officials participated in a series of meetings on rulemakings with the California Air Resources Board (CARB) and joined CARB, the Northeast States for Coordinated Air Use Management and other organizations to develop the new regulations. MassDEP also held two public stakeholder meetings in April 2021 to share information on these regulatory efforts and to solicit stakeholder feedback. Vehicle emissions regulations are part of the Massachusetts plan to maintain air quality standards under the federal Clean Air Act and are a critical component of the Massachusetts Interim Clean Energy and Climate Plan for 2030 under the Massachusetts Global Warming Solutions Act (GWSA). Earlier this year, Governor Charlie Baker signed “An Act Creating a Next-Generation Roadmap for Massachusetts Climate Policy” that amended the GWSA to require specified emissions reduction limits for 2030, 2040, and net-zero greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions by 2050. Last year, Massachusetts was one of 15 states and the District of Columbia to set a goal of 100 percent electric truck and bus sales by 2050. Adopting these rules will accelerate the transition to medium and heavy-duty electric vehicles.
For further information on the emergency regulations and the process for submitting testimony, please visit: https://www.mass.gov/service-details/massdep-public-hearings-comment-opportunities.
KPMG: State’s UI Still Running a Deficit
The end of 2021 saw an interesting discussion evolve between a wide range of stakeholders about the state’s unemployment (UI) fund. In particular, everyone wanted to know “what exactly is in the unemployment insurance fund?”
In early 2021, the Massachusetts legislature, with the Governor’s ultimate approval, provided relief from scheduled UI rate increases by freezing the increases. Shortly thereafter, however, news filtered out that the overall UI fund was in such a significant deficit that employers would be required to pay an additional assessment to replenish the fund. It was at that point employers and employer organizations sounded the alarm.
Despite the drumbeat for relief and the provision of $500 million in America Rescue Plan Act (ARPA) funding, it was still unclear how much money was actually in the UI fund and what was necessary to make it “whole” again. To answer the question, the Massachusetts Executive Office of Labor and Workforce Development (EOLWD) hired the consulting firm KPMG to provide an analysis and report on needed short and long-term actions. Specifically, KPMG was “to complete an independent assessment to fully reconcile the account balances in the UI Trust Fund, its Benefit Payment Account and subaccounts, revenue accounts, and other related UI banking accounts, to trace and explain fund inflows (including employer assessments and federal funds) and outflows (including benefits payments for all programs), and to provide recommendations for the resolution of any issues resulting from the assessment.”
Citing a combination of early pandemic changes, including new programs, rapidly evolving guidance, and a new claims processing system and ad-hoc internal reporting, the KPMG report examined some of the fallout from a system overloaded with claims from March 2020 through May 2021. To highlight demands on the fund that stemmed from forced business closures, KPMG analysts estimated that total benefits paid in 2020 were nearly seven times more than all benefits paid in 2018 and 2019 combined.
In reporting its findings, KPMG noted the following:
“KPMG has determined that during the period of March 2020 to November 2021, there were $318 million in benefit payments returned by banks that was retained in subaccounts within the Benefit Payment Account and later repurposed to pay new claims for benefits. These funds should have been returned to the funding source from which they were originally charged—either federal program sources or the UI Trust Fund. KPMG estimates that the federal portion to be returned is approximately no more than $300 million on the basis that the returns relate to benefit payments that were made at a time when the majority (90%) of benefits paid out came from federal sources. EOLWD has requested guidance from USDOL for the administration of these funds and has yet to receive guidance as of December 2021.
The UI Trust Fund balance includes $415 million of credits against future assessments to be collected from employers because of mid-year rate adjustments implemented in calendar year 2021 after employer assessments had been paid. These credits will be applied to future employer assessments to eliminate the credit that was over-collected because of the timing of legislative changes in 2021, with the effect that future employer assessments will be correspondingly reduced.
Aside from the $300 million bank return adjustment and the anticipated application of $415 million in employer credits, KPMG did not identify any other items associated with the period reviewed that would impact the UI Trust Fund balance. When also accounting for an outstanding loan balance of $2.3 billion, the UI Trust Fund has a structural deficit of $115 million after repayments, credits, and reconciliations.”
The legislation providing employers with some relief from COVID-related charges was enacted in May 2021, after most employers had already paid their first quarter contributions. The credits will be applied to future employer assessments, reducing those contributions. And independent analysts also identified the need for a one-time transfer of $300 million from funds currently held in the UI system to the federal government "to reconcile state and federal accounts now that emergency programs implemented under federal authority in 2020 and 2021 have come to a close."
The topic of funding the UI system will surely continue in 2022. At the time of this writing, an independent commission, comprised of various stakeholder groups and agencies, is studying the state’s unemployment system, but has not issued its final report. To view the KPMG report in its entirety, please visit: https://www.statehousenews.com/content/docs/2021/12-31KPMG.pdf.
New Boston Mayor Announces Several Cabinet Reappointments as Her First Full Term Officially Begins
According to a press release from her office, Boston Mayor Michelle Wu announced several cabinet reappointments, shaping her new administration with proven leaders who are focused on equity, civic engagement and embracing Boston’s possibility. The Mayor, who was sworn in, now begins her first full term as the City of Boston’s Mayor.
In announcing the reappointments, Mayor Wu has now appointed Ms. Celina Barrios-Millner, previously Chief of Equity & Inclusion, as Senior Advisor to the Mayor; Mr. Shumeane Benford will continue as Chief of Emergency Management (OEM); Ms. Kara Elliot-Ortega as Chief of Arts & Culture; Mr. Dion Irish as Chief of Operations; Mr. Justin Sterritt as Chief of Administration & Finance, and Rev. Mariama White-Hammond as Chief of Environment, Energy, and Open Space.
Ms. Barrios-Millner, an immigrant from Venezuela, has two decades of experience serving the people of Boston by building systems and designing policies to ensure equity across major aspects of civic life. Since joining the City of Boston in 2014, Ms. Barrios-Millner has led Immigrant Integration initiatives, built the City’s first Supplier Diversity program, and most recently worked to ensure an equitable distribution of ARPA and other stimulus funds as Chief of Equity and Inclusion.
Mr. Benford is a veteran Boston Police Officer and proven reform-minded public safety leader with over 25 years of experience. A collaborator who has lent his experience and voice in the City's discussion around police reform implementation, Mr. Benford is a lifelong Boston resident, and received his Masters Degree from Suffolk University, and his BA from Curry College. He is an adjunct professor at Roxbury Community College, and lives in Dorchester with his family.
Ms. Elliott-Ortega has worked in the Mayor’s Office of Arts and Culture for six years, serving as Chief of Arts and Culture for the past three years. Ms. Elliott-Ortega previously worked for the City as the Director of Policy and Planning for the Mayor’s Office of Arts and Culture. An urban planner and cultural organizer focusing on the role of arts and creativity in community building and government, Ms. Elliott-Ortega holds a Master’s in City Planning from MIT and is a graduate of the University of Chicago. She is a resident of Roxbury.
Mr. Irish has served the City of Boston for more than 26 years in various leadership positions. As Chief of Operations, he oversees the Inspectional Services, Public Facilities and Property Management Departments; and coordinates multi-agency operational initiatives. He is a dedicated and passionate public servant who held leadership positions in the Inspectional Services Department (ISD) for over a decade, including serving as Commissioner from 2019 to 2021. Previously, Irish was appointed Commissioner of the Boston Election Department in 2015 and was appointed to lead Boston’s Office of Civil Rights in 2012. He is a graduate of Dorchester High School; he earned a Bachelor’s degree in Political Science from Boston University, a Master’s of Urban Affairs from Boston University, and a Master’s of Public Administration Degree from Suffolk University.
As CFO, Mr. Justin Sterritt is responsible for all aspects of financial management for the City of Boston. In this role, he will continue the sound fiscal stewardship of the City’s human and financial resources to support the long-term growth and stability of the city. Previously serving as Director of the Office of Budget Management for the City, Mr. Sterritt has also led key strategic efforts on behalf of the City including increasing engagement and equity in the annual budget process and managing state funding dynamics. Prior to joining the City of Boston, Mr. Sterritt spent over six years in various finance and policy roles for the Commonwealth of Massachusetts.
Rev. Mariama White-Hammond was appointed as Chief of Environment, Energy, and Open Space in April 2021. As Chief, Rev. White-Hammond oversees policy and programs on energy, climate change, sustainability, historic preservation, and open space. Over the course of her time with the City, she has supported the amendment of the Building Emissions Reduction and Disclosure Ordinance (BERDO) to set carbon targets for existing large buildings. Rev. White-Hammond has also convened a city-led youth green jobs program. Rev. Mariama is the founding pastor of New Roots AME Church in Dorchester.
For more information about Boston Mayor Wu’s senior leadership team, please visit: https://www.boston.gov/departments/mayors-office#cabinet-heads.
News in Brief
Downing Announces End to Gubernatorial Campaign. As the end of the year approached, former Senator Ben Downing announced that he was abandoning his run for Governor. The first announced Democratic candidate, Mr. Downing entered the race as a presumptive challenger to Governor Charlie Baker. Hoping to capture the electorate as former Governor Deval Patrick did, Mr. Downing was soon joined by two other Democratic candidates, which started to take away his targeted base. An affable candidate who drew from his previous experiences in the State House and the clean energy sector, Mr. Downing often focused his remarks on realizing the Commonwealth’s potential including, but particularly, through western Massachusetts, from where he hails.
Twelve (12%) Percent of Public School Water Fixtures in Massachusetts Have Lead. According to a report conducted by researchers at Northeastern University, about 12 percent of water fixtures in Massachusetts public schools have lead levels that exceed the threshold at which the state requires shutting them down. In total, the scientists analyzed 47,727 lead measurements at 1,094 schools across the state, taking an average of 44 samples per building, according to the study. Massachusetts has a total of 1,840 public schools, according to the state’s Department of Education. Researchers found that 90 percent of the fixtures with samples that exceeded the threshold were located in just 376 Massachusetts schools — or just 34.4 percent of those sampled. A copy of the study may be found at: https://pubs.acs.org/doi/pdf/10.1021/acs.estlett.1c00845.
Crighton Staff Goes Local; Move from State House to City Hall. Senator Brendan Crighton, a former legislative staffer and former State Representative, whose own former boss, former Senator Tom McGee, went from state politics to local politics, can now claim two staffers who have done the same thing. Mr. Jon Thibault, the Senator’s former chief of staff, will assume the same position with the City of Lynn’s newest Mayor, Jared Nicholson. Likewise, Somerville Mayor-elect Katjana Ballantyne recently announced that she has hired Mr. Aneesh Sahni, who was most recently the legislative director for Senator Crighton, to serve as Somerville's director of intergovernmental relations. In his new role, Mr. Sahni will oversee the policy agenda for the City of Somerville at the local, state, and federal level. UCANE thanks both gentlemen for their work and commitment to funding water infrastructure in the Commonwealth. Senator Crighton has been a longtime supporter of a UCANE initiative to jumpstart the Commonwealth’s efforts to close its $18 billion - $21 billion funding gap.