Boston- State Senator Benjamin B. Downing (D-Pittsfield) has signaled his continued support policies to promote clean air and other environmental benefits by co-sponsoring a bill drafted by State Representative Frank I. Smizik (D-Brookline) titled An Act to Promote the Reduction of Green House Gas Emissions and to Reduce the Use of Fossil Fuels for Vehicles in the Commonwealth. Rep. Smizik is the House Chairman of the Joint Committee on the Environment, Natural Resources and Agriculture.
Downing said, “Vehicles are a primary source of greenhouse gas emissions. Much of the responsibility to respond to mounting environmental concerns has rested with state and local entities. This proposal is a sound package that includes economic incentives for consumers to purchase vehicles with higher fuel efficiency standards, and I am happy to lend my support.”
This proposal presents the idea of a “feebate” (“fee” and “rebate”), a basic carrot-and-stick approach to encourage drivers to purchase more fuel efficient vehicles. As defined in the bill, feebates are essentially rebates for cars with good fuel efficiency, and fees or surcharges for cars with poor fuel efficiency. The legislation determines the fee or rebate as a percentage of the Manufacturer’s Suggested Retail Price (MSRP) assigned based on the vehicle’s greenhouse gas emissions rating; rebates are given for vehicle ratings that rank better than average, and fees are assessed for ratings that fall below average.
Ensuring consumer choice for a variety of vehicles not subject to a fee, this measure is designed to include a broad middle spectrum, or “zero band,” of vehicles that receive neither a rebate nor surcharge, including light trucks and SUVs.
While fuel efficiency (CAFE) standards are the province of the federal government, states are free to construct their own tax policies. The feebate structure creates revenue neutrality, as the fees assessed will cover the rebates and administrative costs of the program.
The legislation is expected to be filed in mid-January by Smizik, when the Legislature reconvenes in formal sessions.
Downing’s legislative agenda contains various environmental and energy initiatives. Last week his bill to improve air quality on school campuses statewide received a favorable report from Smizik’s committee. Further, Downing has signaled his strong support for proposals to combat global warming and promote the production of renewable energy in Massachusetts.
It is expected that when the Senate meets in January its agenda will be topped by a comprehensive energy package, referred to as An Act Relative to Green Communities.