Massachusetts Department of Public Utilities Issues a Landmark Order for Building Electrification in the State’s Future of Gas Proceeding

Following years of advocacy by Sierra Club attorneys, chapter staff, and volunteers, the Massachusetts Department of Public Utilities (DPU) issued a landmark order that will transform the building electrification landscape. The DPU’s “Beyond Gas” plan adopts a vision for the state’s buildings sector where electrification is the dominant building decarbonization strategy and the use of the gas system is limited. The DPU rejected the utilities’ vision of a hybrid future in which the gas distribution system is kept online as a backup system and rejected renewable natural gas and hydrogen as “unproven and uncertain” solutions for decarbonization of the gas system.

The DPU relied on arguments raised by Sierra Club during the proceeding, referencing Sierra Club 52 times in the 140-page Order. The Order implements several of Sierra Club’s recommendations and requires utilities to pilot targeted electrification and decommissioning of the gas system; avoid additional costly investment in the gas system where possible; coordinate gas and electric planning; and file Climate Compliance Plans every five years, starting in April 2025. The Order prohibits the use of ratepayer dollars for marketing new gas service and prohibits charging ratepayers for the cost of renewable natural gas and hydrogen.

This case is part of Sierra Club’s efforts across the country to decarbonize the buildings sector and this precedent-setting decision will be influential well beyond Massachusetts. Sierra Club attorneys are actively participating in similar Future of Gas dockets in several other states for which this order will serve as an example, including California, Colorado, Minnesota, Nevada, New Jersey, New York, Oregon, Rhode Island, and Washington. Sierra Club is also advocating that additional states such as Maryland and Connecticut open Future of Gas dockets for which this order will be instructive.

Sierra Club was represented in this docket by Environmental Law Program attorney Sarah Krame. Chapter staff and volunteers supported the effort by garnering public support for a strong Beyond Gas vision.