Jan 29th Roundup: Carbon Pricing Gains Momentum in Massachusetts

CLIMATE XCHANGE Policy Roundup: CARBON PRICING momentum in Mass.—challenges of a CARBON NEUTRAL Boston—Vermont EMISSIONS grow 16%

-Hundreds of youth, businesses, and activists lobbied for carbon pricing at State House
: Last week over two-hundred local activists, experts, students, and business leaders met with lawmakers to promote a proposal to implement a state-wide price on carbon in Massachusetts. Their goal was to convince lawmakers to co-sponsor a set of carbon pricing bills, with the hope of signaling broad support for the proposal. The result: well over 50 co-sponsors confirmed. An impressive number for any legislation and one carbon pricing organizers expect to grow before the Friday deadline to co-sponsor.

-Want to find out more about carbon pricing proposals in Massachusetts? Check out a rundown of the bills in last week’s Roundup.

-Why Businesses Support A Massachusetts Price On Carbon (Tim Cronin, CABA): Carbon pricing has long been viewed by experts, policymakers, and advocates as a key tool to move the economy away from fossil fuels while promoting economic growth. This is especially the case with business leaders, who recognize the economic potential of a carbon price and fear the impacts of doing nothing. Support among business leaders for carbon pricing in Massachusetts is proof of this, where local small businesses are poised to play a crucial role in passing the first statewide carbon price in the country.

-“Where clean energy is lagging”
 (Stephanie Murray, MA Politico Playbook): The Massachusetts Politico Playbook has a fascinating top story about how municipal light plants in the state are lagging on emissions reductions, and plans on Beacon Hill to reverse this. Most shocking is that “no municipal light plant in Massachusetts had enough renewable energy in 2017 to meet the state’s renewable portfolio standard.” This while municipal light plants account for 14% of the state’s energy usage. [Read the full exclusive story here]

-“Weymouth compressor station foe restarts sit-ins at governor’s office” (Jessica Trufant, the Patriot Ledger): “A Weymouth woman who spent her lunch break sitting outside Gov. Charlie Baker’s office on work days for months in 2017 has restarted her daily sit-ins after state regulators issued an air-quality permit for a proposed 7,700- horsepower natural-gas compressor station on the banks of the Fore River despite local opposition…. Andrea Honore is among the South Shore activists ardently against the compressor due to concerns that the plant would vent pollution and toxic gases, or worse, that it could explode, causing havoc in the densely populated neighborhood…. But Honore returned to the governor’s office last week after the state issued the air permit because she said the health-impact assessment was “underfunded and abbreviated,” and the coastal resiliency and public safety studies never took place.”

-“Boston wants to go carbon neutral by 2050. Here’s how that could happen” (Milton J. Valencia, Boston Globe): “Imagine having to drive an electric car, if you drive a vehicle at all. And if you drive into Boston, you’d have to pay a congestion fee. Every building in the city would be retrofitted for energy efficiency. All fossil-fuel burning appliances would be converted to electric, too. And we would cut down on many items that end up in the trash, like the city did recently with plastic bags. They are bold measures for even the most environmentally conscience resident, but they may be necessary if the city wants to reach its goal of going carbon neutral by 2050, according to the Boston Green Ribbon Commission, which is releasing a report Tuesday.”

-“Eight Ways Boston Could Become Carbon Free” (Kat J. McAlpine, BU Today): A group of BU researchers outlined an aggressive plan for the city to reduce emissions to net zero by 2050, here are their eight ways to accomplish this.

  1. Create programs for equitable access to clean energy and energy efficiency.
  2. Retrofit almost 86,000 buildings with energy saving systems and upgrades.
  3. Reduce the number of car trips by improving public transit.
  4. Implement congestion pricing on car trips.
  5. Work with the state at large to achieve a clean energy grid.
  6. Make Boston a zero-waste city.
  7. Make all 500 municipal buildings energy efficiency and zero-waste.
  8. Promote walking, which reduces emissions and helps with health.

-“Move To All-Renewable Energy A ‘Moral Obligation,’ Lawmaker Says”
 (Chris Lisinski, SHNS via WGBH): “Warning of dire consequences if no action is taken to combat climate change, lawmakers are again making an ambitious push to transition Massachusetts to all-renewable energy sources within two and a half decades. Legislation unveiled Monday by a group of elected officials and activists outside the House chamber would move the state to 100 percent renewable electricity by 2035 and 100 percent clean power for transportation and heating by 2045. Rep. Sean Garballey, one of the bill’s authors, described it as “the most important bill” that could be taken up this year.”

-“Senate President Karen Spilka lays out priorities: Education, mental health care, climate change” (Shira Schoenberg, MassLive): [read the full story here]

-“The New Language of Climate Change” 
(Bryan Bender, Politico): “Leading climate scientists and meteorologists are banking on a new strategy for talking about climate change: Take the politics out of it. That means avoiding the phrase “climate change,” so loaded with partisan connotations as it is. Stop talking about who or what is most responsible. And focus instead on what is happening and how unusual it is—and what it is costing communities… The new language taking root is meant to instill this sense of urgency about what is happening in ways to which everyday citizens can relate—without directly blaming it on human activity.”

-“The Next Financial Crisis Could Be Caused by Climate Change” (Geoff Dembicki, VICE): “The question some people in the financial world are now asking is: Who will be next? Once you go from understanding climate change as a distant future risk to a clear and present danger that can take down huge companies overnight, you see vulnerabilities everywhere. Here are a few of the potential outcomes: a hurricane that bankrupts the state of Florida, a housing foreclosure crisis caused by flooding in Texas, an economic meltdown brought on by the Colorado River going dry. In December, 415 investors put out a statement warning that unabated climate change could cause $23 trillion in global economic destruction over the next 80 years.”

-“Science Says: Get used to polar vortex outbreaks” (Seth Borenstein, Associated Press): “It might seem counterintuitive, but the dreaded polar vortex is bringing its icy grip to parts of the U.S. thanks to a sudden blast of warm air in the Arctic. Get used to it. The polar vortex has been wandering more often in recent years.”

-“Carbon tax backers grapple with ‘Green New Deal’” 
(Nick Sobczyk, E&E News): “Congressional carbon tax supporters are planning to introduce a slew of emissions pricing bills in the coming months, even as progressives coalesce around a broader plan to tackle climate change, but one thing is clear: The “Green New Deal” has left its mark. Republican Rep. Francis Rooney of Florida said he will sponsor three different carbon pricing bills, including two introduced in the last Congress… The “Green New Deal,” on the other hand, hasn’t yet been fully defined. But progressive zeal around the idea has prompted some congressional climate hawks to rethink the debate, as the ambitious policy platform becomes the climate messaging tool of choice for the left flank of the Democratic Party. For Democrats, a carbon fee is starting to look like a piece of a bigger puzzle, rather than the be-all and end-all climate solution.”

-“Bipartisan House pair to revive carbon tax bill” (Josh Siegel, Washington Examiner): “Reps. Ted Deutch, D-Fla., and Francis Rooney, R-Fla., plan to revive a carbon tax bill Thursday, the Washington Examiner has learned…. The bill is intended as a test for a carbon-tax-and-dividend model that distributes all of the revenue from the tax into monthly rebates, divided into equal portions, to American households, protecting them from higher energy costs. The approach differs from that of other proposals that would spend the proceeds of the tax on other things, such as government-funded clean energy investments, or offsets of other taxes.”

-“Exclusive: Trump EPA won’t limit 2 toxic chemicals in drinking water” (Annie Snider, Politico): The Trump administration will not set a drinking water limit for two toxic chemicals that are contaminating millions of Americans’ tap water, two sources familiar with the forthcoming decision told POLITICO. The expected move is yet another sign of the administration’s reluctance to aggressively deal with the chemicals, which have been used for decades in products such as Teflon-coated cookware and military firefighting foam and are present in the bloodstreams of an estimated 98 percent of Americans. And it comes less than a year after the White House and the Environmental Protection Agency faced criticism for delaying publication of a health study on the chemicals, which a White House aide had warned could trigger a “public relations nightmare.”

-“House Dems scrutinize Trump EPA air pollution policies” (Timothy Cama, the Hill): “Top House Democrats are scrutinizing various controversial moves by the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) to eliminate or roll back air pollution regulations… The inquiry focuses on five policy changes from the last two years: last month’s proposal to declare that the 2012 regulation on mercury emissions from coal-fired power plants is not justified; a January 2018 decision to allow certain polluting facilities to be subject to less stringent pollution technology standards; a 2017 proposal to repeal pollution rules for certain heavy-duty trucks that use older engines; a May 2018 policy to consider the costs of ambient air pollution standards and various policies that the Democrats say have sidelined science in the emissions regulatory process.”

-What is the State of Solar in Massachusetts?
: The Climate Action Business Association is hosting its fourth annual Massachusetts State of Solar. The evening will feature a panel discussion on the political climate, accomplishments, and challenges for solar energy in Massachusetts. Panelists include State Senator Sonia Chang-Díaz (D-Boston), Chief Development Officer at Sunwealth Solar Jessica Brooks, Senior Policy Advocate & Massachusetts Director of the Acadia Center Deborah Donovan, and Senior Solar Analyst at Greentech Media Allison Mond. More information on attending and registering for the event here.

-“In Vermont, a progressive haven, emissions spike forces officials to consider drastic action”
 (David Abel, Boston Globe): “It’s a state that prides itself on purity: its pristine land, progressive politics, even its ice cream. So it was no surprise when Vermont sought to lead the way in cutting carbon pollution, vowing to reduce greenhouse gases from the state’s power plants, cars, and other sources by 25 percent below 1990 levels by 2012 and 50 percent by 2028. Those goals, set by lawmakers in 2005, were significantly more aggressive and made before similar pledges in Massachusetts and other states. But 14 years later, the zeal in the Green Mountain State has yielded not so much cleaner air, but embarrassment. A report released last year found that emissions had actually increased 16 percent over 1990 levels, a startling divergence from the goal.”

-“A solution to climate change that Democrats (and Republicans) can rally behind”
by Mark Reynolds, via the Hill.

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