– The Policy Roundup turns one today! A year ago I sent out the first of forty-eight editions of this Roundup, and ever since I’ve had the pleasure of sharing climate news, updates, and analysis with you every week. I could not have done this alone, so I want to give a shout out to the staff at Climate XChange for all their help and support, including Amanda Griffiths, Kristin Kelleher, & Maria Virginia Olano. Also a big thanks goes out to you, without you I could not have grown this newsletter and the engaged community it has grown into.
As always, if you ever have suggestions, tips, cool articles, or anything else, email them to me at firstname.lastname@example.org. I’m looking forward to another year with you!
BEACON HILL HAPPENINGS
– Legislative update: House budget expected in coming weeks: In the coming weeks, House Ways & Means Chair Aaron Michelwitz, is expected to release his chamber’s proposal for the next state budget. In a previous article (“Care About Climate Change? Keep an Eye On the State Budget.”), I outlined why the budget matters for climate and environmental policy. This step is of particularly important politically because it will reveal what House leadership is comfortable with. Do they favor any new taxes? Will they back the Governor’s proposal to raise real estate fees to fund climate adaptation? Does House leadership accept a plan to redirect some RGGI funds away from energy efficiency? Keep an eye out in coming editions for in-depth analysis on this.
– “Groups ask governor to strike ‘biomass’ from renewable energy law” (Anita Fritz, Greenfield Reporter): “Several groups representing what they claim to be thousands of Massachusetts residents have sent a letter to Gov. Charlie Baker urging the administration to stop promoting biomass wood heat by awarding nearly $3 million to such projects this year. Janet Sinclair, the Shelburne Falls woman who led the charge against a proposed biomass plant in Greenfield several years ago, said biomass is a “big problem.” She said because of that, the administration should not be further weakening any regulations. “There are so many other routes we can take,” she said. “But, the government is paying these companies to pollute the air and cut down our forests.””
– “Statewide review of natural gas systems part of budget bill” (Associated Press, via Boston Herald): “Gov. Charlie Baker has signed a spending bill that funds a statewide examination of Massachusetts’ natural gas distribution system… The supplemental budget signed Friday by the Republican governor includes $1.5 million for the effort. The state hopes to recover the costs from utilities. The spending bill totals $136 million and also includes funds for low-income heating assistance, emergency shelters for homeless families and collective bargaining agreements.”
– “Baker makes few changes in offshore wind RFP” (Bruce Mohl, Commonwealth Magazine): “The Baker Administration on Thursday unveiled the request for proposals it wants to use on its next offshore wind solicitation, which hews pretty closely to the terms of the previous one to avoid regulatory delays that could prevent the winning developer from taking advantage of a federal tax credit that expires at the end of the year… The Baker administration did not make changes sought by officials representing southeastern Massachusetts, who complained the RFP two years ago shortchanged onshore economic investment. That proposal based 75 percent of a developer’s bid score on price and 25 percent on five other factors, including economic development.”
Also check out Jon Chesto’s fantastic article in the Boston Globe on the subject.
ALL POLICY IS LOCAL
– “Foundation to end effort to prepare cities for climate change” (Christopher Flavelle Bloomberg News via Boston Globe): “The Rockefeller Foundation will shut down its 100 Resilient Cities program, the largest privately funded climate-adaptation initiative in the United States, the foundation announced Monday. Rockefeller will shift some of its resilience funding to the Atlantic Council, a Washington-based think tank, with a $30 million grant to the council’s Adrienne Arsht Center for Resilience, the foundation said in a press release. Rockefeller also announced a $12 million grant ‘‘to allow continued support and transition time to the 100 Resilient Cities network through much of 2019.’’ The closing of the 100 Resilient Cities program comes as US cities face increasing pressure from climate change, especially following a string of major natural disasters over the past two years.”
– “Solarize Mass offering discounts on solar systems for Springfield, Longmeadow residents” (Adam Strzempko, WWLP): “If you live in Springfield or Longmeadow and are looking to switch to solar electricity there is a program that could help you save money. The program is called Solarize Mass and it offers discounts on solar electric systems. The program is sponsored by the Massachusetts Clean Energy Center and the Massachusetts Department of Energy Resources.”
– “Electric scooters officially launched in Brookline on Monday. Things didn’t get off to a great start.” (Nik DeCosta-Klipa, Boston.com): “The town of Brookline became the first community in Massachusetts to launch an electric scooter-sharing pilot program Monday — maybe not with the symbolic start for which officials had hoped. To commemorate the beginning of the seven-and-a-half-month test run, representatives from the town and from Bird and Lime, the two scooter companies participating in the program, convened at Brookline Town Hall to take a literal test run around the property Monday morning. And according to reporters at the scene, the ceremonial first ride resulted in one woman going to the hospital.”
PRICE THAT CARBON!
– “Green New Deal vote might hurt Republicans more than it divided Democrats”(Michael Green, the Hill): “Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) put the Green New Deal to a vote this week in what was a calculated political move intended to fracture the Democratic Party. The resolution, which amounts to an ambitious transformation of the economy to rapidly reduce carbon emissions, did not pass in the GOP-controlled Senate. But that much was expected. The vote was a move that attempted to force Democrats to take an official stance on the measure, and thus pit the party’s moderates against its progressive wing. But the vote could end up revealing much more about Republican denialism than Democratic disunity.”
– “Amended Oregon Cap-and-Trade Bill Unveiled by Lawmakers” (Noa Dalzell, Climate XChange): “After months of public hearings and deliberations, Oregon lawmakers released the highly-anticipated, amended version of the state’s landmark cap-and-trade bill… The cap-and-trade plan, known as Clean Energy Jobs, follows California’s Western Climate Initiative, in requiring the state’s largest polluters to purchase credits, known as “allowances,” for every ton of pollution they emit. This cap decreases over time to ensure the state complies with its emission reduction goals, and revenue is invested in climate initiatives and transportation projects.”
INSIDE THE BELTWAY
– “Senate Democrats dodge vote on Green New Deal resolution” (Elvina Nawaguna, Roll Call): “Senate Democrats backed away from a Green New Deal resolution offered by Republicans, even though it copied the version introduced and cheered by many Democratic lawmakers, including those running for president. With all Republicans voting in the negative on the procedural vote, the resolution introduced by Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell was thwarted, 0-57, preventing further action on the measure. McConnell, who called the agenda described in the resolution a “far-left science fiction novel,” reintroduced the original Democratic version as his own to put its backers in a difficult position. Republicans had hoped to force Democrats, especially those running for president in 2020, to record their position on the resolution, which conservatives would then use against them on the campaign trail. Democrats said they they did not want to legitimize what they considered a political gimmick and a sham vote.”
– “Green New Deal: The science behind the politics” (Rob Jordan, Stanford Woods Institute For The Environment): “The sweeping plan to overhaul transportation, energy and other sectors failed a recent U.S. Senate vote, but remains a political lightning rod. Stanford experts discuss the science behind the politics.”
– “Democratic Green New Deal Defectors Chart Their Own Climate Path” (Ari Natter, Bloomberg): “A carbon tax is also being eyed by the House’s main tax writing committee, which is led by Green New Deal holdout Richard Neal of Massachusetts, who said he plans to hold a hearing on the fee in the future. A $25-per-ton fee, paid by oil refiners, utilities and other carbon dioxide emitters could generate $1 trillion, according to estimates by the Congressional Budget Office, but it lacks the GOP support needed to become a reality. Representative Don Beyer, a Ways and Means Committee member, hopes the Green New Deal changes that. “The Green New Deal has almost created a space on in them middle and on the center right for carbon pricing as something that is concrete and real and supported by economists across the political spectrum,” Beyer, a Virginia Democrat, said.”
BEYOND THE BAY STATE
– “Hydro Project Sought By Massachusetts Gets Boost In Maine” (Michael P. Norton, State House News Service via WB Journal): “The staff of the Maine Public Utilities Commission has recommended a key certificate for a major hydropower project that could bring major economic and environmental benefits to New England, though staffers acknowledged “adverse and significant” effects on scenic and recreational values in areas near the project. Maine’s Public Utilities Commission staff on Friday night recommended a certificate of public convenience and necessity for New England Clean Energy Connect, a 1,200 megawatt transmission line project running 145 miles from the Canadian border to Lewiston, Maine that is designed to move Hydro Québec power into the region. The project’s $1 billion cost will be paid by Massachusetts utilities customers and Hydro Québec…”
– ICYMI: Rotary International Tackles Climate Change, Backs Carbon Pricing in April Issue: “Rotarians understand that the whole world is their backyard. They can see the effects of climate change in communities they care about, and they haven’t waited to take action. They’re tackling the problem the way they always do: coming up with projects, using their connections to change policy — and planning for the future.” You can read the full series of articles here.
– “Shell quits trade group over climate-change positions” (Steven Mufson, Washington Post): “Citing differences over climate change, Royal Dutch Shell has pulled out of an industry trade group called the American Fuel and Petrochemical Manufacturers. Shell said that it was at odds with the refining and petrochemical group on the Paris climate agreement, carbon pricing, fuel mandates and the reduction of methane emissions. But Shell decided to keep its membership in the American Petroleum Institute, the U.S. Chamber of Commerce and seven other trade associations, despite what Shell called “some misalignment” between its views on climate policy and theirs. The company said it would try to change the positions of those groups.”
GLOBAL CLIMATE CHANGE
– “It’s Time To Talk About How We Talk About Climate Change” (Maria Virginia Olano, Climate XChange): “A lot of writing and advocacy on climate change these days gets it right about the risk, but wrong about how we try to accomplish the critical goal of raising public concern and moving people to action. That’s because it appeals to reason, and reason is not what drives human behavior. It is a challenge that we must overcome in finding effective and efficient ways to not only communicate the science as evidence of anthropogenic climate change, but in mobilizing public support for action and solutions. This is why we decided to launch a project to tackle these very pressing questions. As advocates, policymakers, or concerned citizens, it’s important that we take a moment to think through how we can best craft our message on this very crucial topic.”
– “Carbon Capture is a Policy Problem, Not a Technology Problem” (Heather Goldstone & Elsa Partan, WCAI): “The Green New Deal has ignited a theatrical debate in Congress, from posters of a velociraptor-riding President Reagan on the Senate floor to press briefings of hamburger-eating legislators. But the proposal has also generated sincere conversations on climate policy, including calls to invest in technology that captures carbon emissions from fossil fuel combustion and puts them back in the ground. Carbon capture is a necessary bridge to transition to a carbon-neutral economy, says Howard Herzog, an engineer at Massachusetts Institute of Technology who directs the Carbon Capture, Utilization, and Storage Center.”
WORD ON SOLAR
– “Energy industry’s recruitment efforts highlight persistent challenges for women” (Erin Douglas, Houston Chronicle): “With an aging workforce, and concerns about a low-carbon future, companies are under pressure to get with the times. Studies have found that women are more concerned than men with the risk climate change poses, and the oil and gas industry often talks of recruitment challenges for skilled labor and young professionals. Industry executives, speaking at recent conferences, or offering interviews to Texas Inc., say they’ve noticed a shift in the opportunities afforded to women in the industry in recent years. The industry has made strides on parental and family leave, they say, compared to the decades ago when they first started in the industry. Also, there are more internal mentorship strategies and networking groups specifically for women, particularly at larger listed corporations.”
– “Majority of coal plants are uneconomic to nearby wind, solar, report finds” (Iulia Gheorghiu, Utility Dive): “74% of existing coal plants cost more to operate last year than replacing them with new local wind and solar power, according to a report released on Monday from Vibrant Clean Energy and Energy Innovation… Nearly all coal plants in the Southeast have become “substantially at risk to replacement by solar in 2025,” the report said. The report shows North Carolina, Florida, Georgia and Tennessee have the highest projections for coal plants being “substantially at risk” of replacement with cheaper nearby renewables by 2025.”
– “Aging system dumped 800M gallons of sewage in Merrimack River in 2018”(Christian M. Wade, Eagle Tribune): “More than 800 million gallons of raw or partially treated sewage spewed into the Merrimack River last year from aging pipes that were supposed to be sealed up years ago. The sewage came from about 50 overflow pipes that are part of decades-old sewer and stormwater systems designed to overflow when they are inundated, usually because of heavy rain.”
– “Guest Op-ed Local Aid for Climate Change” by Jack Clarke, via Lynn Journal.
– “Jeff Clark: Students are inspiring when it comes to climate change fight” by Jeff Clark, via Daily Hampshire Gazette.
– “Letter: Gov. Baker not acting like a climate change believer” by Michael J. Hannon, Worcester Telegram.
– “My View: Include air travel impact in Green New Deal” by Kevin Frazier, via Portland Tribune.