April 16th Roundup: Game of Thrones & Climate Change?


Happy Wednesday! We switched the day for the roundup from our traditional Tuesday time due to Patriot’s Day. In return, I hope you enjoy a little bit more original content than usual. Remember, if you ever have a tip, suggestion, or news to share email me at tim.cronin@cabaus.org.


– House Budget Chair Michlewitz Advances ‘Green’ Budget: Members of the state’s Green Budget Coalition are celebrating the release of the House Ways & Means (HW&M) proposed budget for the 2020 fiscal year. Between the Governor’s increase to the Department of Environmental Protection (DEP), which HW&M kept, and the increases to certain line-items by HW&M, the coalition has currently achieved 3 of their 4 goals. These three include funding DEP to $31.5M, putting $1.5M towards wastewater management, and ensuring $1.75M go towards riverways restoration & promoting public access.

“We appreciate the strategic investments in our environmental agencies by Chair Michlewitz in his first budget,” said Elizabeth Henry, President of the Environmental League of Massachusetts. “As mentioned in his Chairman’s letter, the connection between our environmental agencies’ work to protect public health and climate resiliency has never been more important to the Commonwealth.”

As for the fourth item Representative Pignatelli, House Chair of the Environment & Natural Resources Committee, has submitted an amendment to increase the line-item for the Department of Conservation & Recreation to $47M. This amendment and others to the budget will be debated next week by the House, with the final vote likely to be taken next week as well.

After passing the House, it will be the Senate’s turn to propose a budget which will likely be released by mid-May. Differences between the Governor, the House, and the Senate’s budgets will be ironed out before the end of August. So why does this all matter? Read more about the importance of the budget in advancing the state’s climate and environmental goals here.

-Proposed Shift to RGGI Revenues Nixed from House Budget: Since 2014, Massachusetts’s share of the revenue from the state’s electric sector cap-and-trade program has gone primarily towards energy efficiency, with annual revenues usually totaling in the tens of millions of dollars. The Governor’s FY2020 budget proposal sought to change where this money can go by making it available for things like seawall upgrades, municipal climate resiliency programs (i.e. the MVP program), and coastal conservation efforts.

But critics, including several prominent legislators, publically worried that the proposal would let the administration shift money from efforts to cut emissions. The HW&M budget completely removed the section that let this shift happen.

– Baker’s Clean Peak Standard Draws Ire from Anti-Biomass Coalition: A coalition of environmental, clean energy, and public interest groups including Clean Water Action, the Sierra Club, and Partnership for Policy Integrity (PFPI) are calling out the Baker administration for a proposal that may encourage biomass burning in Massachusetts. In a public presentation, administration officials suggested that they may prioritize biomass procurements into new regulations to reduce emissions and costs during periods of peak energy use. The draft regulations have not been released yet.

This all comes after the state’s energy department recently awarded $2.8 million in infrastructure grants for wood-chipping facilities in Western MA, to support increased residential and commercial wood heating. PFPI, an opponent to biomass burning, also claims that the DOER is planning to weaken the GHG emissions standards for biomass power plants and expand what can be burned.

– “Congestion pricing gains steam as traffic worsens” (Sean Phillip Cotter, Boston Herald): “Momentum is building for congestion pricing as lawmakers say the traffic heading into downtown Boston is backing up into their neighborhoods and paralyzing their roads. Congestion pricing includes different types of tolling intended to discourage people from driving. A panel assembled by Mayor Martin J. Walsh issued a report last year that included proposed fees for driving into, parking in, and exiting Boston’s downtown, though the mayor quickly distanced himself from the idea following pushback. Other cities nationally and worldwide have adopted congestion pricing schemes that have reduced traffic — though drivers complain that the fees creep upward over time. London, which a few years ago put in heavy tolls, saw its traffic drop only to rebound as ride-sharing services pushed it back up.”


– New Report Highlights Climate Risks to Massachusetts Small Businesses: The Climate Action Business Association (CABA) released a new report about the impacts of climate change on local and small businesses here in Massachusetts. The report stems from data collected during CABA’s Businesses Acting on Rising Seas (BARS), an educational campaign which provides information for local businesses to consider climate change impacts in their business growth and planning. Some key takeaways from the study include:

  • 92% of businesses were negatively affected by storms during the 2018 winter season, with losses from just 25 businesses collectively exceeding $500,000.

  • 65% of interviewed small businesses had no emergency plan in place if a major storm surge occurred.

  • 47% of businesses interviewed indicated that their supply chain was vulnerable to the impacts of climate change and extreme weather events.

Read more about the report’s findings, and its policy recommendations here.

– “Vineyard Wind moves forward with long-term contract approval” (MV Times): “The Massachusetts Department of Public Utilities (DPU) issued an order which approves two long-term contracts for 800MW of offshore wind between Vineyard Wind and the state’s electric distribution companies, according to a press release from DPU. The approval moves forward Vineyard Wind’s proposed 84-turbine wind farm, 14 miles off the coast of Martha’s Vineyard. In the contracts, Vineyard Wind will work with the Massachusetts Electric Co., Nantucket Electric Co., NSTAR Electric Co., and Fitchburg Gas and Electric Light Co. Vineyard Wind has also committed to contribute $15 million to a fund that will invest in projects that promote battery storage in low-income communities.”

– “Martha’s Vineyard town passes ban on plastic soda and water bottles” (Steve Annear, Boston Globe): “Soon it could be hard to locate a frosty Coke in a plastic bottle in one Martha’s Vineyard town. Thanks to a group of young students, plastic bottles of a certain size could be banned from West Tisbury — and it might be the start of an island-wide trend. Residents in West Tisbury overwhelmingly voted at Town Meeting last week to eliminate the sale and distribution of plastic water and soda bottles that are less than 34 ounces. (A liter is 33.8 ounces.) The bylaw still needs to be approved by Attorney General Maura Healey’s office. But if she signs off, it will go into effect in May 2020, according to town officials.


– “It’s time for power grid to look at benefits of offshore wind” by Edward N. Krapels, via Commonwealth Magazine.

– “The Green New Deal is more than a resolution — it’s a revolution” by Senator Edward J. Markey, via the Boston Globe.

– “The clock keeps ticking in the fight to save the planet” by Bill McKibben, via the Boston Globe.

– “As I See It: Solar on all new homes would help protect Massachusetts’ air and water” by Ben Hellerstein and Mark Sylvia, via the Worcester Telegram.


– TCI Drives East Coast Emissions Reductions (Jonah Kurman Faber, Climate XChange): “In April of 2019, the coalition of state governments in the Northeast and Mid-Atlantic identified as the Transportation Climate Initiative (TCI) announced a planned schedule to design a regional cap-and-invest program for transportation emissions. Transportation is the largest source of emissions in the region, which means this program could play a major role in helping states achieve ambitious climate goals for 2030 and 2050. The program would address more than just emissions. Traffic congestion in New York City, Boston, Philadelphia, Washington DC, and Stamford, CT costs the economy over $50 billion per year. Nearly every TCI state ranks in the bottom half of transportation quality in the country. TCI represents not just a need to address climate change, but also a larger desire to re-imagine the way we move people and goods around.” Many questions remain as to how such a program could play out. As such, it’s worth reviewing what exactly TCI is, what it could accomplish, and how we should be talking about it in the months ahead. Read more insights and analysis into the program here.

– “Pennsylvania Governor Supports Study of Cap-and-Trade Petition” (Noa Dalzell, Climate XChange): “On Friday, April 5th, Pennsylvania Gov. Tom Wolf (D) announced he supports his administration further studying a petition, which calls for the state to implement an economy-wide cap-and-trade program on greenhouse gas emissions. The petition was filed by the Clean Air Council, a nonprofit air quality organization in Pennsylvania, and has been co-signed by more than 100 municipalities, businesses, universities, environmental organizations, and religious groups. While no other state has tried to achieve carbon pricing through a rule-making petition like Pennsylvania, lawyers involved in the process have emphasized there is significant legal basis to do so.”

– “Canada’s Perverse Climate Change Policy: Gas Up” (Geoff Dembicki, NY Times): “Held up against the report, the conservatives’ rebellion on social media instantly looked like an act of nihilism. Yet these very politicians are now racing toward greater power. If they prevail in two pivotal elections, they are likely to further accelerate the decimation of Canada’s environment… The magnitude of this destruction can still be minimized. Canadian voters still can, and must, make a crucial choice for the environment: between merely an awful future, or an unthinkable one.”

– “The Problem With Putting a Price on the End of the World” (David Leonhardt, NY Times): “Economists and other policy experts have long focused on this idea of carbon pricing. It can take the form of a carbon tax, as Nordhaus prefers. Or the pricing can be embedded in a system of permits known as cap-and-trade, as President Barack Obama and other Democrats proposed in their 2009 bill to address climate change. Either way, the underlying concept is simple. When a product becomes more expensive, people use less of it. Carbon pricing is an elegant mechanism by which market economics can work on behalf of the climate rather than against it.”


– “New York City Charges Ahead With Its Own Green New Deal” (Alexander C. Kaufman, HuffPost): “New York City is gearing up to enact its own version of the Green New Deal with a suite of bills that aim to dramatically slash the city’s planet-warming emissions, create thousands of blue-collar jobs and set the stage for future state and federal climate policies. The City Council on Thursday plans to announce the Climate Mobilization Act, a package that includes six pieces of legislation grouped in an omnibus bill to be voted on by Earth Day, April 22. It’s the first of what’s expected to be at least two waves of climate-focused legislation this year.”

– “Puerto Rico governor signs 100% renewable energy mandate” (Gavin Bade, UtilityDive): “Puerto Rico Gov. Ricardo Rosselló on Thursday signed into law a 100% renewable energy mandate that the hurricane-battered island must meet by 2050. The Public Energy Policy Law of Puerto Rico, passed last month by territory legislators, directs the Puerto Rico Electric Power Authority to source 40% of its power from renewables by 2025 and cease burning coal in 2028 on its way to 100% renewables.”

– “Hawaii launches on-bill financing program to expand clean energy access” (HJ Mai, UtilityDive): “Hawaii Gov. David Ige on April 8 announced a new on-bill financing program intended to expand the accessibility and affordability of clean energy savings for homeowners, renters, small businesses and nonprofit organizations… The program has been in the works since late 2016 and is expected to accelerate the state’s progress in achieving 100 percent renewable energy by 2045, Ige said during a press conference.”


-Warren Announces Energy, Environment Policy for Public Lands: Senator Warren has largely led the 2020 Democratic pack in producing thoughtful and comprehensive policy proposals. Yesterday she rolled out a new set of energy proposals that she vows to implement if elected President next year. Warren seeks to prevent new fossil fuel leases on public lands and in federally controlled offshore areas. At the same time she plans to encourage clean energy development on these public lands, and boosting offshore wind. She also plans to emphasize environmental policies that protect national parks, and historic vistas. You can read her full plan here.


– Now What? Climate Change, Racism & How to Have Difficult Conversations (Maria Virginia Olano, Climate XChange): “If we want to build a society that is resilient to climate change, then we can’t just have some of us being resilient. We need to be deliberate about looking at these issues by race, and bringing a racial equity lens to this work.

Dr. Atyia Martin is a certified emergency manager with over 15 years of experience in the fields of public health, emergency management, intelligence and homeland security. She is also the founder and CEO of All Aces Inc., a consulting firm with a mission to further critical thinking in advancing personal and organizational resilience. Dr. Martin was appointed as the Chief Resilience Officer for the City of Boston, where she embedded racial equity into the City’s resilience planning in understanding the disproportionate burdens on communities of color as the city’s main resilience challenge. Read the full article and listen to the podcast here.

– “What Does ‘Game Of Thrones’ Have To Do With Climate Change? Oh, Everything” (Barbara Moran, WBUR): “I hit the pause button and turned to my husband: “This is all about climate change… “You think everything is about climate change,” he said. “This,” he pointed at the screen, “is about zombies.” He is wrong, of course, and I am right. Because, as an environmental journalist and Mother of (two) Dragons, I am an expert on climate change and “Game of Thrones” [SPOILER ALERT].


– “Over 4,200 Amazon Workers Push for Climate Change Action, Including Cutting Some Ties to Big Oil” (Karen Weise, NY Times): “Employees at big tech companies have pushed back against their employers for working with the military and law enforcement offices, and demanded better treatment of women and minorities. Now, thousands of them are also taking on climate change. This week, more than 4,200 Amazon employees called on the company to rethink how it addresses and contributes to a warming planet. The action is the largest employee-driven movement on climate change to take place in the influential tech industry.”

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