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BEACON HILL HAPPENINGS
– Exclusive Analysis: 4 Key Takeaways from DeLeo’s GreenWorks: The much anticipated GreenWorks bill is finally here! Even if you’re not a climate wonk (like me) who has waited almost three months for the details of Speaker DeLeo’s $1.3 billion promise to cut carbon emissions, fortify infrastructure, and slash municipal climate costs, GreenWorks is important, and deserves an in-depth look.
Why is it so important? When first announced, GreenWorks represented the first time in recent years that the Massachusetts House, under Speaker DeLeo’s leadership, seemed to be taking bold and proactive action in dealing with the core causes of climate change. During his speech at the cleantech incubator Greentown Labs, Speaker DeLeo promised to help communities across Massachusetts adopt green technologies, but at the time was sparse on details. That was until the GreenWorks bill itself (HD.4234) was released on Tuesday (May 28th, 2019).
My overall characterization of the bill’s impact on climate change: meh. Here’s why. Its main focus is funding climate adaptation and local resilience. Despite spending over a billion dollars, GreenWorks is unlikely to significantly invest in much needed local climate change mitigation, nor does it considerably boost the local cleantech economy. GreenWorks therefore does not replace the need for other bolder policies that deal with carbon emissions in a significant way (i.e. carbon pricing).
– First Energy committee hearing of session scheduled for tomorrow: The Joint Committee on Telecommunications, Utilities, and Energy (TUE) is hosting a hearing on Thursday May 30th at 1pm. The hearing will feature the 23 bills referred to TUE that deal with energy efficiency. These include ones focusing on both heating and energy use savings for buildings.
Among them is H.2930, which attempts to get the ball rolling on modernizing state heat systems. “If we are to meet Massachusetts’ commitment to reducing carbon emissions, we must eliminate fossil fuels from our building’s heat systems. The Spark Act is a measured first step toward decarbonizing our heating systems,” says State Representative Tommy Vitolo (D-Brookline), who wrote and filed the bill. “It asks state government to take the lead, recognizing its access to capital and to expertise, its long view on capital management, and its operation across the Commonwealth.”
The hearing starts at 1pm in room A-1, and will be co-chaired by both Senator Michael Barrett and State Representative Thomas Golden.
– “‘It’s killing us’: why firefighters are battling to ban flame retardants” (Jessica Glenza and Lauren Aratani, the Guardian): “Studies have shown children exposed to flame retardants are more likely to have poorer social skills. Exposure in utero could have lower the overall IQ and working memory. Some studies have shown disruption to thyroid functions and a possible link to cancer. The chemicals also bioaccumulate in the body. Flame retardants have been found at “considerable” levels in freshwater and in midwestern bobcats. But all this time – despite the endorsement of pediatricians, firefighters and lawmakers – Massachusetts has failed to sign a bill into law. Opposing the bill, despite its many backers, has been the American Chemistry Council (ACC).”
ALL POLICY IS LOCAL
– “Lawmakers urge DEP to revoke Weymouth compressor permit” (Ed Baker, Weymouth Wicked Local): “A coalition of nine South Shore legislators is urging Massachusetts Department of Environmental Presiding Officer Jane. A. Rothchild to overturn the DEP’s issuance of an air quality permit plan for a 7,700 horsepower compressor station in the Fore River Basin, saying the agency relied on incomplete air tests during a state health impact assessment of the proposed compressor station site in 2018.”
– “Schools of Thought on Climate Change: MAPC’s Newest Art Installation” (Elise Harmon, MAPC): “Climate change is already visible across the Metro Boston region, forcing individuals and communities to cope with increasingly severe weather, unpredictable harvests and workplace conditions, and greater risks from vector-borne and heat-related illnesses.” MAPC’s newest art installation presents unique perspectives on climate change and the actions people are taking.
– “Viewpoint: Green New Deal would pay dividends” by Zaurie Zimmerman, via Boston Business Journal.
– “Mass. legislators: We must lead effort to fight climate change” by Lauren Frias of the Boston University Statehouse Program, via the Milford Daily News.
– “How to meet Massachusetts’ energy needs” by Joshua S. Goldstein, via the Boston Globe.
– “Big business is not just on board with carbon pricing, they’re lobbying for it” (Michael Green, Climate XChange): “Business leaders from across the country headed to Washington D.C. this week to push for a federal price on carbon emissions. Over 75 businesses descended on Capitol Hill on Wednesday, representing a range of industries with over $2.5 trillion in assets and over 2.8 million employees globally. The group organized by Ceres, American Sustainable Business Council, and a coalition of partnering organizations, was the largest demonstration of support for carbon pricing in Congress in over a decade.”
PRICE THAT CARBON
– “Business-as-Usual: How TCI can learn from RGGI and WCI in its modeling exercises” (Jonah Kurman Faber, Climate XChange): “This is a pivotal moment in the process – all decisions made about the program’s final design, including cap stringency, price floors and ceilings, and other technical decisions, will be informed by the reference case. What emissions are projected to be in the future will inform states on what level of reductions they think are feasible… Let’s break this process down, talk about why reference cases matter, and highlight best practices for TCI moving forward.”
IT’S THE GREEN ECONOMY, STUPID
– “Closure of Pilgrim nuclear plant is part of a shifting energy industry” (David Abel, Boston Globe): “Sometime late Friday afternoon, amid an array of blinking lights and squawking alarms, a supervisor in the antiquated control room of the Pilgrim Nuclear Power Station will issue a curt command to halt the splitting of atoms that for nearly five decades has generated electricity for much of the region… The closure of Pilgrim will also mean a loss of 680 megawatts of clean energy, much of which could be replaced by the burning of fossil fuels. Environmental advocates fear that Massachusetts may see a significant spike in its carbon emissions in the coming months — one that might make it impossible to meet its legal requirements to reduce those emissions by 25 percent below 1990 levels by the end of this year.”
OUR LOCAL ENVIRONMENT
– “Outdoor rec office could boost local economy” (Anita Fritz): “Downhill skiing, backpacking, hiking, kayaking, mountain biking, whitewater rafting and pleasure boating are just some of the outdoor activities that are part of a statewide $16 billion industry, and legislators are continuing to push for the state to create an outdoor recreation office that would market recreation even more. Sen. Adam Hinds’ bill would establish an office within the Executive Office of Energy and Environmental Affairs with the purpose of collaborating across tourism, economic development and health agencies, as well as with stakeholders, like Zoar Outdoor in Charlemont, for instance, to promote and improve outdoor recreation across the state and expand the state’s “recreation economy.””
– “Energy Company Behind Weymouth Compressor Says New Air Quality Data Shouldn’t Affect Permits” (Chris Lisinski, SHNS via WBUr’s Earthwhile): “Attorneys for Enbridge, an energy company looking to build a natural gas compressor station in Weymouth, rebutted arguments that new air-quality data should force reconsideration of the permitting process… Residents who challenged the validity of the permit alongside the communities of Weymouth, Braintree, Quincy and Hingham wrote last week that the 759 pages of test results suddenly introduced before the final day of the appeal hearing show the presence of at least one carcinogen above the state’s allowable ambient limit.”
BEYOND THE BAY STATE
– “New York Climate Bill Endorsed by Chuck Schumer” (Noa Dalzell, Climate XChange): “Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer made headlines this week for urging New York State Legislators to support the state’s Climate and Community Protection Act (CCPA). Schumer, one of the most powerful Democrats in the country, sent a detailed letter on Wednesday to each state Assembly Member and Senator endorsing the legislation. He described the CCPA as “the most robust climate policy package” in the country, and urged New York State to take a leadership role in tackling climate change.”
THE 2020 CLIMATE
– “The Green New Deal is fracturing a critical base for Democrats: unions” (Umair Irfan, Vox): “As a statement of principles and goals, the Green New Deal seems to take economic justice and workers’ rights pretty seriously. It calls for a federal jobs guarantee. It says we need workforce retraining, strengthening collective bargaining rights, retirement security, and universal health care. The resolution decries “antilabor policies” and says it must be fleshed out with input from “frontline and vulnerable communities, labor unions, [and] worker cooperatives,” with the goal of creating “high-quality union jobs.” Which is why it was so surprising that the leader of the national AFL-CIO — the largest federation of labor unions in the United States, representing more than 12.5 million workers — recently came out against the proposal.”
GLOBAL CLIMATE CHANGE
– “Atmospheric Methane Levels Are Going Up—And No One Knows Why” (Jonathan Mingle, Wired): “As the years plod on and the methane piles up, solving this mystery has taken on increasing urgency. Over a 20-year time frame, methane traps 86 times as much heat in the atmosphere as carbon dioxide. It is responsible for about a quarter of total atmospheric warming to date. And while the steady increases in atmospheric carbon dioxide and nitrous oxide are deeply worrying, they are at least conforming to scientists’ expectations. Methane is not. Methane—arguably humanity’s earliest signature on the climate—is the wild card.”
INSIDE THE BELTWAY
– “The White House Plan to Change Climate Science” (The Daily podcast team, New York Times): “From Day 1, the Trump administration has tried to dismantle regulations aimed at curbing climate change. Now officials are attempting to undermine the very science on which such policies rest.” Specifically, the administration is trying to undermine federal worst-case climate scenario forecasting and constrain the time horizon of studies that look at the impacts of climate change. Both will have significant impacts on the safety of Americans, and the national economy, as NYT’s the Daily explorers in today’s episode.