May 15th Roundup: It’s the Green Economy, Stupid

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– “Environment Committee Considers Range Of Climate Bills” (Craig LeMoult, WGBH): “The Massachusetts Legislature’s Committee on Environment, Natural Resources and Agriculture heard testimony Tuesday on 20 bills covering a wide range of environmental topics. Most addressed some aspect of the growing threat of climate change.” More on the bills here.

– Joint Environment committee considers net zero, 2050 roadmap proposal: A bill (H.832) filed by State Representative Joan Meschino (D-Hull), and heard on Beacon Hill yesterday, seeks to cut emissions in Massachusetts through science-based emissions analysis and resetting the state’s climate goal to net zero by 2050. Known as the ‘2050 Roadmap Act,’ the bill was conceived in conjunction with the Conservation Law Foundation (CLF). Speaking on the bill Rep. Meschino said, “Through comprehensive, people-centered planning, the 2050 Roadmap provides a legislative framework to advance the Commonwealth’s climate goals, which will build on the existing green economy, improve public health outcomes, and empower vulnerable populations across the Commonwealth.” The bill will need a favorable report to leave the joint environment committee before being placed before the House for consideration.

– “As Legislators Once Again Mull Statewide Plastic Bag Ban, Some Retailers Carry Concerns” (Lexi Peery, WBUR Earthwhile): “When it comes to getting rid of pesky plastic bags, Massachusetts state Rep. Lori Ehrlich hopes the sixth time’s the charm. Ehrlich is sponsoring a House bill (H.771) that would ban plastic bags statewide. Since 2009, Ehrlich has proposed such a bill each session, without success. But with state Sen. Jamie Eldridge sponsoring an identical bill in the Senate, and the recent stories of plastic-choked whales splashed across the media, she says this year feels different… Retailers, however, are divided. One hundred and six communities in Massachusetts have some kind of plastic bag ban, but the regulations aren’t uniform. That “hodgepodge” of laws isn’t ideal for retailers and grocers, according to Brian Houghton, a spokesperson for the Massachusetts Food Association, a trade group representing retailers and grocers.”

– “On subjects from birds to pollution, state scientists are barred from speaking to the Globe”(David Abel, Boston Globe): “For years now, as the environment reporter at the Globe, I have repeatedly requested to speak to a range of state scientists and other officials, hoping they might shed light on the often-complex subjects I write about and answer questions about the state’s positions. The response I nearly always receive from the administration — as do many of my colleagues — is a self-serving statement with background bullet points. Rarely do the answers address my questions…. I have had the same experience reporting stories about more sensitive subjects, including mercury pollution, nuclear power, carbon emissions, etc. I ask questions and seek comment from our public officials, and the Baker administration routinely won’t allow them to speak to me.”

– “To Curb Congestion, Mass. Political Leaders Propose To Make It More Expensive To Drive” (Jack Lepiarz, WBUR):” State Senate President Karen Spilka, an Ashland Democrat, recently floated the idea of introducing new tolls on some roads. Two Democratic lawmakers, from Winthrop and East Boston, have proposed congestion pricing that could raise or lower tolls depending on the time of day. Boston City Councilor Michelle Wu has proposed a $25 fee for resident parking permits, which are currently free of charge. All of these proposals would make it more expensive to drive — by design.”


– “Brayton Point to become renewable energy center” (Peter Jasinski, Herald News): “A planned facility that would convert and store electricity generated by offshore wind turbines was unveiled Monday at Brayton Point… Construction on the Anbaric Renewable Energy Center is expected to begin in 2021 and will result in a 1,200-megawatt, high-voltage direct current converter. The facility will serve as the “plug-in” between offshore wind turbines and the power grid from which local homes and buildings receive electricity. Anbaric is also planning to build 400 megawatts worth of battery storage on the site, which would be utilized on days when winds are low and turbine output is less productive.”

– “Fishing areas off Cape Cod reopened for lobstermen” (David Abel, Boston Globe): “With their traps piled high on the docks and buoys loaded in their trucks, lobstermen from across the South Shore gathered Thursday morning at the town dock here to protest extended fishing closures to protect right whales. But hours later, officials at the state Division of Marine Fisheries lifted the ban on lobster traps in Cape Cod Bay, reversing an earlier decision to extend the closures until May 14. The decision means commercial and recreational lobstermen may resume setting their traps in waters north and east of Cape Cod. In an effort to protect right whales, which are among the most endangered species on the planet, state officials in recent years have banned the region’s lobstermen from fishing in Cape Cod Bay between Feb. 1 and May 1, when the large mammals feed on plankton there.”

– “New Report Finds More Safety Concerns About Proposed Weymouth Compressor Station”(Barbara Moran, WBUR Earthwhile): “A new report released Monday concludes that building a natural gas compressor station on the proposed site in Weymouth would be “inappropriate,” and pose undue public safety and emergency response risks. The report, from the advocacy group Greater Boston Physicians for Social Responsibility (GBPSR), said the location in the Fore River Basin is too densely populated for additional heavy infrastructure and could not be safely evacuated in an emergency.”

– “Regulators visit proposed compressor station site in Weymouth” (Jessica Trufant, The Patriot Ledger): “State regulators visited the proposed site for a 7,700-horsepower natural-gas compressor station on the banks of the Fore River on Thursday as part of an environmental audit that could potentially force further cleanup of the land. Three state Department of Environmental Protection regulators, two representatives from the firm TRC Environmental, and a representative from Algonquin Gas Transmission, a subsidiary of Spectra Energy-Enbridge, were on the Bridge Street site Thursday. Members of the Fore River Residents Against the Compressor Station also attended.”

– “Rising seas could be hurting coastal home values” (Philip Marcelo, Associated Press via Boston Globe): “Some research suggests rising sea levels and flooding brought by global warming are harming coastal property values. But other climate scientists note shortcomings in the studies, and real estate experts say they simply haven’t seen any ebb in demand for coastal homes. So how much homeowners and communities should worry — and how much they should invest in remedies — remains an open question.”


– Carbon Pricing: “Clean air and climate justice for Springfield” by State Rep. Bud Williams, via MassLive.

– “We can still save the North Atlantic right whale” by Congressman Seth Moulton, Vikki Spruill, and John Rutherford, via Commonwealth Magazine.


– “Webinar Recap: The Role of Carbon Pricing in a Just Transition” (Noa Dalzell, Climate XChange): “When we talk about pricing carbon, or any other climate and environmental policy, it is imperative we do so in an equitable way that combats environmental racism rather than exacerbating it. There are ways to design policy so that it is able to tackle the social and environmental challenges we currently face by identifying the communities and groups who are at the frontlines of these issues, and directing revenue and investment toward them. That’s the message Michelle Romero, the national director of Green for All, had for hundreds of carbon pricing advocates in a Climate XChange webinar earlier this week.” (Leer en español).

– “A Very Important Climate Fact That No One Knows” (Robinson Meyer, the Atlantic):” Does the country’s most popular climate policy actually work? A controversial new study suggests that a type of state policy—usually called a “renewable portfolio standard,” or RPS—may impose large hidden costs on Americans. But a wide range of experts, including engineers, political theorists, and economists, aren’t sure the paper can actually make its case… The paper’s title is, “Do Renewable Portfolio Standards Deliver?” Its answer seems to be no—or at least, no, when compared with a carbon tax.”


– “Massachusetts’ multi-pronged policy approach spurs distributed energy storage” (HJ Mai, UtilityDive): “Massachusetts is a leader in the deployment of distributed energy storage in America, due to forward-thinking legislative approaches and other measures aimed at unlocking the full potential of the resource, analysts told Utility Dive. The state, which is part of ISO New England (ISO-NE), recently became the first in the nation to allow behind-the-meter (BTM) energy storage to qualify for energy efficiency incentives. But the biggest boost to storage deployment in the state came when regulators decided to include storage resources in a new solar incentive program, Solar Massachusetts Renewable Target (SMART).”

– “Northeast planned offshore wind farms already bringing economic growth to the region”(Jennifer Runyon, Renewable Energy World): “Even though there is only one small existing offshore wind farm in the Northeast, the 30-MW Block Island wind farm off the coast of Rhode Island, two announcements this week highlight the growing economic importance of the region’s burgeoning offshore wind industry.”


– “Ralph Northam Backtracks on RGGI Promises” (Noa Dalzell, Climate XChange): Despite immense pressure from both sides of the aisle to step down, however, Northam never resigned. Instead, as other top Virginia officials battled their own controversies, Northams’ somehow blew over, and he went back to quietly governing the state of Virginia. Democrats who had fervently called for his resignation moved on, hoping that, at the very least, the embattled governor would continue championing progressive causes, like a $15 minimum wage and Virginia’s entry into the Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative (RGGI). But that all changed on May 2nd, when Northam signed a new state budget without vetoing a provision that barrs the state from joining RGGI. While House Speaker Kirk Cox thanked the Governor for his “deference”, environmental groups (justifiably) denounced him.

– “New York Is Killing Off Its Last Coal-Fired Power Plants” (Lynn Doan & Jim Efstathiou Jr, Bloomberg): “New York has adopted a rule to eventually kill off its last two coal-fired power plants. The state’s environmental regulator said Thursday that it had finalized regulations requiring all power generators to meet new carbon-dioxide emissions limits that are nearly impossible for coal plants to hit. In doing so, the agency said, Governor Andrew Cuomo will fulfill his goal of banning New York power plants from burning coal by the end of 2020.”


– “Warren releases plan to tackle climate change threats to military” (Rebecca Kheel, the Hill): “Democratic presidential candidate Sen. Elizabeth Warren (Mass.) on Wednesday released a plan to prepare the military for climate change, including requiring the Pentagon to achieve net-zero carbon emissions on noncombat bases by 2030…  Warren, who unveiled the plan in both the blog post shared by her campaign press office and a bill to be introduced in the Senate this week, has been working to stand out from the 20-plus other Democrats running for president by releasing detailed policy proposals on a number of issues.” You can read the plan from Warren here.

– Biden team stokes controversy with ‘middle ground’ climate policy: In a scoop from Reuters, the news agency reported that Democratic Presidential hopeful, and former Vice President, Joe Biden is expected to take a ‘middle ground’ climate policy when compared to his competitors for the Democratic nomination. Reuters reports that, “the backbone of the policy will likely include the United States re-joining the Paris Climate Agreement and preserving U.S. regulations on emissions and vehicle fuel efficiency that Trump has sought to undo.” Another source also said Biden would likely “be supportive of nuclear energy and fossil fuel options like natural gas and carbon capture technology, which limit emissions from coal plants and other industrial facilities.” These positions stand in stark contrast to proposals by competitors, including Beto O’Rourke and Jay Inslee, whose own climate plans are much more in the spirit of Senator Markey and AOC’s Green New Deal.

– “William Weld says Trump’s inaction on deficit, climate change will hurt millennials the most” (Julia Manchester, the Hill): “Former Massachusetts Gov. William Weld (R) warned in an interview that aired Monday on “Rising” that millennials will have to pay the price for what he said was President Trump’s lack of action on the growing deficit and climate change.”

– “The voters are in: climate change is No. 1” (Molly Enking, Grist): “For the first time, climate change is ranked as the No. 1 issue among Democratic voters in a new national poll. Conducted by CNN, the poll found that 82 percent of voting Democrats (including left-leaning Independents) listed climate change as a “top priority” that they’d like to see presidential candidates focus on. The next-highest issue was universal health care, at 75 percent, followed by gun reform, at 65 percent.”

– “The case for Jay Inslee” (Ezra Klein, Vox): “Jay Inslee is the 2020 candidate polling at the worst substance-to-popularity ratio. Inslee is at 0.6 percent in the RealClearPolitics average. In a recent New Hampshire poll, he was one of eight Democrats polling at zero. That’s a shame. Inslee is the only candidate in the race who is treating climate change the way the science says climate change should be treated: not as one issue among many, but as the overriding emergency of our age.”


– Podcast: “How to survive climate change” (Kai Ryssdal, Molly Wood, & Eve Troeh, NPR Marketplace): “It may be too late to avoid the worst consequences of our warming planet. But we could still adapt to them.” The team at Marketplace dives into the possible impacts of future technologies in our ability to adapt for climate change.

– “Carbon Dioxide Concentration in the Earth’s Atmosphere Has Hit Levels Unseen for 3 Million Years” ( Ciara Nugent, Time): “The concentration of carbon dioxide in the Earth’s atmosphere has reached levels not seen for 3 million years, scientists at Mauna Loa Observatory in Hawaii said Monday – offering a dire warning about the impact of human activity on the planet. The observatory’s sensors registered carbon dioxide levels of 415 parts per million (ppm) on Saturday, meaning CO2 made up 415 of ever 1 million molecules of gas in the atmosphere. CO2 – which is emitted when we burn fossil fuels like coal, oil and natural gas – is a greenhouse gas which traps heat in the earth’s atmosphere, contributing to the global temperature increases which drives climate change.”


– “Utility deal represents important vindication for Greentown Labs” (Jon Chesto, Boston Globe): “Italian energy conglomerate Enel SpA already has a US office on the South Boston Waterfront, close to downtown. But when it came time to add an innovation hub, too, Enel instead chose a desk huddled among startups in Somerville. What gives? With energy operations in 34 countries, why is one of the world’s largest utilities forsaking harbor views for an industrial area near Union Square? The answer to that question has much to do with the success of clean-tech incubator Greentown Labs, which announced Enel’s arrival on Tuesday. It also reflects Greater Boston’s growing reputation as a go-to-place for innovation in the energy industry.”


 Now What is a multimedia project of Climate XChange that explores how we can best craft our message on climate change and its impacts. Each week CXC’s Maria Virginia Olano sits down with advocates, policymakers, and experts to get a fresh new outlook on the future and how they are shaping the conversation around climate change. Listen to all the episodes here.

This week on the podcast, we are doing things a little differently. Our guest does not work in the climate field, but is the Executive Director of the organization awarded the Nobel Peace Prize in 2017. Beatrice Fihn leads the International Campaign to Abolish Nuclear Weapons (ICAN), which was awarded the prize for its work in highlighting the humanitarian cost and consequences of nuclear weapons. Once again this year, the Bulletin of Atomic Scientists have identified the two most existential threats facing humankind as being climate change and nuclear weapons; for this reason our conversation with Beatrice is relevant and incredibly useful in how we conceptualize and advocate for these issues.”


– “We’ve run out of elections to waste – this is the last chance to make a difference on climate change” by Bill McKibben, via the Guardian.

– “A Market-Driven Green New Deal? We’d Be Unstoppable” by Amory B. Lovins and Rushad R. Nanavatty, via the NY Times.

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