May 7th Roundup: Mayor Morse Moves to Stop Natural Gas Expansion

Holyoke natural gas

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– Senate To Release Budget This Afternoon: The Senate Ways and Means Committee plans to release its budget bill this morning (Tuesday 7th). The Senate will begin its annual budget debate on Tuesday, May 21 and amendments are due by noon Friday, May 10, under an order adopted during Thursday’s session. The big question for environmental and climate supporters is whether the Senate maintains the numerous “Green Budget” provisions present in the House budget.

– Joint Hearing Today Focuses on Energy & Environment: This afternoon the Joint Committee on Environment, Natural Resources & Agriculture hears testimony on a selection of over two dozen bills relating to recreation, energy policy, and the environment. Among them are numerous bills seeking to regulate and prevent hydraulic fracturing in Massachusetts, as well as a proposal by Senator Pacheco to require tracking and reporting of all emissions associated with transportation fuels. Also before the committee is a bill that would remove wood burning (biomass) and trash-burning from the list of renewable heating technologies eligible for alternative energy incentives from the state. The hearing starts at 1:00 PM in hearing room A-2.

– Transportation Top of Mind for Legislative Leaders: Solving the state’s transportation woes has rocketed to the top of the agenda for legislative leaders in recent months, with Senate President Spilka and House Speaker Deleo, actively seeking input from outside groups on paths forward. Tied into the conversation is how to concurrently reduce emissions from transportation, which account for over 40% of state greenhouse gas emissions. Spilka and Deleo haven’t backed specific policies yet, but differences are likely to emerge over how to fund a transportation overhaul. Bonding? User fees? Carbon pricing? Broader tax increases?

– “Top regulator to work for firm with ties to compressor proposal” (Jessica Trufant, The Patriot Ledger): “Residents fighting a proposed 7,700-horsepower natural-gas compressor station in Weymouth say they’re outraged that the state’s top environmental regulator is going to work for a firm with ties to the project. Gov. Charlie Baker announced this week that Energy and Environmental Affairs Secretary Matthew Beaton is leaving the agency to serve as a senior vice president at TRC Companies Inc. Undersecretary of Climate Change Kathleen Theoharides is set to be sworn in as secretary today. TRC has done work for Algonquin Gas Transmission, a subsidiary of Spectra Energy-Enbridge, including overseeing the cleanup of oil contamination at the proposed compressor station site.”

– “Fee hikes eyed to address state’s broken CPA promise” (Colin A. Young, SHNS via the Herald News): “Facing the lowest level of state support in the nearly 20-year history of the program but heartened by the recent actions of the House, cities and towns that have adopted the tax-raising Community Preservation Act are hopeful that 2019 will be the last year of volatile state funding. Gov. Charlie Baker and the House of Representatives have each gotten behind the idea of increasing the housing-related fees that generate state funding for the CPA Trust Fund, with the House passing in its budget a proposal that would give the fund an infusion of $36 million in new money each year. A chief Senate supporter said Tuesday she is confident the Senate will do something similar.”


– Mayor Morse Moves to Stop Gas Expansion: On Friday Holyoke Mayor Alex Morse filed a petition for intervener status in a natural gas case before FERC, the Federal energy regulator. In his petition to FERC, Morse said, “as Mayor, I have a duty to oppose these pipeline expansion projects and champion alternative means for meeting our energy needs.” According to FERC’s website, those who gain intervenor status “enjoys distinct advantages over those who only file comments.” As an interviewer Mayor Morse would be able to participate in hearings before FERC’s administrative law judges and have legal standing in any appeals process. This all comes two weeks after a Morse put out a statement opposing new natural gas infrastructure in his City of Holyoke.

– “As Boston Pursues Climate Resilience, Some Warn Efforts Could Make Inequality Worse” (Simón Rios, WBUR’s Earthwhile): “In Mayor Marty Walsh’s new capital plan for large investments by the city of Boston, at least 10% of spending will go toward prepping parks and infrastructure for the effects of climate change. The city’s resilience initiatives are wrapped in the language of equity — in Walsh’s words, representing “Boston’s historic commitment to our collective well-being.” But some experts worry the push for climate adaptation could make inequality worse, a possible multiplier of the so-called “green gentrification” they say is already underway in two neighborhoods at the center of the city’s climate resilience strategy: East Boston and South Boston.”

– State Grants 32 Awards for Excellence in Energy & Environmental Education: At a State House ceremony yesterday, Energy and Environmental Affairs (EEA) Secretary Kathleen Theoharides honored 32 energy and environmental education programs at schools and nonprofits as part of the 25th Annual Secretary’s Awards for Excellence in Energy and Environmental Education. According to a release, “winners competed for $5,000 in awards, funded by the Massachusetts Environmental Trust with the intention to fund further environmental education initiatives at the schools.”

– “Massachusetts grants $1M for farm equipment to fight climate change” (Matt Berg, Daily Hampshire Gazette): “Nearly $1 million in state grants will be awarded to 40 farms across Massachusetts, including nine from Hampshire County, to help the farms install sustainable practices to reduce their impact on climate change, the governor’s office said. Among the nine local farms to receive a grant, six received funding for the purchase of no-till equipment. No-till equipment replaces tools that disturb the soil, such as plows and shovels, with ones that turn over the soil gently, said Harrison Bardwell, owner of Bardwell Farm. Since his farm received a grant last year to purchase no-till equipment, Bardwell has seen the impact that the practice has on farming. It has led to lower fuel and labor costs, less erosion and more fertile soils, Bardwell said.”

– “MBTA plans to reduce energy use 7%” (Colin A. Young, SHNS via the Sentinel & Enterprise): “The MBTA is partnering with National Grid and Eversource to reduce energy usage at T stations, trim the transit agency’s energy expenses, limit the emission of greenhouse gases and make T stations more comfortable for riders. The three-year efficiency program announced by Gov. Charlie Baker earlier this week is projected to reduce electricity use at the MBTA — which said it is the single largest consumer of energy in Massachusetts and in New England — by an estimated 30 million kilowatt hours per year, a decrease of 7 percent and roughly equivalent to the annual electricity use of 3,947 Massachusetts homes, the administration said.”


– “The dollars and cents of carbon pricing in Massachusetts” (Jonah Kurman Faber, Climate XChange): “2019 could be a big year for climate policy in the Commonwealth. Between House and Senate bills, and executive branch action, there are a multitude of initiatives, each with their strengths and weaknesses, that put a price on carbon emissions and raise money to invest in our communities. Enacting some, or all of these proposals, could allow Massachusetts to rejoin the ranks of ambitious climate leaders that have already taken initiative this year.

At the same time, the state’s transportation needs continue to multiply…. Enter carbon pricing. The Massachusetts dilemma presents a perfect opportunity for us to craft policies that simultaneously reduce emissions from our most pollutive sector, while addressing the transportation needs and equity challenges of the Commonwealth. But how much money could the pending proposals raise, and how should we be talking about them?


– “Denver Advocates Look to Get “Carbon Pricing” on November Ballot” (Noa Dalzell, Climate XChange): “A group of Denver environmentalists introduced a ballot initiative that will impose a fee on all electricity and heat generated by coal and natural gas in the city. It’s not exactly a carbon price because the fee will not apply to all fuels across all industries based on their carbon content; however, the initiative does hope to achieve similar objectives of incentivizing renewable energy and raising revenue for climate programs. Consequently, it’s been regarded as a carbon tax by most media outlets. If passed, it would make Denver the first major US city to levy a climate-focused fee on electricity and natural gas.”

– “Toledo, Ohio, Just Granted Lake Erie the Same Legal Rights as People”(Jason Daley, “On Tuesday, the citizens of Toledo, Ohio, granted legal rights reserved for people to Lake Erie, the 9,940-square-mile body of water on which their city depends. According to Sigal Samuel at Vox, the passage of the controversial ballot measure marks the first time a natural resource has been granted legal status in the United States, though a precedent for doing so has been established by other countries in recent years.”

– “Maine Gov. Mills introduces 100% renewables bill” (Catherine Morehouse, UtilityDive): “Democratic Maine Gov. Janet Mills on Tuesday unveiled a bill that would require the state to generate 100% of its electricity from renewable resources by 2050. LR 2478 sets a benchmark requirement of 80% renewables by 2030 and establishes a climate change council to “mitigate, prepare for and adapt to” climate change. The bill also sets greenhouse gas emissions goals, aiming to reduce emissions 45% below 1990 levels by 2030 and 80% by 2050. The governor’s move is the latest in a dramatic shift away from the former administration’s stance on clean energy legislation, which has been described as “openly hostile” by renewables advocates in the state.”

– “Gov. Northam Signs Budget Without Carbon Cap-And-Trade Veto” (Chris Markham, NBC 29): “Virginia Gov. Ralph Northam has signed off on a new state budget without vetoing a section that blocks the state from participating in a carbon cap-and-trade program. The Democratic governor signed the budget Thursday. He said he was disappointed the GOP-led General Assembly put in language effectively prohibiting Virginia from joining the Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative. The Northam administration has ordered cuts in carbon emissions and made joining RGGI a top priority, but the governor believed he did not have the legal authority to veto those provisions without vetoing the entire budget. Environmentalists said Northam let them down by not vetoing that part of the budget. Northam also blasted Republicans for blocking state funds to purchase police body cameras or pay for abortions in rare cases involving certain fetal anomalies.”


– Beto’s Climate Plan Continues to Evolve: Texas Congressman and Democratic candidate for President Beto O’Rourke, has received quite a bit of attention for his $5 trillion climate plan released last week. The attention has led to some pushback, with groups like the Sunrise Movement later withdrawing their initial criticism for the plan. It has also led O’Rourke to sign a pledge to not accept fossil fuel money. Other candidates supporting the pledge include Massachusetts Senator Elizabeth Warren, South Bend Mayor Pete Buttigieg, and Senator Bernie Sanders.

– Inslee Releases His First Presidential Climate Proposal: On Friday, Washington Governor and Democratic primary contender Jay Inslee unveiled his own ambitious clean energy plan. Called the “100 Percent Clean Energy for America Plan,” the plan focuses on phasing out coal, requiring emissions-free power production by 2035, and new mandates a new zero-carbon standard for vehicles and buildings. Upon release the proposal was praised by the Sunrise Movement, the youth group driving activism for the Green New Deal. The current plan doesn’t include a carbon price, which is expected to be incorporated in upcoming plans by Inslee.

– “Democrats tussle over lofty climate targets” (Amy Harder, Axios): “Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez said Tuesday that Beto O’Rourke’s new climate change plan isn’t aggressive enough, especially when compared with the Green New Deal — but in fact neither are tethered to economic reality or precedent.” Read more about the differences, and similarities here.


– Dems Pass Paris Agreement Bill in House, Fail to Move It In Senate: On Thursday, the Democratic-led US House of Representatives passed a bill that would prevent the President from exiting the Paris climate agreement. The bill (H.R. 9 [116]) includes amendments that stress the importance of adaptation and mitigation technologies, and recognizes climate justice. As Politico’s Morning Energy reports, however, “the bill has no chance of becoming law,” because of opposition from the Republican-controlled Senate.

– “Trump erases offshore drilling rules enacted after BP oil spill” (Eric Wolff & Ben Lefebvre, Politico): “The Trump administration on Thursday dismantled safety rules for offshore drilling put in place by the Obama administration after the disastrous BP oil spill fouled the Gulf of Mexico nearly a decade ago. The rollbacks are a major victory for the oil and gas industry that has criticized the Obama rules as too onerous and costly to comply with, but which supporters say have helped prevent a repeat of the accident that killed 11 workers and spewed more than 200 million gallons of oil in 2010.”

– “Moulton’s right whale bill sailing toward House” (Sean Horgan, the Salem News): “Last week, a federal panel drafted a slew of conservation recommendations to help the imperiled and declining North Atlantic right whale population. Now Congress may enter the fray. A House bill to create a decade-long, $50 million grant program to help protect the North Atlantic right whales was approved Wednesday by the National Resource Committee and is heading to a vote by the full House membership. The bill, with U.S. Rep. Seth Moulton — now announced as a presidential candidate — as the primary sponsor, would require the Commerce secretary to provide $5 million annually for 10 years to fund competitive grants for projects related to the conservation of the whales, whose declining population is estimated to hover under 450.”


– “Investors Worried About Climate Change Run Into New SEC Roadblocks” (David Hasemyer, InsideClimate News): “Investors’ efforts to get energy and utility companies to set greenhouse gas reduction targets and disclose their plans for meeting those goals are facing more hurdles now than in the past five years. Nearly two-thirds of the climate-related shareholder resolutions filed with publicly held energy and utility companies this year have been contested before the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission, an agency now dominated by appointees of President Donald Trump who appear more sympathetic to the fossil fuel industry. So far this year, the SEC has sustained 45 percent of the challenges, the highest percentage in the last five years.”


 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: “Susan Joy Hassol is the Director of Climate Communication, a non profit organization aimed at assisting scientists and journalists in communicating climate change effectively and efficiently. She has built a career around the question of how to best communicate climate change, including broad outreach as well as one-on-one coaching. She brilliantly identified the schism between scientific communication and every-day understanding of certain terms, which causes a lot of misunderstanding around climate change.”


– “State should put policy where its money is in commitment to preservation” by Judy Lehrer Jacobs & Ron Morin, via the Boston Globe.

– “Our Opinion: Make successful CPA even more successful” via the Berkshire Eagles Editorial Board.

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