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BEACON HILL HAPPENINGS
– Senator blasts delay on climate change legislation, action in 2019 unlikely: On Tuesday Senator Marc Pacheco, Founding Chair of the Senate Committee on Global Warming & Climate Change, took to the chamber floor for 40 minutes, advocating for the Senate to pass “bold” climate legislation before it goes on a winter break until January 2020. Watch a clip of his key remarks, courtesy of his Senate staff, here. Talking to his office, Pacheco’s staff pointed out that last session the Senate passed sweeping clean energy legislation that included everything from a price on carbon to 100% renewable energy. It’s for this reason that the Senate’s inaction this session is so frustrating to Senator Pacheco.
But not everyone agrees on the urgency of passing legislation before the Senate goes on winter break next week. Senator Michael Barrett, chair of the Senate energy committee and the Senate President’s point person on energy policy, pushed back on being held to a strict timeline this session. In comments to the State House News Service, Barrett said he was working on a “major” bill that “addresses clean energy, clean vehicles, and buildings”. Reports have suggested that this bill will be released sometime in January 2020, after lawmakers come back from winter break.
Even if the Senate passes a bill prior to the break, it’s unlikely that the House or Governor will take it up before January. In speaking to House members on the matter, nearly all pointed to Speaker DeLeo’s GreenWorks legislation as another priority the Senate needed to focus on. In the summer of 2019, GreenWorks was unanimously passed by House members and sent to the Senate, which has not formally taken up the matter this year. Senate sources tell me that the legislation currently being crafted by Barrett and other Senate leaders will act as the Senate’s response. They further said it would go further than the House’s proposal and include more of a focus on mitigating carbon emissions than the GreenWorks bill does.
– BREAKING: Top Baker energy official to join Ameresco: Judith Judson, Commissioner of the Massachusetts Department of Energy Resources (DOER), announced today (11/13) that she will be departing that role effective in December. Judson will be joining Ameresco as Vice President for Distributed Energy Systems. Patrick Woodcock, the current Undersecretary of Energy in the Executive Office of Energy and Environmental Affairs, will serve as the Interim Commissioner of the DOER during the transition.
– Natural gas safety bills get hearing: Bills that focus on natural gas and gas safety regulations were heard by the joint energy committee earlier this week. A number of these bills were filed in the wake of the Columbia Gas explosions in the Merrimack Valley. Among those who testified were Boston Mayor Marty Walsh and Lawrence Mayor Dan Rivera, who advocated for ‘An Act to Modernize our Natural Gas Infrastructure’ (H.2828). In testimony, Mayor Rivera explained why legislation is needed, saying, “for an industry that has a hard time focusing and fixing level one breaks and has shown to be incapable of emergency situations, this legislation holds their feet to the fire on all leaks.”
– Environment committee hearing focuses on pesticide use, pollinator health: Also heard this week were bills related to pesticide use and its impacts on pollinators, which received testimony before the joint environment committee. Speaking in favor of one of his bills (S.463), Senator Eldridge said that pesticides “are destroying honey bee colonies across the planet and threatening the health of our ecosystems” in the state.
– Hearing scheduled for divestment legislation: A hearing scheduled for this Monday (November 18th, at 11am, before the joint public service committee) will test the support for a new legislative approach to achieving public pension divestment in Massachusetts. The legislation (H.3662/S.636) gives local pension systems the option to divest from fossil fuels. Under current state law, pension systems must individually request permission from the state in order to divest their assets, which is given in the form of a law. Learn more about this support, and the advocates in favor of it, here.
ALL POLICY IS LOCAL
– State Approves Weymouth Compressor, Opponents Vow to Fight On: Facing a deadline to complete its ‘federal consistency review’ the State Office of Coastal and Zone Management (CZM) approved the final permit for a proposed gas compressor station in Weymouth. This is despite wide-spread opposition from federal & state lawmakers, local officials, residents, and businesses to the siting of the station in Weymouth, including a recent letter from Weymouth Mayor Bob Hedlund (source: SHNS) wrote to CZM. Alice Arena, Executive Director of local resident group FRRACS, pledged to fight on saying, “we will not allow this siting to go forward. We will continue to fight this ill-conceived scheme by all means available and necessary.” The permits come despite several utilities withdrawing from contracts to obtain natural gas from the project, claiming they don’t need the gas capacity that the compressor would provide.
– “Mayors, Muni Leaders Back 15-Cent Gas Tax Hike” (Chris Lisinski, State House News Service): “Dozens of Boston-area municipal leaders on Wednesday endorsed new or expanded transportation revenue options, including a 15-cent increase in the state’s 24-cent per gallon gas tax, as House lawmakers approach a vote on the topic.”
– “Local representative and youth leader agree: It’s time for bold, equitable climate policy” by State Representative Kevin Honan and Punnya Kalapurrakel, via MassLive.
– “Solar naysayers bark up wrong tree” by Greg Hering, via the Berkshire Eagle.
– “A climate change forum gets the cold shoulder from Joe Kennedy” by Joan Vennochi, the Boston Globe.
PRICE THAT CARBON
– “Who should pay for the just transition?” (Jonah Kurman Faber, Climate XChange) [read the article]
OUR LOCAL ENVIRONMENT
– “What Are PFAS Chemicals, And Should I Be Freaking Out About Them?” (Barbara Moran, WBUR’s Earthwhile) [read the article]
– Report highlights risks, solutions to extreme heat in Greater Boston: A new report released by the Urban Land Institute of Boston/New England shines more light on the threats residents of Massachusetts will face from extreme heat as climate changes accelerate into the future. Read the full report here.
– “Special Commission on Ocean Acidification Meets on Cape Cod” (CapeCod.com) [read the article]
– “AP finds nearly 40 problematic dams in Massachusetts” (Michael Casey, Associated Press via The Hour) [read the article]
– “Are We Missing An Environmental Opportunity In The Plan To Replace The Canal Bridges?” (Eve Zuckoff, WGBH) [read the article]
THE GREEN ECONOMY, STUPID
– “Associated Industries of Mass. joins the effort to save Vineyard Wind” (Jon Chesto, Boston Globe): “You know offshore wind power has finally arrived when Associated Industries of Massachusetts is now among its most enthusiastic backers.”
– “5 things to know if you missed Ed Markey debate Shannon Liss-Riordan on climate change” (Nik DeCosta-Klipa, Boston.com): “Two of the three candidates running for Sen. Ed Markey’s seat — Markey and Brookline attorney Shannon Liss-Riordan — participated in a climate change forum Sunday night at Stonehill College. And while the event lacked the Massachusetts senator’s most well-known primary challenger, it did not lack for debate, even on an issue where the two Democrats largely agreed.”
TRANSIT EMISSIONS MATTER
– “Researchers Highlight Disproportionate Transportation Pollution Impacts” (Colin A. Young, State House News Service): “More than 350 scientists, researchers and health professionals from the Northeast and mid-Atlantic have backed the regional effort to reduce carbon emissions from transportation and pressed governors working on the plan to ensure it is specific about how the program can help communities that have contended with a disproportionate share of transportation pollution.” Read the full letter here.
BEYOND THE BAY STATE
– “Voters Flip Virginia’s Legislature, Clearing Way for Climate and Clean Energy Policies” (James Bruggers, InsideClimate News) [read the article]
GLOBAL CLIMATE CHANGE
– “Woods Hole study says climate change could kill off emperor penguins” ( Martin Finucane, Boston Globe) [read the article]
Missed the last CXC Roundup? Here are the top local climate headlines from last week:
- “A Successful Election Day for the Environment”
- Zero energy buildings are not high cost”