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BEACON HILL HAPPENINGS
– Beacon Hill coronavirus updates:
- On Monday (3/16) the Speaker and Senate President closed the State House to the public in order to limit the spread of the virus. [more on this here]
- Causing additional disruption, and concern on Beacon Hill, is the confirmation that a House staffer contracted COVID-19. The staffer had contact with several other legislative offices on both Wednesday (3/11) and Thursday (3/12) of last week. All legislators and staff who may have been in contact with the employee have since been alerted by public health officials. [more on this here]
- “Lawmakers are looking to agree in “short order” on a bill facilitating governance flexibility in cities and towns during the coronavirus crisis and could consider other legislation over the longer term to “fill in the blanks,” according to a House chairman.” (Michael P. Norton, SHNS via 22WWLP) [read the full article here]
- Yesterday (3/18), legislators in both chambers voted to waive a one-week waiting period for people affected by COVID-19 who apply for state unemployment benefits. The bill was signed into law by the Governor that day.
- Responding to a 78% drop in ridership, the MBTA has adopted a reduced service schedule. [the full reduced service schedule here]
– Coronavirus pandemic expected to hit state budget hard: Tax collections from retail and meals taxes, which fuel the multi-billion dollar state budget, are expected to fall sharply due to widespread social distancing in Massachusetts. This comes as the demand for social services and the cost of the state’s pandemic response are likely to increase significantly. The Massachusetts Taxpayers Foundation estimates that tax receipts will fall “as much as $500 million below expectations this fiscal year because of lost economic activity. And should they dip even 5 percent next year, it could mean as much as $3 billion in lost revenue” (Matt Stout and Victoria McGrane, the Boston Globe). This will no doubt make the tricky balancing act of agreeing on annual spending that much more… tricky. It will also squeeze already underfunded areas of the budget, including the funding for environment protection (i.e. the so-called ‘green budget’). But how this impacts Speaker DeLeo’s proposed gas tax hike is less certain. On the one hand, the bandwidth to debate complex legislation is not present (at least now). On the other, the state is looking like it really does need the money….
– “Here’s how you can donate to organizations helping people affected by coronavirus shutdowns” (Andrew Caffrey, Boston Globe): [no pay wall] [read the full article here]
– House committee advances key energy efficiency bill: On Thursday (3/12) the House energy committee advanced ‘An Act relative to Energy Savings Efficiency (Energy SAVE)’ (H.2832). Originally filed by Representative Josh Cutler, the bill modernizes energy efficiency standards on a number of household appliances and saves Massachusetts consumers money. The House passed this bill last session, with near-unanimous support, but it was removed during negotiations with the Senate. This session, in January 2020, the Senate passed its own version of the law (S.2478).
– “A Global Pandemic & A Climate Crisis: Eerily Similar Impacts with Starkly Different Responses” by Maria Virginia Olano, via Climate XChange: “The response to this pandemic also provides us with an opportunity to see just how much we can truly accomplish collectively with the right combination of political will, civic engagement and responsibility, and attention to science and facts.” [read the full piece, which explores the important things those in the climate space should take away from the current pandemic]
– “Should Massachusetts require all new residential and commercial buildings to be carbon net zero?” by Jacob Stern & Emerson Clauss III, via the Boston Globe. [$]
– “Should the public buy Columbia Gas?” by Craig Altemose, via Commonwealth Magazine.
– “Why we need offshore wind energy” by Jack Clarke, via the Eagle-Tribune.
– “Think twice about clear-cutting forests for solar” by Andrew Gottlieb, via the Cape Cod Times.
– Cap-and-trade’s health benefits exceed costs by 5x: In a new report from Climate XChange [‘Cap and trade in California: health and climate benefits greatly outweigh costs‘]. Authored by Dr. Marc Breslow and Ruby Wincele, the report looks at California’s cap-and-trade program and its investments. It finds that health and climate benefits from California’s cap-and-trade are 5 times greater than the program’s costs. Read the full link to the report here, or check out this 1-pager that goes over the main findings.
LOCAL CLIMATE SPOTLIGHT
THE LEGAL ENVIRONMENT
– “Exxon Loses Jurisdiction Fight in Massachusetts Climate Suit” (Erik Larson, Bloomberg Environment) [read the article]
THE GREEN ECONOMY, STUPID
– “State goals, policy help Massachusetts utilities take lead on energy efficiency” (Sarah Shemkus, Energy News Network): [read the article]
BEYOND THE BAY STATE
– “Hawaii Carbon Pricing Bill Passes Senate (Again)” (Noa Dalzell, Climate XChange): [read the article]
– “Republican Walkout Halts Cap-and-Invest (Again), but Gov. Brown Commits to Climate” (Carlie Clarcq, Climate XChange): [read the article]
– “Hydropower plan faces opposition, uncertain future” (Christian M. Wade, the Salem News): [read the article]
Missed the last CXC Roundup? Here are the top three climate headlines from last week:
- Coronavirus fears disrupt legislative work, climate advocacy on Beacon Hill
- “Open Letter to the Massachusetts Legislature”
- The complicated climate politics of the gas tax on Beacon Hill