BEACON HILL HAPPENINGS
– Shadowy fossil fuel funded coalition sends letter to House leadership discouraging climate action (Tim Cronin, Martha Merrow): Last week an organization called the Mass Coalition for Sustainable Energy sent a letter to Speaker Deleo and House Ways & Means Chair Michlewitz urging them to reject the Senate’s Next Generation Climate bill. Among the groups that signed the letter were the Boston Chamber of Commerce and the Associated Industries of Massachusetts.
Previous reporting has revealed questionable motives from the ‘Sustainable Energy’ coalition, especially in their support for expanding fossil fuel infrastructure. The group’s website has been run by the same lobbying firm currently working for Enbridge as it seeks approval for its Atlantic Bridge Project gas project (which includes the Weymouth Compressor). Additionally, Enbridge, Eversource, and National Grid are among the coalition’s financial backing.
People have also taken notice of inconsistencies between the pro-climate principles of many of the business members of these organizations, and the letter’s ask to lawmakers. In a tweet, ELM called out business supporters who signed it despite having public climate commitments, as did Senators Barrett and Lewis.
– Business leaders hold virtual policy day to urge action on climate, energy this session (Tim Cronin, Martha Merrow): On Tuesday (6/30) CEOs, owners, and senior executives from over 150 local companies met (virtually) with lawmakers and members of the Baker-Polito administration. The policy day was co-hosted by ABL, Chambers for Innovation, CABA, and NECEC and had scheduled meetings with the Senate and House Co-Chairs of the Joint Energy Committee (Barrett/Golden), the Co-Chairs of the Clean Energy Caucus (Eldridge/Robinson), and others.
Each group’s members focused on passing legislation this session to support the clean energy economy, and take action on climate change. Among the actions business leaders asked for was the passage of the Meschino Roadmap bill in the House, which is currently before the House Ways & Means Committee.
– “Divided lawmakers agree on goal: Climate bill in 2020” (Colin A. Young, SHNS via Herald News): [read the article]
– Senator Pacheco convenes oversight hearing on climate inaction (Tim Cronin): Senator Pacheco, the founding Chair of the Senate Committee on Global Warming and Climate Change, is conducting an oversight hearing today (7/1) at 1:00 pm. Its goal is to urge Massachusetts to update its climate policies to stay competitive and not fall behind other states in the clean energy sector. Pacheco’s committee will also discuss the state of major renewables, the challenges they face, and possible legislative action this session. The hearing comes only a week after Senator Pacheco started circulating a letter to fellow lawmakers urging legislative leadership to pass a climate bill this session. According to his staff, the letter currently has 37 signatories and counting. [Watch the hearing at 1:00 pm here]
– Other Legislative Updates (Tim Cronin):
- The legislature has still not decided whether or not to extend the session past July 31st, currently the last day for consideration of bills before the Senate and House. There have been public discussions about extending it into August (or possibly September), but leadership in both chambers have remained silent on their intentions.
- Despite broad consensus on the need to pass a climate bill in 2020, the House and Senate have so far not come to an agreement on what that bill will look like. Last summer (2019) the House passed Speaker Deleo’s GreenWorks bill, which sought to use new bonding to pay for climate resiliency and municipal clean energy projects. In January (2020) the Senate passed S.2500, its sweeping Next Generation Climate bill. Neither chamber has taken substantial action on the other’s bill. Meanwhile, the Meschino Roadmap bill has been getting attention in the House as another climate bill possibly favored by Speaker Deleo.
- The Senate and House have so far declined to vote on legislation to achieve 100% Renewable Energy legislation as well as a comprehensive gas safety bill (the FUTURE Act). A House originated carbon pricing bill (H.2810) still languishes in committee (the Senate passed carbon pricing in S.2500). The deadline for committee-level action on most of these bills is July 22nd.
ALL POLICY IS LOCAL
– “Report cites slow progress fixing gas leaks” (Christian M. Wade, The Salem News): [read the article]
– “Wellesley Town Meeting Voted in Favor of Renewable Energy Opt-Out Article” (Sustainable Wellesley): [read the article]
– “State’s SMART program isn’t so smart” by Roy Morrison, via Commonwealth Magazine.
– “4 lessons from COVID-19 to help fight climate change” by Kara Baskin, via MIT Management
– “Fossil Fuel Lobby Is Targeting the State Senate’s Climate Bill” by State Senator Mike Barrett, via the Waltham Patch
OUR LOCAL ENVIRONMENT
– Stormwater management practices more important than ever in drought season (Martha Merrow): The Town of Bellingham announced the completion of improvements it has made to the town’s Municipal Center that reduces pollution going to local bodies of water over the last year. This included creating the new park and installing a stormwater infiltration basin near the back entrance to the building. According to a press release by the Charles River Watershed Association, it has become clear that that cities and towns must invest in stormwater management practices “that build resilience to both flooding and drought, as precipitation becomes more consolidated to certain parts of the year and leaves New England with long, hot, dry summers.”
– “Under pressure, NOAA delays at-sea monitors for a month” (Chris Lisinski, State House News Service): [read the article]
– “Drought conditions widespread across Massachusetts, northern New England” (WCVB): [read the article]
– “Charles River group warns that the toxic blue-green algae is back” (Nik DeCosta-Klipa, Boston.com): [read the article]
– “Fading Winters, Hotter Summers Make the Northeast America’s Fastest Warming Region” (Abby Weiss, InsideClimate News): [read the article]
– Happy News! Climate change reporter Eve Zuckoff of WCAI was there this morning to see off seven rescued sea turtles that were released on Cape Cod. [see the pictures]
– “SCPN Spotlight: Jamie Lockwood on Coastal Communities and the Climate Crisis” (Carlie Clarcq, Climate XChange): [read the article]
THE GREEN ECONOMY, STUPID
– New Acadia Center report examines negative economic impacts of investing in gas infrastructure (Martha Merrow): A new Acadia Center report examines the impacts of investing in new gas infrastructure within ISO-NE. The report, titled “The Declining Role of Natural Gas Power in New England,” concludes that under current plans and laws, New England’s reliance on natural gas to fuel power plants could drop from 45% to approximately 10% of its electricity needs in 2030, making any investment in new gas pipelines or plants unnecessary and therefore costly.
Environmental policies in each New England state to promote renewables would lead to a substantial shift away from natural gas, as well as planned electricity imports from outside the region. Connecticut has committed to reducing its 2050 greenhouse gas emissions by 80%, relative to 2001 levels, and Massachusetts has committed to reaching net-zero emissions by 2050. Similar targets have been established by other states throughout New England.
Low-income households and communities of color are disproportionately affected by the impacts of the region’s reliance on natural gas. The report calls for action to redress this ongoing inequity at every level of decision-making. The report concludes, “the future of fossil gas power in New England will be a challenging one. Many decisions influencing what the grid will look like in the next ten years have already been made, which makes the remaining decisions even more important.” [Read the full report]
– State expands clean car rebate program to commercial vehicles (Martha Merrow): On Thursday, the Baker administration announced an expansion of the revived MOR-EV rebate program for the purchase of electric and plug-in hybrid vehicles. “Under the MOR-EV program, consumers can be eligible for a rebate of $2,500 on the purchase of an all-electric vehicle or $1,500 for a plug-in hybrid with a range of at least 25 miles on a battery charge. The vehicle must also have a sticker price under $50,000,” State House News reports. Energy and Environmental Affairs Secretary Kathleen Theoharides said. “Expanding the MOR-EV program to include more vehicle classes will help us lower emissions across the state, improve air quality for all communities, and will ultimately move us closer to our shared clean energy future.”
BEYOND THE BAY STATE
– Building Back Better: Climate XChange releases research on investing in a resilient recovery for Washington State: In a report released yesterday (6/30), Climate XChange and the Low Carbon Prosperity Institute analyze the potential jobs and community health benefits created by a sample portfolio of investments in Washington State. They find that investing in clean transportation, forest conservation and ecosystem restoration, clean energy, water and energy efficiency, low carbon agriculture, and sustainable industry supports over ten jobs per million dollars invested. By comparison, the state’s ten largest industries support 4.3 jobs per million dollars invested.
Additionally, they found that every million dollars invested in these programs accrues $2.4 million in clean air and climate benefits. These findings can help state policymakers design an economic recovery plan in response to the COVID-19 crisis that maximizes both job creation and the long-term health of Washington communities. Similar research is expected to be released in other states, including Massachusetts. [Read the full Washington State report]
– “Pandemic Alters Plans, but does not Prevent Wisconsin from Progressive Climate Action” (Samantha Tracy, Climate XChange): [read the article]
– Rev. White-Hammond, 350 MA join launch of regional progressive initiative (Tim Cronin): Last night (6/30) Reverend Mariama White-Hammond formally launched Renew New England Alliance, a regional coalition that she co-chairs focused on promoting the idea of a jobs guarantee and its co-benefits in health, justice, climate, and other key areas. A leading climate justice activist, Rev. White-Hammond was joined by Sunrise Movement Founder Varshini Prakash, Congresswoman Ayanna Pressley, and Senator Bernie Sanders in a virtual launch that drew hundreds from across the region. The coalition is made up of smaller, state-based coalitions including one in Massachusetts that is co-lead by 350 MA. Their current asks in Massachusetts are centered around environmental justice legislation and collecting signatures for a local ballot question initiative on legislative transparency and renewable energy.
– “New England Power Generators pushing for a carbon tax” (David Brooks, Concord Monitor): [read the article]
INSIDE THE BELTWAY
– “Climate panel urges sweeping change, deep carbon cuts” (Benjamin J. Hulac, Roll Call): [read the article]
Missed the last CXC Roundup? Here are the top three climate headlines from last week:
- Benson: “We Need a Green Recovery”
- Baker administration releases modest bond spending proposal
- House leaders convene panel to review green energy priorities