173 Organizations Send Letter Opposing Scott Pruitt as Head of EPA

Mass Audubon is one of 173 environmental, health, and public interest groups that signed and sent a letter to the Senate’s Environmental and Public Works committee opposing the nomination of Scott Pruitt to Administrator of the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA). Scott Pruitt has actively worked against the mission of the EPA, and his nomination as its leader should be rejected by the Senate.

Read the full letter here, and learn more in our recent blog post on encouraging our US Senators to reject Pruitt’s nomination.

EPA’s Leader Must Respect Science and the Environment

Mass Audubon urges you to call Senators Elizabeth Warren (202-224-4543) and Ed Markey (202-224-2742) today and ask them to reject Oklahoma Attorney General Scott Pruitt’s nomination for Administrator of the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA). President-elect Trump has nominated Scott Pruitt to lead the EPA, and it is the Senate’s job to decide whether or not to confirm him. The confirmation hearing is scheduled for Wednesday, January 18th. Mr. Pruitt is a known climate science skeptic, an oil & gas industry insider, and a leading force in federal lawsuits over the implementation of the Clean Air Act and Clean Water Act. Please call your Senators, encouraging them to stand up for the environment and public health.

Sample message:

As your constituent, I wanted to let you know that I am very concerned about President-elect Trump’s choice of Scott Pruitt, who would be charged with implementing the EPA’s mission of protecting human health and the environment.  Oklahoma Attorney General Pruitt has filed multiple lawsuits against the EPA, actively seeking to undermine air and water quality, and dismissing the science of climate change.  

I urge you to reject the nomination of Mr. Pruitt, or anyone like him who rejects sound science and the clear, positive benefits of laws like the Clean Air Act.  For over 30 years the Clean Air Act has reduced acid rain that once had enormous impacts on forests and waters, reduced haze that clouds views of natural treasures that drive tourism economies, and reduced ozone that can damage our lungs. 

As you consider Mr. Pruitt and other nominees for positions in our natural resource protection agencies, please reject those who ignore the overwhelming evidence of science and seek to roll back our bedrock environmental and public health laws. 

It is crucial that we forge a path forward based on the values that Americans have long held dear, like clear air and clean water for this and future generations. 

Thank you.

And thank you for taking action today! 

Please also encourage your friends in Massachusetts and other states to contact their Senators about this too! They can find contact information for their Senators online.

Here’s the letter we signed onto, organized by the Natural Resources Defense Council, urging our Senators to reject the nomination.

Mass Audubon’s Legislative Priorities for the 2017-2018 Session

by Karen Heymann

As we head into a new legislative session on Beacon Hill we are rolling out Mass Audubon’s legislative priorities, along with a fresh legislative report card (to be released in February) on the prior 2015-2016 session.

And while we can’t promise perfect scores for all, we can promise that the votes we score are based on the environmental roll call votes that align with our legislative priorities, which we deliver to every Senator and Representative at the start of each session.

Activity is ramping up again at the Massachusetts State House with the start of the 2017-2018 session

For over 100 years Mass Audubon has advocated for the nature of Massachusetts, and our legislative priorities reflect our continued full court press on climate change, land conservation and wildlife protection.

Some of our top priorities you will recognize from last session: climate adaptation, Community Preservation Act (CPA) funding, and land conservation tax credits. The good news is that some progress was made last session on climate adaptation in the form of an executive order by Governor Baker, and that House and Senate leaders are actively discussing the need for creating new revenue – something we have not heard in recent years.

Coastal properties like these will be more vulnerable to sea level rise if climate change continues at current rates. Photo credit: John Phelan

Our priorities focus on creating a long-term, statutorily-required process around climate change preparedness; pushing for more funding for a green budget, CPA, and land protection; and expanding the state’s focus on pollinator health to include a broad range of pollinator species as well as their habitat.

We will plan to rally other organizations and members around key issues, meet with legislators one-on-one, hold legislative briefings, testify at committee hearings, and keep our readers up to date on our needs and progress. Stay tuned for detailed fact sheets, updates on bill numbers and ways you can get involved!

Karen Heymann is Legislative Director

Meet Our Team: Karen Heymann

Karen Heymann

Karen Heymann

Karen Heymann is Mass Audubon’s Legislative Director.

Karen was born in sunny California but raised mostly in the not-so-sunny ‘burbs of Greater Boston; thankfully her summers were spent in nature, swimming and climbing trees at her grandparent’s home outside of Barcelona.

Her qualifications include a PhD in Soil science from Cornell University, where she was awarded a National Science Foundation fellowship to study the potential for soils to mitigate climate change. Karen also earned Bachelor’s and Master’s degrees at the University of Massachusetts, Amherst where she also worked for several years on a local organic vegetable farm.

Prior to joining Mass Audubon Karen was awarded a Science and Technology fellowship through the American Academy for the Advancement of Science, overseeing a portfolio on environmental and agricultural issues for Congresswoman Lois Capps (CA-24th). Life on Capitol Hill informs her balanced, non-partisan approach to influencing state and federal environmental legislation and policies.

After five years in the political trenches she remains motivated by her amazing colleagues who have fought tirelessly for decades to protect New England’s natural resources. When not glued to earth and environment news, she can be found hiking with her family, reading fiction, listening to records and dreaming of traveling to warmer locales.

Cultivating a Greener Marijuana Economy in Massachusetts

by Karen Heymann

As state policymakers hit the pause button on some aspects of the new marijuana law, they should also consider ways to address the heavy electricity consumption, greenhouse gas emissions, electronic waste, and water usage associated with this new industry.

Marijuana cultivation is one of the most energy-intensive industries in the country, racking up around $6 billion in energy costs annually and consuming 1 percent of all electricity in the US.  The equipment required for typical marijuana production (high-intensity lamps, ventilation, heating and cooling systems, water pumps and CO2 generators), means that just one closet size setup can consume the same amount of electricity as used by the average American home. According to one analysis out of Lawrence Berkeley National Lab, the carbon footprint for one kilogram (2.2 lbs.) of processed Cannabis is an estimated 4600 kg of CO2 emissions. That is the not-so-green equivalent of consuming 10.6 barrels of oil, burning 4,900 lbs. of coal, or driving 11,025 miles in an average passenger vehicle.

Other states with licensed marijuana operations, such as Colorado, report that large increases in energy consumption are making it difficult to achieve energy efficiency and greenhouse gas emissions reductions targets. And while some growers (such as the nation’s largest grow facility soon to be located in Southeastern Massachusetts) will adopt energy efficient practices, it is unlikely that a majority will follow suit without incentives, regulations and an established set of environmentally-friendly best practices.

More marijuana cultivation in Massachusetts could come with a sharp increase in electricity usage. Photo credit: Aulo Aasmaa

More marijuana cultivation in Massachusetts could come with a sharp increase in electricity usage and add to energy efficiency challenges. Photo credit: Aulo Aasmaa

Massachusetts has the opportunity work with the industry to set stringent energy efficiency incentives, greenhouse gas offsets, and water conservation measures. Policymakers on Beacon Hill should establish environmental criteria as part of licensing or other regulations for indoor grow operations, and fund research to establish a set of environmentally-friendly best practices for the marijuana industry. A portion of the marijuana tax, or a fund that growers pay into for exceeding certain thresholds for energy or water consumption, could fund not only these initiatives, but also to help rehabilitate our beleaguered state parks which promote public health and boost our recreation economy.

Bringing once clandestine marijuana operations into the mainstream will require the right balance of incentive, regulation, and guidance. Done right, the new marijuana law will encourage dedicated, environmentally-aware growers to set up shop in our state, and will reinforce our reputation as leaders in growing an innovative, green economy.

Karen Heymann is Legislative Director

Meet Our Team: Jack Clarke

Jack Clarke is Mass Audubon’s Director of Public Policy & Government Relations. During his time at Mass Audubon, Jack has helped draft and pass the first-in-the-nation comprehensive ocean management law, the Massachusetts Rivers Protection Act, Community Preservation Act, and four environmental bonds (the latest of which was $2.2 billion!).

Director of Public Policy & Government Relations Jack Clarke

Mass Audubon Director of Public Policy & Government Relations Jack Clarke

Jack holds appointments by the Governor to the Special Commission on Coastal Erosion and the Massachusetts Ocean Advisory Commission, which he chairs. He is also a member of several Massachusetts Department of Environmental Protection Advisory Committees. For his work on behalf of the environment, Jack has received commendations from the US Department of the Interior, US Environmental Protection Agency, and the City of Boston, among others.

Prior to his position at Mass Audubon, Jack worked for the US Department of the Interior/National Park Service at Cape Cod National Seashore for almost a decade, and received their Outstanding Achievement Award. Jack has his ranger hat proudly displayed in his office, a reminder of the benefits of getting outside and into nature that he still values in his work at Mass Audubon.

Following that, he served thirteen years and three governors, both Republican and Democratic, in the Massachusetts Executive Office of Environmental Affairs, the last five of which he was the Bay State’s Assistant Director for Coastal Zone Management. In that capacity, he served as acting Assistant Secretary, helped draft and pass legislation to establish Cape Cod’s regional regulatory planning agency, and oversaw the state’s National Estuary Programs for Massachusetts and Buzzards Bays. He also negotiated and wrote the state and nation’s first comprehensive Guidelines for Barrier Beach Management.

Jack earned his Bachelor and Masters degrees with honors from Boston College in American History and American Studies, respectively.

Born in Boston, Jack currently resides in Gloucester, the nation’s oldest seaport, with his wife Fara. In his spare time he is a surfer, sailor, SCUBA diver, photographer, musician, and a loyal member of Red Sox Nation.

You can follow Jack on Twitter here.

Responding to the Trump Election

By Jack Clarke

Update: Mass Audubon recently met with Senator Edward Markey and partner groups to brainstorm more strategies for working with the incoming Presidential administration and new Congress on critical environmental issues.

And to continue this momentum, Mass Audubon President Gary Clayton and Conservation Law Foundation President Brad Campbell convened the CEO’s of Massachusetts leading environmental organizations to develop a shared and coordinated public policy conservation strategy. They also put together a plan for strengthening our collective work at the state and local levels of government.

Note: this post was also published as an Op Ed in local newspapers statewide

As we’re deep into the presidential transition, it’s time for many to let go of denial and anger and accept the reality of a Donald Trump White House come January 20th. For the environmental community, there are three things we’re going to do.

First, with conservation partners across the country, we’re going to fight to hold on to what we have. For almost half-a-century and until most recently, we’ve had environmental success coming from Congress. Starting in 1969, GOP President Richard Nixon cooperated with bi-partisan law-makers to pass the National Environmental Protection Act, followed by the Clean Air and Clean Water Acts. These laws protect the air we breathe, the water we drink, and the land we live, work and play on. Millions of American lives have improved as a result of their implementation.

The Boston Harbor Islands are among our network of federally-protected National Parks. Photo credit: National Park Service

Congress later enacted legislation to conserve the nation’s forests and parks, historic sites, wildlife and wetlands, coasts and oceans. These laws benefit people, nature and the economy and are a sacrosanct part of America’s natural heritage. Encouraged by the White House, the upcoming 115th Congress, with 239 Republicans and 193 Democrats in the House of Representatives, may try to weaken or do away with some of these provisions.

To prevent a roll-back of progress, we’ll work in the House but focus on the Senate. Although Republicans outnumber Democrats fifty-two to forty-eight in the Upper Chamber, we’ll call on Massachusetts Senators Elizabeth Warren and Ed Markey to initiate and lead a stop-the-repeal campaign. If needed, we will ask them to use the filibuster which will require a sixty vote super-majority to erase America’s environmental legacy.

In addition, we’ll watch what goes on behind the scenes in the Oval Office. So often, bureaucratic actions fly under the public’s radar screen. The executive branch is mandated by the constitution, courts and Congress to implement, enforce and execute the nation’s laws. This is done largely through administrative rule-making. However, the President can unilaterally weaken or repeal regulations. He can also cut funds for existing programs, fail to enforce the law, make hostile political appointments, reduce the workforce, and simply drag his feet. As a preventive measure, we’ll go to court to require that the law be enforced.

Second, we’re going to support state and local governments in stepping-up protection of our health and environment. A few examples:

Mr. Trump believes climate change is a hoax. But ninety-five percent of utility and electricity oversight is done by the states, not the feds. So it will be in states like ours and California where we will continue to reduce heat-trapping air pollution and require industry to produce and use more green energy.

The Massachusetts Endangered Species Act protects 432 native Massachusetts plants and animals on the edge of extinction. With that in place, we will continue to defend endangered species even if protections are relaxed or removed at the federal level.

Piping plovers are protected under the Massachusetts Endangered Species Act. Photo credit: US Fish and Wildlife Service

Piping plovers are protected under the Massachusetts Endangered Species Act. Photo credit: US Fish and Wildlife Service

And there are a host of additional state laws providing public health and environmental benefits for Bay Staters that we will work to ensure are adequately funded and fully implemented on Beacon Hill.

On November 8th, there was a huge success for Massachusetts at the ballot – the Community Preservation Act passed in eleven municipalities. This brought the state adoption to 172 cities and towns, or 49 percent of the Commonwealth. Since the Massachusetts legislature passed the enabling statute in 2000, almost $2 billion has been raised for community preservation projects providing for the creation of 10,000 affordable housing units; 26,300 acres of open space; 4,400 historic preservation initiatives; and 1,700 outdoor recreation projects – all without any federal involvement.

It’s in the city and town halls across the Commonwealth where mayors and selectmen, city councils and town meetings, school committees, planning boards, boards of health, conservation commissions, and public safety officials make some of the most important day-to-day decisions that directly affect our children and families. We will increase our efforts at the local level to support and enhance their work.

Finally, we remain committed to our aspirations, goals, and vision and for a clean, healthy and vibrant environment. Irrespective of who controls the levers of government, we will continue to advocate for a progressive environmental agenda in our nation’s capital – an agenda that provides for the health, safety, and natural security of all Americans while protecting the nature of this great land for this and future generations.

Jack Clarke is Director of Public Policy and Government Relations

Trashing the Use of Plastic Bags

Have you been to a local grocery or clothing store lately and noticed signs reminding you to bring your own shopping bag? This eco-friendly way of shopping is a growing trend in Massachusetts and the result of dozens of towns and cities taking the initiative to pass single-use plastic bag bans.

More than 100 billion plastic shopping bags are thrown away in the US each year. Plastic bags are made of nonrenewable resources, and serve as a major source of greenhouse gas emissions, pollution, and marine litter.  Due to their low cost and convenience, retailers are often liberal with the number of bags used per customer and as a result they have become a ubiquitous part of modern day life.  While it is true that a portion of plastic bags are re-used or recycled, millions of these bags end up along road sides, in waterways and floating in the ocean.

Plastic bags that end up in oceans eventually break down and can be mistaken by fish for food. Photo credit: NOAA

Plastic bags that end up in oceans eventually break down and can be mistaken by fish for food. Photo credit: NOAA

Single-use bags pose a threat to sea turtles, whales, and other marine animals that die every year from eating plastic bags they mistake for food. Because they are made from polyethylene, which is made from crude oil and natural gas, plastic bags deplete valuable and costly nonrenewable resources. When plastic bags degrade in sunlight, toxins and particles of plastic are released into the environment contaminating our soils and our water supply.

With plastic bags washing up on the shores of the most remote areas on earth, countries across the globe  are taking decisive action to reduce plastic bag use. The European Union, China, Australia, Bangladesh and dozens of other countries have successfully banned or introduced a tax on disposable plastic bags. This November, California voters upheld  the nation’s first statewide plastic bag ban, despite significant opposition from industry.

Reducing the use of single-use plastic bags at grocery and clothing stores means there will be fewer of them to end up as litter. Photo credit: US EPA

Reducing the use of single-use plastic bags at grocery and clothing stores means there will be fewer of them to end up as litter. Photo credit: US EPA

We have advocated over the years in support of legislation that would reduce the use of plastic bags statewide, which made it through the Senate last session but failed to pass in the House. Given the continued lack of statewide guidance, many cities and towns are taking matters into their own hands and passing plastic bag restrictions at the local level, through new bylaws and ordinances approved by Boards of Selectmen, City Councils, or at Town Meeting. Mass Audubon has supported several of these local campaigns through letters of support to campaign organizers or outreach to our members living in those towns.

More than 40 communities have now banned or significantly reduced single-use plastic bags, from Williamstown in Western Massachusetts to cities like Cambridge and Somerville to Framingham, the largest town in the state. The City of Boston is also now considering bringing up an ordinance for review.

Let’s pull out our best tote bags and keep the momentum going!

For more resources visit the website of the Mass Green Network, with whom we have been coordinating in support of these local efforts.

Election Night Success for CPA

by Karen Heymann

It was an exciting election night for cities and towns considering the Community Preservation Act (CPA) on their local ballots, which as of this morning has been adopted in 172 municipalities across the Commonwealth. Communities voting to adopt CPA were Billerica, Boston, Chelsea, Holyoke, Hull, Norwood, Pittsfield, Rockland, Springfield, Watertown, and Wrentham. Initiatives in Amesbury, Danvers, East Bridgewater, Palmer, and South Hadley failed to be adopted.

Pearson Farm in Mendon and conservation land in Sturbridge are examples of how CPA funds have helped preserve open space and historic places. Photo credit: Community Preservation Coalition

Pearson Farm in Mendon and conservation land in Sturbridge are examples of how CPA funds have helped preserve open space and historic places. Photo credit: Community Preservation Coalition

Mass Audubon was recognized by the late Governor Paul Cellucci for playing a pivotal role in passing the original CPA legislation in 2000. CPA is a tremendously effective tool that enables participating cities and towns to establish a dedicated fund for open space, outdoor recreation projects, historic preservation and community housing. CPA funds are generated by a small surcharge on local property tax bills, as well as annual distributions to the town from the statewide Community Preservation Trust Fund. To date, nearly 20,000 acres of land has been preserved.

According to Mass Audubon’s Losing Ground and research out of Harvard Forest, we are entering an era of renewed growth and development; our forests and natural lands are increasingly being fragmented and developed, severely threatening the environmental health of Commonwealth and region. Development pressures often result in unplanned growth, changing the fundamental character of our communities before our very eyes. There is much work to be done in determining how best to balance the needs of our economy and the public with natural resource protection.

Center Hill Preserve, Plymouth; Common Pasture, Newburyport. Photo credit: Community Preservation Coaliton

Center Hill Preserve, Plymouth; Common Pasture, Newburyport. Photo credit: Community Preservation Coaliton

Many cities and towns are now adopting changes in their local zoning by-laws, ordinances, and master plans, as well as by updating their open space plans and working to conserve forests, farmland and other open space in their communities. In order the achieve these ambitious planning goals, a reliable source of funding is needed to ensure the growth of healthy, vibrant communities.

For more information on CPA, visit www.communitypreservation.org.

 

Karen Heymann is Legislative Director

A Sea Change for our Coasts

By Karen Heymann

On September 16th, Governor Baker signed Executive Order 569, which lays out plans both for fighting climate change and preparing the Commonwealth for unavoidable impacts such as sea level rise, storm surge, and extreme heat. Similar Senate-passed legislation on climate change adaptation was blocked in the Massachusetts House of Representatives over the past two sessions, due largely to the vocal objections of the commercial real estate lobby who feared that climate-smart regulations would hurt, rather than help, the businesses they represent.

Coastal properties like these will be more vulnerable to sea level rise if climate change continues as current rates. Photo credit: John Phelan

Coastal properties like these will be more vulnerable to sea level rise if climate change continues as current rates. Photo credit: John Phelan

But a recent report published by online real estate database Zillow[1] presents a more accurate picture of the risks facing the real estate industry. According to the report, nearly $1 trillion worth of real estate nationally is at risk due to expected sea level rise, with more than $700 billion worth of coastal property potentially below predicted mean sea levels and more than $730 billion of additional property at risk during high tide. Referencing the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration’s latest flood maps, Zillow estimates that if sea levels rose by 6 feet over the coming century around 18 percent of Boston’s housing stock (about 22,000 homes) would be underwater. Statewide, Massachusetts is projected to lose around 62,000 properties, which represents more than 3% of total housing stock and $51 billion in property value.

These numbers are especially troubling given that climate-related real estate risks don’t end at property boundaries. Flooding and storm surge can turn infrastructure to rubble, collapsing streets, tunnels, parking lots, subway, IT, sewer and power lines. During Hurricane Sandy entire neighborhoods were devastated and became dependent on massive influxes of federal funds and other support to restore basic services and begin cleanup efforts. Dramatic flooding events are becoming more common, and none among us can legitimately claim ignorance to this growing threat.

Talking about climate change risks is a tough business; policy makers by necessity often must deal very much in the present, forced to pick and choose priorities to focus on over the course of a two-year election cycle. Cities and towns are cash strapped and often lack the technical expertise to plan for future flooding impacts. Federal legislation has no hope of making it past congressional committees busy attacking the scientists, NGOs and government leaders actively working to fight climate change.

The Charles River Esplanade is among the many areas mapped by NOAA expected to feel the impacts of sea level rise. Photo credit: Daderot

The Charles River Esplanade is among the many areas mapped by NOAA expected to feel the impacts of sea level rise. Photo credit: Daderot

Rising sea levels and flooding will impact thousands of residential and commercial properties, and it is the taxpayer who will be left footing the bill for lack of preparedness. Governor Baker’s Executive Order on climate change preparedness is an important first step to addressing climate risks, but legislative leaders on Beacon Hill must add a solid foundation by statutorily requiring a statewide climate adaptation plan that functions beyond the Governor’s term in office.

Karen Heymann is Legislative Director

[1] http://www.zillow.com/research/climate-change-underwater-homes-12890/