Category Archives: Advocacy

Fight Destructive Offshore Drilling

Update 9/16/19: Great news – all three bills passed in the House last week! Next, the Senate needs to take action. Thanks to everyone who contacted your members of congress!

Mass Audubon has been working to oppose a damaging expansion in offshore oil and gas drilling proposed by the Trump Administration, since the extraction of oil and gas through our oceans would have severe impacts on fisheries, wildlife habitat, and geological resources.

We had some good news earlier this year when components of the plan involving the Arctic Ocean and parts of the Atlantic were blocked in federal court. However, much of the Atlantic and Pacific Oceans are still at risk from expanded drilling, and the federal government will likely appeal the ruling, so it’s important that we keep fighting for protection of our coastlines.

Humpback whale. Photo credit: NOAA

Now we have a chance to do just that. A major vote in the US House of Representatives is expected this week on federal legislation that could make a big impact. The Coastal and Marine Economies Protection Act (H.R. 1941) would ban offshore drilling & seismic testing on the Atlantic and Pacific coasts.

Please take a minute to contact your congressperson and ask them to support H.R.1941 when it comes up for their vote. Let them know that this protection is crucial for our vulnerable marine ecosystems and wildlife, like the endangered North Atlantic right whale. You can also remind them that Massachusetts and all of New England depend on a thriving coastal and ocean economy, and that success in turn depends on healthy coastal and ocean ecosystems.

While you’re at it, ask them to support these additional drilling prevention bills, which are also set for votes this week:

The Arctic Cultural and Coastal Plain Protection Act (H.R. 1146) would restore protections against drilling in the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge. Although the federal court has upheld protection for the Arctic Ocean against drilling, the Refuge could become open for drilling leases as soon as this fall.

The Protecting and Securing Florida’s Coastline Act (H.R. 205) would extend protections into the Gulf of Mexico.

The Beacon Hill Weekly Roundup – August 26, 2019

Photo credit: NOAA; NOAA; NASA

One More Way to Help Wildlife

Here’s another way you can help stop the recent federal Endangered Species Act rollbacks! Join our Coalition in asking your congressperson and senators to pass legislation restoring the ESA.

Offshore Wind Update

This week, the state will release public bids received for their second-round procurement of up to 800 MW of offshore wind energy. The final selection, to be made by the end of the year, should bring the state to its goal of 1,600 MW.

Climate Central

→ The Amazon is burning: a deeper look
→ 100-year floods could soon happen annually in parts of US
→ 10 Democratic presidential candidates will participate in CNN’s climate crisis town hall

Photo credit (R): MA DPH

State Reviewing SMART Solar Regulations

The state Department of Energy Resources (DOER) is looking for input on their SMART solar program. Following their initial review of the existing program, DOER is holding stakeholder meetings to share their results and collect feedback.

New Local Leadership at EPA

Welcome to Dennis Deziel, EPA’s new Regional Administrator for New England. Dennis brings over 20 years of federal government experience to the position, and we look forward to working with him.

Mosquito Alert

This summer is an unusually high-risk year for the mosquito-borne disease Eastern Equine Encephalitis, or EEE. While you’re enjoying the outdoors in these waning days of summer, be sure to take precautions. Learn more and see the most recent risk map.

The Beacon Hill Weekly Roundup – August 19, 2019

Save the Endangered Species Act

The federal Endangered Species Act is one of America’s most successful conservation laws, and it’s under threat. The Trump Administration has finalized changes that will significantly weaken protection for vulnerable species, but you can help fight them.

Rallying Support for Vineyard Wind

Vineyard Wind would be the first US industrial offshore wind project and has the potential to power more than 400,000 homes. Earlier this month, the project was delayed by the Interior Department. At a press event with our colleagues on Cape Cod, we spoke out about this unnecessary delay.

Climate Central

→ Greta Thunberg sets sail for U.N. climate talks
→ Rhode Island is the first of the lower 48 states whose average temperature has risen by more than 2ºC, and the rest of the Northeast isn’t far behind
→ It’s official: this July was the planet’s hottest month on record

Pesticides and Endangered Species

In addition to her pledge to take action on Endangered Species Act rollbacks, Massachusetts Attorney General Maura Healy and ten other state attorneys general have opposed an EPA proposal that risks exposing endangered species to harmful pesticides.

Protecting the Endangered Species Act

by Christina Wiseman and Jenna Clemenzi

The federal Endangered Species Act (ESA) is under threat. A bipartisan conservation law passed in 1973, the ESA defines species as “endangered” or “threatened” and requires federal agencies to protect them and their habitat. The ESA has a 99% success rate, and has helped bring species like the bald eagle and humpback whale back from the brink of extinction.

The ESA is especially important today, as we face the threat of a mass extinction of up to 1 million species. This drastic decline in species would be detrimental to our health, food security, and economies. The ESA is also strongly supported by the American public, with 90% expressing support in a recent poll.

Bald eagle chicks. Photo credit: USFWS

An Uncertain Future

Despite the ESA’s popularity and bipartisan passage, some members of Congress have made 150 efforts to weaken the act in the last two years, largely due to pressure from extractive industries that believe the law restricts business.

Last week, the Trump Administration announced their final changes to ESA regulations, which significantly threaten the law’s effectiveness.

These changes include:

  • Allowing economic impacts, rather than solely the best available scientific data, to be considered when determining the protection status of a species
  • Weakening of protections  for species deemed “threatened”
  • More flexibility in determining how species will be impacted in the “foreseeable future,” effectively allowing the effects of climate change to be disregarded

The changes allow the coal, oil, gas, and timber industries to have a greater say in the management of threatened and endangered species and their habitats. In order to ensure the continued survival of these species in the United States, the ESA needs to be restored to its full capacity.

Humpback whale. Photo credit: NOAA

Fighting Back

You can help stop the dismantling of the Endangered Species Act!

  • Call or email your Congressperson and ask them to hold hearings on saving the ESA
  • Ask Senators Warren and Markey to stop the rollback using the Congressional Review Act
  • Thank Massachusetts Attorney General Maura Healey for her defense of the Act – she plans to sue the Trump Administration over these changes

Mass Audubon has spoken out about this issue before, and we’ll continue to do so. We’ve reached out to Attorney General Healey in support of her legal appeal, and have offered to work with her office in defending the ESA in federal court. As founding members of the US Endangered Species Coalition, we condemned the decision to weaken the ESA, and weighed in about impacts these changes could have locally here in Massachusetts.

The Beacon Hill Weekly Roundup – August 5, 2019

Help Cut Peak Energy Use

Cities are especially vulnerable to the rising temperatures that come with climate change, thanks to factors like the heat island effect. Find out why and discover one simple thing you can do to help.

State Budget Success

Governor Baker signed the FY20 budget last week, which included funding for Mass Audubon’s Trailside Museum and a permanent increase for the CPA Trust Fund. Thanks to everyone who contacted their legislators and Governor Baker about supporting these programs!

Climate Central

→ Boston is holding a public hearing on their Community Choice Energy Plan to increase renewable energy use
→ The growing carbon footprint of ride hailing in Massachusetts
12 books about climate change solutions for your summer reading list

Expanding the MVP Program

Massachusetts is seeking Regional Coordinators for the Municipal Vulnerability Preparedness (MVP) program. The positions will support communities through the MVP process and help them advance climate resilience projects. Think you’d be a good fit? Learn more & apply >

Harnessing the Wind: A New Resource for Offshore Planning

The heatwaves we’ve been experiencing this summer are a good excuse to get to the beach, but they’re also a reminder that we’re already starting to experience the impacts of climate change. One of Mass Audubon’s top climate change mitigation priorities is the responsible development and use of offshore wind, which could bring more than 4 gigawatts of clean, renewable energy to Massachusetts.

Offshore wind is a critical component to US emissions reduction and has the potential to create thousands of jobs. But we need to make sure the industry grows responsibly, and set clear guidelines for minimizing environmental impacts.

A North Atlantic right whale and calf

Harnessing the Wind: How to Advance Wind Power Offshore, is a new resource produced by the Natural Resources Defense Council in collaboration with Mass Audubon and other partner groups. This guide outlines how we can tap into US offshore wind potential in a way that’s also protective of ocean life, and identifies the top challenges, along with proposed actions, toward accomplishing that goal.

Whether it’s placing projects outside of sensitive habitat areas or reducing underwater noise, taking these measures up-front will ensure the offshore wind industry continues to grow in a way that works for wildlife, people, and the planet.

The Beacon Hill Weekly Roundup – July 29, 2019

Greenworks Bill Passes House

Speaker DeLeo’s “Greenworks” bill, which would develop a state grant program for resiliency and clean energy projects, passed in the House last week. Members of our Massachusetts Climate Change Adaptation Coalition helped improve the bill to include more nature-based solutions and environmental justice criteria, among others.

Climate Central

→ CNN will hold a Democratic presidential town hall focused on the climate crisis
→ Boston is America’s top-rated city for clean energy!
→ Many species aren’t adapting fast enough to withstand climate change
→ Automakers struck a deal with California on improved efficiency standards, despite a federal push to roll them back.

Greening Transportation Workshops

State agencies will hold more community workshops in August to gather input for a regional, low-carbon transportation plan. Part of the multi-state Transportation and Climate Initiative, these workshops will focus on how to reduce emissions and make our transportation systems more resilient and equitable.

Taking Action on Chemical Contamination

We signed on to testimony in support of bills that would establish an interagency task force on the group of chemicals known as PFAS. PFAS chemicals threaten both public and ecosystem health through groundwater contamination, and the state needs a plan to improve their management.

Upholding Hydropower Regulations

Mass Audubon was also among 70 groups opposing a state proposal to change the way hydropower generators are certified as river-friendly facilities. The change would allow a qualified project to retain that status regardless of environmental changes or needed updates, which could negatively impact river systems.

Help Us Save CPA!

Update 8/5/2019: Great news – Governor Baker signed the FY20 budget last week, and it included these CPA funding increases. Thanks to everyone who contacted their legislators and Governor Baker in support of CPA!

The Community Preservation Act (CPA) helps cities and towns preserve open space and historic sites, create affordable housing, and develop outdoor recreational facilities. Since it went into effect in 2000, CPA has been adopted by 175 communities (50% of the Commonwealth’s cities and towns), and has helped preserve 29,289 acres of open space.

When a city or town votes to adopt CPA, they agree to add a small surcharge to local property taxes, which goes into a dedicated fund for these projects. In exchange, they receive matching funds from the Statewide CPA Trust Fund, which is generated from Registry of Deeds recording fees.  

© Community Preservation Coalition

As the number of CPA communities has increased, however, Trust Fund payouts to CPA communities have declined. Fortunately, we now have a chance to change that pattern.

The FY20 budget has been sent to Governor Baker’s desk for his final approval, and it includes a long-overdue increase to recording fees from $20 to $50 – a change that would provide the Trust Fund with an additional $36 million per year! The budget also includes a one-time transfer of $20 million to the Trust Fund from the state’s FY19 tax collection surplus.

Combined, these fixes would stabilize CPA and boost future matching funds for communities to use in local projects.

You can help make this happen! Our Community Preservation Coalition has launched a campaign to generate hundreds of phone calls to the Governor’s hotline, urging him to sign the bill. It only takes two minutes – please call today and let Governor Baker know it’s time to #SaveCPA!

The Beacon Hill Weekly Roundup – July 22, 2019

Help Pass a Strong State Budget

The FY20 state budget is headed to Governor Baker’s desk. Good news for climate change adaptation programs, Mass Audubon’s Trailside Museum, Green Budget priorities, and CPA—which all received the funding levels we recommended. Help ensure the final budget stays strong!

Environmental Justice & the Climate Crisis

Mass Audubon recently endorsed the Equitable & Just National Climate Platform, which advances the goals of economic, racial, climate, and environmental justice to improve the well-being of all communities while tackling the climate crisis.

Climate Central

→ If no action is taken, here’s how hot Massachusetts will get by century’s end.
→ Help our friends at MCAN rally support for climate-smart building codes.
→ This month is shaping up to be the warmest July on record.
“Climate despair” is real, but not necessarily helpful.

Celebrating Local Resiliency Work

Last week we attended Governor Baker’s award ceremony for the town of Millbury’s MVP action grant-funded downtown greening project. Our Shaping the Future program helped the town develop the plan, and will be advising on later stages of the project.

Help Pass a Strong State Budget

The Massachusetts state legislature released their final FY20 state budget over the weekend following conference committee deliberations, and there’s good news for many of Mass Audubon’s priority programs, including our Blue Hills Trailside Museum:

Trailside director Norman Smith preparing to release a snowy owl
  • Trailside received $500,000, the amount we requested and a $200,000 increase compared to FY19
  • A long-awaited deeds fee increase that would restore needed Community Preservation Act funding was upheld, and an additional $20 million was directed to the CPA Trust Fund
  • Our recommended funding levels were met or exceeded for several Green Budget line items and the Mass Cultural Council (see table below)
  • The conference committee also included $2.19 million for state climate change adaptation programs

Now the budget is on its way to Governor Baker’s desk for final approval. He can still veto line item funding, so help make sure he knows Massachusetts residents value these programs! You can email his office and encourage him to pass a budget that upholds funding levels for these programs.

Mass Audubon will be submitting our own request to the Governor as well.