Action You Can Take This Week: Support a Strong State Budget
The Massachusetts Senate begins debate on their version of the state budget tomorrow, and you can help make sure they strengthen funding for the Community Preservation Trust Fund and Mass Audubon’s Trailside Museum. Ask your Senator today to support amendments for CPA and for Trailside!
A curated selection of climate news from Mass Audubon’s climate change
This May, hundreds of valedictorians across the US will deliver the same commencement message on the need for climate action.
Boston makes the “A” list for cities leading the world on climate action!
The South Shore Climate Change Symposium, co-hosted by Mass Audubon’s North River Wildlife Sanctuary, was a successful day of idea sharing
Choosing Renewable Power for Boston
Incorporating renewable energy into local power choice programs helps communities take emission reductions into their own hands. We submitted comments on the City of Boston’s draft Community Choice Power Aggregation plan, urging them to adopt the strongest renewable component possible.
Speaking Up for Healthy Soils
We also submitted testimony with partners in support of legislation to promote healthy soils statewide. Soils are essential for life on earth, and policy makers have an important role to play in planning for their long-term health.
The Plastic Problem
Mass Audubon weighed in on this recent Cape Cod Times article on our plastic pollution problem – a global issue that includes significant impacts along Massachusetts coasts.
Next Steps Needed on Adaptation
We joined partners in supporting state legislation that would provide a needed framework – consistent, predictable policies and regulations – to support the progress Massachusetts has made so far on adaptation planning.
Ask Your State Senator to Support Trailside Funding
Mass Audubon’s Blue Hills Trailside Museum is the interpretive center for the state-owned Blue Hills Reservation, and is home to programs like the Snowy Owl Project. Help make sure Trailside gets the state budget funding it needs.
A curated selection of climate news from Mass Audubon’s climate change
See how much you know about what can be done to fight climate change with this quiz
This infographic from our Community Preservation Coalition explores how the Community Preservation Act also helps combat climate change
Improving Outdoor Opportunities
We submitted testimony last week in support of An Act Establishing the Office of Outdoor Recreation, which would work across sectors like public health, tourism, and economic development to promote recreational opportunities in Massachusetts’ outdoor spaces.
Drumlin Farm Education Honored at State House
Mass Audubon’s Drumlin Farm has received the Secretary’s Award for Excellence for their Riverschools Project, a collaboration with local schools to strengthen awareness and appreciation of river resources. Congratulations to the team!
Input Needed: Culvert and Small Bridge Replacements
Climate change is a frequent concern for communities when dealing with culvert and small bridge infrastructure, since they’ll need to accommodate increased storm flows and flood levels. The state’s Culvert and Small Bridge Working Group is seeking public input as they develop recommendations to address these and other challenges
Congressperson for Supporting Climate Action
Last week Congress passed the Climate Action Now Act to uphold US commitment to the Paris climate agreement. It’s the first large-scale climate change legislation to pass congress in nearly 10 years, and Massachusetts’ delegation unanimously voted yes. Please take a minute to contact your representative to thank them for taking climate action.
Meeting with Congressman Moulton
Mass Audubon and our environmental partners met with Congressman Seth Moulton last week at his Salem office, where our discussion included topics like conservation funding and regional marine fisheries issues. Learn more about the meeting.
A curated selection of climate news from Mass Audubon’s climate change program manager
Mass Audubon has a new Climate Action Facebook group – join today
Upholding National Environmental Protections
We joined partners in opposing changes in the Navy’s compliance with the National Environmental Policy Act. The proposed revision would make it easier to approve projects that adversely affect endangered and threatened species
Coastal Protections at Risk
We also submitted joint comments on proposed changes to the Coastal Zone Management Act, which would weaken state-level review of federal coastal development projects. This is especially problematic at a time when expanded offshore oil and gas drilling has been proposed at the federal level.
Offshore Drilling Expansion Delayed
Good news though – federal plans to expand offshore drilling have been postponed. The delay is largely due to a recent court decision upholding protections in parts of the Arctic and Atlantic oceans. While this news is encouraging, a delay doesn’t mean our fight is over, so we’ll be keeping it up.
Poll of the Week
According to a MassInc poll, 68% of Massachusetts voters support the creation of a regional carbon-trading plan for transportation.
In 2018, the United States dealt with 14 different billion-dollar weather disasters. The four highest annual occurrences of billion-dollar weather disasters have all been within the past decade, and last year’s events had a total economic impact of $91 billion. This number includes both the direct costs of destruction as well as indirect costs like lost wages during and after the disaster, both of which pale in comparison to the increased health risks and tragic loss of life due to these storms.
Massachusetts was impacted by two of these devastating
weather disasters last year during nor’easters that hit in January and in March.
With these events, we are seeing the destruction of our 1,500 miles of
coastline and major flooding of our inland rivers. The Commonwealth is in
desperate need of increased revenue to ensure our most vulnerable communities
are ready for more such impacts in the coming years. We know that being
proactive in response to these weather events will cost less, and reduce
damage, compared with reacting to disasters after they have occurred.
A big part of the solution comes from the state Municipal
Vulnerability Preparedness (MVP) program, which enhances climate
adaptation practices at the local level. The program provides support for
communities across Massachusetts to consider their local strengths and
vulnerabilities to climate change, and to prioritize actions they can take to
create a safer and more resilient future. Mass Audubon is a certified MVP
provider, and assists communities with this work.
But in addition to these local planning efforts, Massachusetts
also needs more funding for state and local agencies to prioritize resilience.
This occurs through actions like retrofitting vulnerable flood controls,
transportation infrastructure, and water resources, and by implementing
regional climate-smart land and coastal protection frameworks.
Earlier this year, Governor Baker introduced legislation to address this need. An Act providing for climate change adaptation infrastructure investments in the Commonwealth (S.10) would create a new stream of funding to help our communities prepare for the future. The Governor’s proposal would raise $137 million annually, through a real estate tax increase, to go into the Global Warming Solutions Trust Fund. This funding would then be reinvested into our cities and towns, both through the MVP program and as other assistance for the state and local communities to protect vulnerable assets.
This legislation is a way to leverage a small increase in the deeds excise tax, paid during real estate transfers, into a major investment in the future of our Commonwealth. S.10 is a promising next step in our ongoing process to deal with the greatest threat our world has ever faced.
Mike Cusher is Mass Audubon’s legislative director
Most recently, Lauren is a graduate of UMass Amherst’s MS Sustainability Science program, where she focused her work on climate resilience and green infrastructure planning. During her time at UMass, she served as a Sustainability Fellow with the City of Somerville, where she updated the City’s greenhouse gas emissions inventories and supported community engagement around the City’s Climate Action Plan. One standout memory from that time was helping organize the Plan’s launch event, including a “green carpet” where guests were photographed making their own climate action pledges, from ideas like taking public transportation to going vegan.
Lauren has always been driven to understand what inspires people to take action and make change, prompting her to study communication and human motivation as an undergraduate at McGill University, in her hometown of Montreal. This background served her well in her early career as a marketing and business development consultant, helping small business owners develop strategic communications and business plans. During this time, Lauren was a consultant for three different establishments all named after birds: Cardinal (a tea room), Sparrow (a gastropub), and Magpie (a pizzeria). Seems like destiny that she should now find herself at Mass Audubon!
Lauren is also the co-founder of Paperbark Literary Magazine, a journal of creative sustainability. She is looking forward to bringing her skills and passion for local planning to the Shaping program.
Mass Audubon’s top climate change mitigation priority is the responsible development and use of offshore wind, which could bring more than 4 gigawatts of clean, renewable energy to Massachusetts. We’ve been participating in the public review process for this growing industry, the leading project for which is currently Vineyard Wind. When built, this 800 megawatt project is expected to provide enough electricity to power approximately 400,000 homes, while removing approximately 2 million tons of carbon emissions from the air.
other projects are also on the horizon, and three additional federal leases off
Massachusetts were recently
granted in a record-breaking auction.
week, we weighed in on the latest stages in the Vineyard Wind permitting
process. This project would be located in federal waters, with transmission
cables crossing Massachusetts waters and connecting to a landfall on Cape Cod.
That means it has to go through both federal and state reviews.
First, we submitted comments with our conservation partners to the federal Bureau of Ocean Energy Management (BOEM) on the project’s Draft Environmental Impact Statement. At a time when offshore wind is growing with unprecedented momentum, it’s crucial that BOEM ensures projects take measures to protect species like the highly endangered North Atlantic right whale and federally-protected birds.
We also submitted separate comments, again with partners, to the state Executive Office of Energy and Environmental Affairs. These comments focused on the Final Environmental Impact Report for Vineyard Wind’s land-based transmission cable, which also takes into account the project’s overall impact on Massachusetts. We recommended that the project follow a proposed route that would limit impacts to fish spawning areas, horseshoe crabs, and other benthic resources, and that it address the full range of potential impacts on all bird species known to forage and rest in or near the project area.
As we expect to see up to seven wind energy projects over the next few years off the Massachusetts coast, it’s important to establish sound environmental review, and mitigation, practices now. Mass Audubon’s role in this process is to help ensure the industry grows in a way that will help reduce the worst effects of climate change, without negatively impacting wildlife.
At the beginning of each legislation session, Mass
Audubon decides which bills we’ll be championing. Our top priorities this
session will focus on expanded clean energy initiatives, protecting pollinators
and invaluable old growth forest, and expanding the impact of the Community
The more legislators that decide to cosponsor a bill, the better chance it has of gaining momentum since it has more decision-makers working toward its passage. Last week we helped organize an environmental bill sign-on day at the State House. We had a great turnout, and were able to speak with lots of legislators and their staff about our priorities and encourage them to sign on as co-sponsors.
Here’s more information on the top bills we’re supporting:
An Act to Secure a Clean Energy Future SD757; Lead Sponsor: Senator Marc Pacheco (Taunton) HD1248; Lead Sponsor: Representative Ruth B. Balser (Newton)
The climate of Massachusetts is already changing, and with it, our natural lands, waters, and wildlife. These changes affect our health, the nature we love, and the natural resources on which we depend. We still have time to correct our course and align Massachusetts’ climate strategy with the best scientific data available to ensure that the policies we put in place lower our greenhouse gas emissions while creating a flourishing clean energy economy.
This bill would set emissions reduction requirements in line with the latest climate science, increase the renewable portion of the state’s energy portfolio, and set zero-emissions standards for state-owned or leased vehicle, among other components. See the bill fact sheet.
A Resolve to Protect Pollinator Habitat SD61; Lead Sponsor: Senator Jason Lewis (Winchester) HD1857; Lead Sponsor: Representative Mary Keefe (Worcester)
A rapid decline in pollinators like bees, birds, butterflies, and bats is threatening biodiversity both globally and here in Massachusetts. One in every three bites of food we eat depends on pollinators, but their populations have been declining for decades due to factors like disease, pesticide exposure, loss of habitat, and Colony Collapse Disorder.
This bill would establish a commission to study statewide opportunities for improving pollinator health by increasing and enhancing native habitat. See the bill fact sheet.
An Act Relative to the Protection of Old Growth Forests HD3173; Lead Sponsor: Representative Natalie Blais (Sunderland)
Old-growth forests are extremely rare, and provide a host of benefits, from providing rich and diverse habitats for birds, insects and reptiles, to serving as carbon sinks by helping to sequester greenhouse gases that cause climate change. Although 3 million of Massachusetts’ 5 million acres are forested, only 1,500 acres of this land is original old-growth forest.
Currently, old-growth forests in Massachusetts are not lawfully protected from timber cutting; instead, they are protected only by policy that could change at any time. This bill would change that by establishing a system of permanent old-growth forest reserves on state lands, among other protections. See the bill fact sheet.
An Act to Sustain Community Preservation Revenue SD746; Lead Sponsor: Senator Cynthia Stone Creem (Newton) HD2835; Lead Sponsor: Representative Ann-Margaret Ferrante (Gloucester)
The Community Preservation Act (CPA) is a state law that allows participating communities to establish a dedicated fund for open space, historic preservation, community housing, and outdoor recreation projects. To date, over 26,000 acres have been protected through local CPA projects. When a city or town votes to adopt CPA – currently 175 Massachusetts have done so – they agree to add a small surcharge to local property taxes. In exchange, they are promised matching funds from the Statewide CPA Trust Fund. As the number of CPA communities has increased, however, Trust Fund payout to CPA communities have declined.
To sustain CPA benefits for communities, legislation increasing the Trust Fund’s dedicated funding component—registry of deeds recording fees—must be passed. This bill’s goal is to provide a minimum 50% base match to all CPA communities. See the bill fact sheet.
For more information on Mass Audubon’s legislative priorities, contact our legislative director Mike Cusher.
This past Monday, Mass Audubon was among the more than 20 major climate, environmental, public health, and grassroots organizations invited to meet with Senator Markey to discuss federal climate change priorities for the new Congress. Now that House leadership has flipped, Senator Markey was optimistic that momentum is building for climate action.
The group spoke in-depth about how to advance climate-focused legislation, as well as how to start planning to make climate change more of a focus in the 2020 presidential election.
Afterwards, Senator Markey held a press conference where he
outlined his own goals
for the upcoming session, including taking steps toward a transition to 100%
clean energy within the next 20 years, and a carbon-pricing system. He also voiced
support for the “Green New Deal” being developed in the House.
Senator Markey and Senator Sheldon Whitehouse of Rhode Island also
a report this week, as Chairs of the Senate Climate Change Task
Force, detailing the various anti-climate and anti-environment actions the
federal government has taken since President Trump took office.
The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) has proposed rolling back requirements for capturing methane pollution. Under the current standards, oil and gas companies are required to look for and repair leaks that release methane. The proposed changes would reduce the number of reviews required annually, along with other changes, in an attempt to reduce costs for the oil and gas sector.
Methane is 84 times more potent a greenhouse gas pollutant than carbon dioxide in the short term, and capturing this wasted methane pollution is a necessary part of addressing climate change.
You can help prevent this change, which would be a big step back for climate change mitigation at a time when we need even bolder action to prevent the worst impacts of a warming planet.
Tell EPA Administrator Wheeler that companies need to continue proactively addressing and preventing methane leaks, and to uphold the New Source Performance Standards that require such action. Let him know that the EPA has a responsibility to uphold standards that limit pollution and keep our air clean, and that we can’t afford to move backwards on our methane standards.
U.S. Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke has spoken out against wind energy on the grounds that it kills birds—but estimated bird deaths from wind turbines are small when compared to other human-caused sources of avian mortality, like building collisions. On top of that, climate change is by far the biggest threat to all birds living today. Of Massachusetts’ 143 breeding bird species evaluated by Mass Audubon, 43% are “highly vulnerable” to its effects.
That’s why Mass Audubon supports responsibly-sited wind projects to reduce our dependence on fossil fuels. We can do this by increasing conservation and efficiency, and by producing clean energy. Wind energy is now among the most cost-effective, competitive, and reliable clean technologies available.
Photo credit: Ryan O’Sullivan
Any development of new energy sources is bound to have some impact on wildlife and their habitat, but Mass Audubon advocates for prospective offshore wind projects to be designed to avoid any significant environmental damage. Anticipated impacts need to be minimized and mitigated – that’s the sequence to success and the review standard to which all projects should be held. With appropriate design, siting and mitigation, the industry can grow as Massachusetts does its part to combat the impacts of global climate change.