Category Archives: Energy Issues

The Beacon Hill Weekly Roundup Digest – July 2020

A sampling of news from Mass Audubon’s weekly advocacy updates – sign up here.

Actions You Can Take

It’s hot outside, which means we’re using more energy to keep cool. During peak hours, the state’s energy grid operators have to tap into additional dirty fossil fuels, but we can Shave the Peak.

Summer is the season for Firefly Watch. Mass Audubon has teamed up with researchers from Tufts University to track the presence of these amazing insects, and you can help!

Beautiful coastlines, sparkling beaches, and local seafood are part of what makes Massachusetts special. From food to carbon absorption, oceans provide us with so much, and they need our help. Let’s take an oath for our oceans.

Humpback whale. Photo credit: Bill Thompson, USFWS

Mass Audubon Weighs In

In this Boston Globe article, we help explain why expanding solar energy resources is important for reducing emissions, but clear-cutting forests to do so is counterproductive.

With conservation partners, we made recommendations on Massachusetts’ 2030 Clean Energy and Climate Plan, focusing on how to include natural and working lands in plans to decarbonize the state.

We voiced support for state legislation providing economic investments in climate-smart housing, community development, and workforce training. We also suggested steering those investments to environmental justice populations and incorporating nature-based solutions.

Our Alliance for Clean Energy Solutions wrote to House leadership action on net-zero emissions and environmental justice legislation before the session runs out.

Otis State Forest

Updates from the State

Great news – Congress passed the Great American Outdoors Act, which will permanently fund the federal Land and Water Conservation Fund. This is a big win for the protection of wild spaces across the US.

State legislation addressing mosquito borne disease has now been signed into law. We’ll be following its implementation and advocating for statewide mosquito control reform.

Our Shaping the Future of Your Community program joined partners and state leaders, including Governor Baker, at an event highlighting the Assawompset Pond region. We’re collaborating there to reduce flooding, increase climate resilience, and restore habitat.

The federal Bird-Safe Buildings Act, which would require many new or renovated public buildings to incorporate bird-safe design features to reduce collisions, passed the House. Now it heads to the Senate.

MassDEP is seeking public input on their new Solid Waste Master Plan, with a particular focus on issues of environmental justice, climate change, and COVID-19 impacts. The Plan will determine how waste is managed over the next decade.

Governor Baker speaking at the Assawompset Pond project event.

Climate Central

→ Democrats in Congress have a new climate plan.
→ A floating island in the Charles River will mimic natural systems to reduce algae blooms.
→ How climate action benefits our health.
→ This toolkit offers resources for launching a coastal restoration project in your community.
→ The island of Dominica is on track to become the world’s first “hurricane-proof” country.
New study calls Boston’s sunny-day flood risk high
→ New York announces largest combined clean energy solicitation ever issued in the US
Planting tiny urban forests to boost biodiversity and fight climate change
→ NEPA rollbacks have been finalized, but lawsuits fighting them are expected

The Beacon Hill Weekly Roundup Digest – June 2020

A sampling of news from Mass Audubon’s weekly advocacy updates – sign up here.

Actions You Can Take

Birds in the US are in trouble due to factors like climate change and habitat loss, and now the Trump administration has taken another step toward rolling back Migratory Bird Treaty Act protections. We’re fighting these changes, and you can help >

Good news – the US Senate passed the Great American Outdoors Act, which will permanently fund the federal Land and Water Conservation Fund. Next the bill heads to the House, where we’ll continue to advocate for its swift passage – you can too.

Mass Audubon supports legislation that lays out a roadmap for Massachusetts to achieve net zero carbon emissions by 2050. Learn more about its goals in this recently recorded webinar, and help it pass by taking action here.

Eastern bluebird (photo credit: Cheryl Rose)

Mass Audubon Weighs In

Mass Audubon spoke to the Cape Cod Times about a damaging proposed state mosquito control bill. That bill has now been updated, though more changes are still needed.

Mass Audubon supports state legislation that would help nonprofits cope with the financial strains of the global pandemic. The bill would provide $75 million of public investment back into these community-based organizations.

With our coalition of wildlife protection groups, Mass Audubon submitted comments on the latest phase of federal review of the Mayflower Wind Energy project. Our comments focused on ensuring site surveys are done in a way that mitigates harm to marine mammals.

Photo credit: MA Department of Public Health

Updates from the State

Massachusetts and a coalition of 30 other states, cities, and counties are suing the Trump Administration over changes to Clean Car Standards.

After a pause due to COVID-19, the state has resumed enforcement of beverage container redemption requirements – a win for recycling.

Healthy forests are critical for public health, and the state has released updates to its Forest Action Plan to ensure the health of Massachusetts trees and forests into the future. We provided input on the updates.

Massachusetts could be on the way to removing natural gas from our energy portfolio. The state will investigate the future of the industry as we transition toward renewables.

Each year, Massachusetts celebrates its Commonwealth Heroines, women making outstanding contributions to their communities. This year’s class includes Deb Cary, Mass Audubon’s Director of Central Sanctuaries.

Climate Central

→ Hurricane season is here, and NOAA predicts an above-normal year
→ Racism derails our efforts to save the planet
→ The best protections from natural disasters could come from nature itself
→ Northeast states hit snag on offshore wind – we weigh in
→ To save the climate, look to the oceans
→ A large, bipartisan majority of Americans support bolder action on climate

The Beacon Hill Weekly Roundup – May 26, 2020

(wetland photo credit: Julie Archibald)

Get the Facts About Ecosystem Services

Beyond its intrinsic value, nature provides measurable benefits to people by offering solutions to some of our biggest environmental problems. Our new set of five fact sheets takes a deeper look at the financial and health benefits of ecosystems like forests, wetlands, and urban green spaces.

Climate Central

→ Gulf of Maine lobstermen turn to kelp farming in the face of climate crisis
→ Clean energy job losses are mounting – Mass Audubon and others weigh in

Mosquito Spraying Bill Update

Good news: the mosquito control bill that posed damaging changes to natural lands and public health has been redrafted. Thanks to everyone that submitted testimony or contacted committee members – advocacy around this bill made a big difference.

Learn About Net Zero Planning

Mass Audubon supports H.3983, state legislation that lays out a road map for Massachusetts to achieve net zero carbon emissions by 2050. Our climate change program director is moderating a virtual conversation on the bill next Thursday – sign up today!

Supporting Stimulus Funds for Public Lands

Mass Audubon joined partners in urging Congress to fund programs that benefit wildlife and restore public lands in future COVID-19 stimulus bills. We advocated for conservation programs that will create hundreds of thousands of jobs and provide benefits to people, communities, and the environment.

MVP Toolkit: Public Health and the Healthcare Sector

As Massachusetts’ Municipal Vulnerability Preparedness program grows, so do the range of needs of participating cities and towns. The state has created guidance for understanding the intersections between public health, the healthcare sector, and climate change, and for developing projects with health-related co-benefits.

SMART-er Solar Regulations

Update 6/1/2020: Today is the last day to submit comments to the state on better solar siting. You can submit yours using our easy new system here!

What’s better for the planet – a field full of solar panels shining in the sun, or that same number of panels placed over a parking lot? If you said parking lot, you’re right – but it’s complicated.

Responding as a global community to the threat of climate change means increasing and improving access to renewable energy sources. And here in Massachusetts, adding more clean energy to our electricity supply will be key to reaching our net-zero emissions goal by 2050. But it’s important to make sure this expanded access doesn’t come at the expense of our natural lands and resources. That’s why Mass Audubon has been participating in the public review process for Massachusetts solar energy regulations.

Installing solar canopies over existing developed areas, like this parking lot at the Cincinnati Zoo, can expand clean energy access without disturbing natural lands. Photo credit: Wikimedia Commons user Quaddell (CC BY-SA 3.0)

Last month, the state officially released updates to the Solar Massachusetts Renewable Target (SMART) Program to double statewide solar capacity. The changes also include carving out part of the program to ensure access for low-income projects.

Siting Matters

From 2012-2017, one-quarter of all land development in Massachusetts was the result of ground-mounted solar arrays – covering about 6,000 acres of what used to be forest or farmland. Expanding solar is crucial for climate action by reducing reliance on fossil fuels, but the siting of these projects makes a difference. For instance, it’s counterproductive to clear-cut forests and convert them to industrial scale solar arrays. Forests are vital to our resiliency from the impacts of climate change, and they help absorb carbon emissions. If current trends continue, up to 150,000 acres of forest could be lost in order to meet the green energy targets.

Mass Audubon and our conservation partners urged the state to direct more SMART financial incentives to projects on rooftops, parking lots, and other areas already altered by development.  This also has the benefit of locating the green energy supply closer to electrical demand – learn more about the benefits of “getting solar off the ground” in our new Losing Ground report

Importantly, the new regulations address some of these recommendations by steering new projects away from irreplaceable natural lands. The state will end eligibility for new, large-scale, private solar projects in the most ecologically sensitive areas – habitat for state-listed rare species, core areas with large blocks of forest, and “Critical Natural Landscapes”. This is good news! However, many projects already planned before the update will still proceed in these areas under the old rules, and certain new publicly sponsored projects can still be located in these sensitive areas.

The town of Scituate decided to turn an old landfill into a solar photovoltaic installation – a good example of siting done right. Photo credit: US EPA courtesy of Google Earth

What comes next?

We look forward to seeing how these changes will improve the solar landscape in Massachusetts. We are also pressing for even more progress, like increasing funding for parking lot canopies, which cost more to build than arrays on open land but have far fewer development impacts. Co-location within farms is another potentially promising approach that may support the business’s financial viability and energy efficiency, while maintaining the land’s agricultural productivity. We are also urging the state to provide more planning assistance to small communities to help direct projects to the right locations. 

Mass Audubon will be offering our feedback on the new updates, and you can too. The Department of Energy Resources is holding a virtual public hearing on Friday, May 22, and is also accepting written public comments through June 1. You can sign up to join the hearing online here, or submit written comments to doer.smart@mass.gov.  Please include “SMART Public Comment” in the subject line. 

It’s exciting to see clean energy taking off in Massachusetts and around the world. With careful planning now, we can ensure solar’s expansion is a success for consumers, the climate, and conservation.

The Beacon Hill Weekly Roundup – May 18, 2020

Magnolia warbler photo credit: Joe Howell

Attend a Mass Audubon Program from Home

Did you know Mass Audubon is offering online programs and classes during COVID-19 related closures? From birding resources to nature photography tips, you can pick up a new skill or learn about our natural world from home.

Climate Central

→ Germany is leading the world toward a green recovery
→ A new national campaign on climate politics launched this month, and includes Massachusetts leaders like John Kerry and Gina McCarthy

Waters Under Watch

The latest Op Ed from our advocacy director takes a closer look at what’s at stake in recent Waters of the US protection rollbacks, which threaten half our country’s wetlands and many of our smaller streams. Learn more about our lawsuit to fight the changes here.

Getting SMART About Solar

Responding as a global community to the threat of climate change means expanding access to renewable energy, but this expansion shouldn’t come at the expense of our natural lands and resources. Learn more about recent state solar updates in our blog post.

Addressing Environmental Injustice in Massachusetts

A new brief from Attorney General Healy’s office highlights the longstanding impacts of environmental injustice on families in Massachusetts. Read their ideas to address these impacts — like investing in clean energy jobs and strengthening regulations to protect vulnerable communities — and our statement of support.

The Beacon Hill Weekly Roundup – April 27, 2020

(sunflower photo credit: Peter Lampke)

Action You Can Take This Week: Consider a CSA

During these challenging times, supporting our local farms is a great way to strengthen community food systems, uplift farmers, and access fresh, healthy options. Mass Audubon offers CSA programs at Drumlin Farm, Moose Hill, and Boston Nature Center.

Climate Central

→ When pollution levels from coal plants decrease, asthma attacks do too
→ In his recent opinion piece, Senator Markey eyes the Green New Deal as a bridge to transition out of the COVID-19 crisis

Net Zero Massachusetts Update

The state released its formal letter of determination for reaching net zero emissions by 2050. Their plan includes offsetting a portion of remaining emissions through sequestration by natural sources like trees—which means land protection must play a critical role.

Op Ed: Science Matters

The latest op ed from our advocacy director highlights the need for science-driven decisions in both public health and climate change policy-making. As we learn more about our vulnerabilities, we can save lives by preparing today.

Funding Opportunity for Watershed Health

Restore America’s Estuaries Southeast New England Program (SNEP) Watershed Grants fund projects that help restore clean water and healthy ecosystems to the region. Applications are being accepted through May 29.

Poll of the Week

A new poll of 14 of the G-20 countries found a majority in every country surveyed agree that economic recovery following the pandemic should prioritize climate change.

The Beacon Hill Weekly Roundup – April 21, 2020

This Earth Day, Let’s Commit to our Planet’s Health

The COVID-19 pandemic has turned our concept of business-as-usual upside down. But when it comes to our environmental safeguards, business-as-usual wasn’t good enough to begin with. It’s time to reassess how stronger environmental policies mean stronger public health policies. Learn more >

Climate Central

→ New research: what racial groups care the most about climate change?
→ To cut emissions, a growing movement to electrify everything.

SMARTer Solar Regulations

Massachusetts has updated its solar energy program to expand capacity, direct projects away from important natural lands, and increase access for low-income projects. Smart solar siting is a Mass Audubon priority – stay tuned for more on what these changes mean.

Sign to Support Nonprofits

Our colleagues at the New England Aquarium have created a petition urging Congress to provide emergency relief funding to U.S. aquariums, zoos, and other nonprofit cultural organizations that have been hit hard by the COVID-19 pandemic. You can help: sign today!

States Oppose EPA Rollbacks

Adding to the list of state leaders that have spoken out against environmental rollbacks during this pandemic, Massachusetts Attorney General Maura Healey and thirteen other state AGs have urged the EPA to rescind the changes.

The Beacon Hill Weekly Roundup – April 13, 2020

Celebrate Earth Month

April 22 is the 50th anniversary of Earth Day, which has always served as a reminder of our power to protect our planet and effect change. All month, Mass Audubon is celebrating this year’s theme of climate action. Join us!

New Leadership at Mass Audubon

We are excited to welcome David O’Neill as the new President of Mass Audubon! David has dedicated his professional career to conservation, and most recently served as Chief Conservation Officer and Senior Advisor to the CEO of National Audubon Society. Meet David >

Shaping Massachusetts’ Net-zero Vision

As a member of the Alliance for Clean Energy Solutions, Mass Audubon provided input on the state’s Determination of Statewide Emissions Limit for 2050. We support a 2050 net-zero requirement, and made additional recommendations like ensuring equity and social justice measures.

COVID-19 Recovery and Resilience Webinars

Our Southeast New England Network is hosting a series of lunchtime webinar discussions focused on how we can respond to the pandemic in a way that builds a stronger and more resilient New England. Learn more and register >

Defending US Water Protections

Mass Audubon joined our conservation partners in writing to US House and Senate leadership to ask that future stimulus packages include funding for water infrastructure programs, which are critical for minimizing pollution and ensuring clean drinking water access.

Federal Stimulus Support

We also urged the Massachusetts congressional delegation to ensure that COVID-19 relief includes investments in sustainable development and clean energy. By protecting our natural resources, we can also create crucial jobs to stimulate the nation’s recovery.

The Beacon Hill Weekly Roundup – March 2, 2020

Climate Central

Mass Audubon has three new staff members helping us advance climate action! Welcome to Danielle Perry, Climate Change Adaptation Ecologist; Nia Keith, Climate Change Education Manager; and Rishya Narayanan, Climate Change Communications Manager.

Supporting Cleaner Transportation

Massachusetts is participating in the Transportation and Climate Initiative (TCI), a regional partnership to reduce emissions and invest in sustainable transportation. We weighed in during TCI’s public comment period (more on our support for TCI here). 

One Step Closer to Net Zero

The state has released a draft letter to officially set a net-zero greenhouse gas emissions target for 2050. This release starts a month-long public comment period on how to reach that goal, and aligns with a series of public meetings held around the state.

New Climate Legislation Passes the State Senate

Last week, the Massachusetts state Senate approved legislation to move us forward on climate action. An Act setting next-generation climate policy (S.2477) calls for net-zero carbon emissions by 2050 – a more ambitious goal than the current state target.

This newly introduced, fast-moving bill is a top Mass Audubon legislative priority, and would advance our organization’s Climate Action Plan. It was among three climate-related bills to pass, the other two of which address energy efficiency and electric and net-zero vehicle programs.

Participants in the Youth Climate Strike calling for action at the State House this past September

Currently, thanks to the Global Warming Solutions Act passed in 2008, Massachusetts is required to reduce its emissions to 80% below 1990 levels by 2050, with an interim goal of 25% below 1990 levels by 2020.

The new Next Generation bill ramps up those goals to achieve net-zero emissions for our state by 2050. It would set interim targets every five years, and would require a market-based, carbon-pricing mechanism for the transportation, commercial building, and residential sectors.

Mass Audubon, with our partners at The Nature Conservancy and The Trustees, helped ensure an amendment was included to recognize the importance of carbon sequestration by natural and working lands towards meeting emissions reductions goals. If the bill passes, this would mark the first time in Massachusetts this type of recognition would be given in emissions regulations.

The bills will now move on to the House, where we will work to amend it further to include industrial scale offshore wind – an important clean energy component for achieving emissions targets. Stay tuned for opportunities to help these Next Generation policies succeed!