Category Archives: Energy Issues

The Beacon Hill Weekly Roundup – July 15, 2019

Join Firefly Watch!

It’s summertime, and that means fireflies are out and about. Firefly Watch is a citizen science project that gathers data on local firefly populations, and you can help right from your backyard!

Weigh in on Green Transportation

State agencies and transportation groups are holding public workshops on the future of green transportation. Massachusetts is part of the multi-state Transportation and Climate Initiative working to adopt a regional, low-carbon transportation policy. We’ve provided past input with our partners.

Climate Central

→ Worcester and Boston will participate in a new urban heat island mapping project.

→ Discussing climate change leads to more acceptance of its science.

→ EEA Secretary Katie Theoharides on state climate initiatives.

→ Intelligence aide blocked from submitting climate change testimony resigns.

The Beacon Hill Weekly Roundup – July 1, 2019

Happy Fourth – Leave the Beach Happy, Too!

Wishing everyone a great holiday! The days following the Fourth of July are among the dirtiest of the year for beaches, so if you’re celebrating by the water, make sure to bring any trash back out with you, and to bring reusable plates, cups, and straws when possible.

Spotlight on Solar

Despite a 240-fold increase in Massachusetts’ solar energy capacity over the last decade, policy barriers have made a wide-scale transition to solar difficult, and the industry is losing jobs. We signed on to testimony supporting state legislation to alleviate these issues.

Climate Central

→ Climate change will be a decisive issue in 2020.

→ UK’s goal of net-zero carbon by 2050 becomes law.

→ A new energy storage facility recently went live in Massachusetts.

→ The majority of Americans think ExxonMobil, BP, and other fossil fuel companies should pay for a portion of climate change damages.

Funding Nature-based Fixes

The state Division of Ecological Restoration has announced $2.7 million in state and federal grants for ecological restoration projects, including a series of dam removals that will improve habitat at Mass Audubon’s Tidmarsh Wildlife Sanctuary in Plymouth.

Incentives for Offshore Wind

Last week, Senator Markey joined Senator Whitehouse and Congressman Langevin (both D-RI) to reintroduce federal legislation that would spur US offshore wind growth by extending tax credits for the renewable energy industry. Mass Audubon is a supporter of the bill.

The Fight for the Clean Power Plan

Last month the Trump Administration finalized their repeal of the Clean Power Plan (CPP), instead setting into play the weaker Affordable Clean Energy rule. There is still hope for the CPP, since a group of state attorneys general, including Massachusetts’ Maura Healey, is expected to sue over the change.

Federal Funding Update

Last week the US House passed a funding package related to the FY2020 federal budget. Good news – it included increases in funding for the EPA, Land and Water Conservation Fund (LWCF), and Bureau of Land Management, among others, compared to FY2019 levels.

The Beacon Hill Weekly Roundup – June 10, 2019

Popsicle photo credit: Lorie Shaull (CC BY SA 2.0); Solar photo credit: Kylee Wilson

Action You Can Take This Week: Help Protect Our Coasts

Legislation protecting Massachusetts waters from offshore oil and gas drilling had its State House hearing last week. The bill, S.448, would make it more difficult for federal drilling projects to move forward off our coasts. We support S.448, and you can support it too.

Climate Central

A curated selection of climate news from Mass Audubon’s climate change program manager

Communities Making the Right Choice

Across Massachusetts, communities are taking their energy decisions into their own hands. Many have started incorporating renewable energy components into their Community Choice Aggregation programs as a way to step up on local climate action.

Funding Farming Programs for Schools

We’ve submitted testimony in support of state legislation to fund schools’ collaboration with local farms – a win/win, since assisting schools to serve local food in school meals, provide nutrition education, and increase garden-based learning would benefit students, teachers, and farmers.

Help Protect Our Coasts from Drilling

State legislation protecting Massachusetts waters from offshore oil and gas drilling had its State House hearing last week. The bill, S.448, An Act protecting our coasts from offshore drilling, would limit or prohibit state-level approvals and activities related to offshore drilling, making it more difficult for federal drilling projects to move forward off our coasts.

The US Department of the Interior plans to expand offshore oil and gas leasing off US coastlines. This expansion – not to mention the potential for catastrophic oil spills – off the Massachusetts Outer Continental Shelf could have severe impacts on fisheries, wildlife habitat, and geological resources.

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. This expansion would place at risk natural resources like Stellwagen Bank National Marine Sanctuary, which provides feeding and nursery grounds for species like the endangered humpback and North Atlantic right whale, and the Northeast Canyons and Seamounts, biodiversity hotspots that are home to deep sea corals found nowhere else on Earth. It would also be a big step backwards in our fight against climate change.  

We submitted testimony in support of S.448, and you can help too.  

If your state representative or senator is a member of the Joint Committee on Environment, Natural Resources and Agriculture, contact them and urge them to report the bill favorably out of committee, so it can continue its path toward being signed into law. Even if your legislator isn’t on the Committee, you can ask them to contact Committee members in favor of the bill.

The mytilus seamount, part of the Northeast Canyons and Seamounts Marine National Monument, is home to a diverse array or corals. Photo credit: NOAA

A federal judge recently upheld permanent protection for certain areas of the Atlantic Ocean, along with nearly all of the Arctic Ocean, against the drilling expansion, but the federal government is appealing that decision. Even in the case of another court victory, much of the Atlantic Ocean is still at risk from expanded drilling. S.448 would provide an added layer of protection to lessen that risk.  

Most of our neighboring New England states are considering similar legislation, and if enacted, these bills collectively could help protect the entire region from offshore drilling-related activity in state waters. 

Contact your legislator today to help pass this bill! 

Communities Making the Right Choice

Across Massachusetts, communities are taking their energy decisions into their own hands.

Climate change is the single greatest threat facing the nature of Massachusetts, and we are already seeing its effects as warming temperatures, shifting seasons, and rising sea levels are disrupting the behavior of our wildlife and the ecosystems that support them. For their part, many communities are taking measures to prepare for impacts like extreme precipitation and flood risks, completing vulnerability assessments and developing action-oriented plans to improve their resiliency.

Community members participate in a state Municipal Vulnerability Preparedness workhop, facilitated by Mass Audubon staff

But we still have an opportunity to prevent the worst of these impacts from occurring, if we take bold and immediate action. For our part, Mass Audubon has eliminated all carbon emissions from electricity use through the purchase of renewable electricity and through on-site generation of solar power from our own 44 photovoltaic arrays.

Local efforts to reduce emissions at the community level are another crucial way to make a difference. That’s why many communities have started incorporating renewable energy components into their Community Choice Aggregation (CCA) programs, allowing them to take control over their energy choices.

Through Massachusetts state law, CCA programs enable a city or town to choose the electricity supplier for its residents and businesses. When adopting a CCA model, communities also have the opportunity to increase the renewable energy content of their electricity supply.

Solar arrays provide energy for Mass Audubon’s Boston Nature Center. Photo credit: Kylee Wilson

For example, the Green Energy Consumers Alliance’s “Green Municipal Aggregation” model recommends communities add at least 5% more Class I renewable energy per year into their electricity supply, compared to the 1% per year required by the state through their Renewable Energy Portfolio Standard (RPS). Some communities also choose to set their initial base percentage higher – Brookline, for instance, has set their base percentage at 39% compared to the state’s 14%, and the City of Newton recently made the decision to set theirs at 60%!

Some communities, like Newton, Somerville, and all 21 towns on Cape Cod and Martha’s Vineyard have chosen to offer customers the option to “opt up” to 100% renewable energy by purchasing Class 1 Renewable Energy Certificates equal to their total electricity consumption for an additional fee.

We encourage communities to support the adoption of CCA programs that incorporate the strongest renewable energy component possible, including by increasing the percentage of electricity from Class 1 renewable sources beyond what is required by the RPS. 

Interested? Learn more about how your community can choose CCA.

The Beacon Hill Weekly Roundup – May 5, 2019

Thank Your Congressperson for Supporting Climate Action

Photo credit: Wikimedia Commons user Arthurguo (Attribution-Share Alike 3.0 Unported)

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.

Climate Central

Photo credit: Zeynel Cebeci

A curated selection of climate news from Mass Audubon’s climate change program manager

Upholding National Environmental Protections

Green sea turtle photo credit: NOAA

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

Humpback whales are among the many species whose habitat could be impacted by an expansion in offshore drilling. Photo credit: NOAA

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.

Offshore Drilling Expansion Partially Blocked

Good news – the Trump administration’s plan to expand offshore oil and gas drilling in parts of the Atlantic and Arctic Oceans has been blocked in federal court.

Thanks to a lawsuit brought forward by the League of Conservation Voters and ten other conservation and indigenous groups, a federal judge has upheld permanent protection from offshore drilling for select protected areas of the Atlantic Ocean, and nearly all of the Arctic Ocean, as established by President Obama in 2016.

Mass Audubon has been speaking out on this issue too, and while this is decidedly a victory, our work isn’t over. Much of the Atlantic and Pacific Oceans are still at risk from expanded drilling, and the Trump administration will likely appeal the ruling.

Expanded offshore drilling could threaten species like the endangered North Atlantic right whale. Photo credit: NOAA Fisheries

We have to keep up the opposition! At the national level, the Coastal & Marine Economies Protection Act was introduced in Congress to ban offshore drilling & seismic testing on the Atlantic and Pacific coasts. And here in Massachusetts, Mass Audubon supports legislation filed by Cape and Islands Senator Julian Cyr that would prohibit offshore oil and gas drilling in state waters. We’ll keep you posted on opportunities to support these bills as they comes up for hearings and votes.

And save the date – our partners at the Massachusetts chapter of the Surfrider Foundation will be organizing a Boston-area event on May 18 as part of Hands Across the Sand. This global initiative is a chance to stand in solidarity and support protection of our lands and waters from fossil fuel development.

Review on Offshore Wind Picks Up

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.

Three other projects are also on the horizon, and three additional federal leases off Massachusetts were recently granted in a record-breaking auction.

This 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.

BOEM’s most recent map shows the planned projects, and leases for potential future projects, that will make up the offshore wind industry off Massachusetts’ shores

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.

Speak Out Against More Methane Pollution

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.

Leaks in natural gas pipelines are a common source of methane. Photo by Rosemary Oakeshott

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.

Wind and Wildlife

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.

Read more in our recent Op Ed.