Tag Archives: advocacy

The Intern Intel Report #1

By Kylie Armo

Hello! My name is Kylie Armo. I am a Massachusetts native studying environmental geography at Colgate University. My dedication to my home state and my passion for sustainability led me to Mass Audubon, where I am interning for the summer within the Legislative Affairs office on Beacon Hill.

I am so fortunate to have the opportunity to gain first-hand insight into the intricate world of environmental policy, and am writing this blog to provide a glimpse into my personal experiences and observations at Mass Audubon.

Massachusetts State House

Massachusetts State House

Summer at the State House

Much of my time has been spent at the Massachusetts State House, a building full of history, political maneuverings, and marble floors. I’ve attended a variety of legislative sessions, seminars, and hearings at the State House. Fellow attendees at these events can include legislators, concerned interest groups, and interns preparing reports for their offices.

During these sessions I take rapid notes – not only is there a huge volume of existing and proposed environmental policy being discussed, but there is also a colossal usage of acronyms! State laws, programs, and permits are frequently abbreviated (for example, NPDES stands for National Pollution Discharge Elimination System, and GWSA stands for Global Warming Solutions Act), and it can be tricky to keep track unless I write them down.

We typically attend events relevant to Mass Audubon’s specific legislative priorities, which for the 2015-2016 session include climate change adaptation, renewable energy, and land conservation funding.

Wetlands serve as natural floodplains

Wetlands serve as natural floodplains, which become even more important in the face of climate change Photo credit: US Fish & Wildlife Service

A key priority during my time here has been focused on climate change adaptation legislation. An Act providing for the establishment of a Comprehensive Adaptation Management Plan in response to climate change (CAMP) would require the Commonwealth to plan for the impacts of climate change by identifying impacts such as flooding and heatwaves, and taking action to protect public health, safety, and economic well-being.

In order to promote awareness and support for CAMP within the House and Senate, we delivered a document summarizing the bill and requesting co-sponsorship to all 200 Massachusetts legislators. I am happy to report that CAMP was attached as an amendment to a major energy bill that passed in the Senate, which is now off to conference committee where it will be reconciled with the House version.

Environmental Advocacy: A Team Effort  

The majority of my experiences outside of the State House revolve around communication and collaboration with fellow environmental organizations and broader coalitions engaged on specific issues. Common interests in areas like renewable energy and climate adaption unite Mass Audubon with professionals from policy-makers to architects. I frequently listen in on meetings and conference calls held between these organizations, during which legislative intel and lobbying tactics are debated and discussed. Though every individual has unique perspectives and interests, it is inspiring to see a passion for the environment fuel cooperation, strategy development, and, ultimately, progress.

On that note of optimism, I will conclude my maiden blog post. I am greatly looking forward to the rest of my summer at Mass Audubon’s Legislative Affairs office, and will provide another update about my experiences soon!

Kylie Armo is Conservation Policy Intern, Summer 2016

Action Alert: Climate Change Amendment Needs Your Support!

Update: The CAMP budget amendment ended up being withdrawn, but there are still other avenues through which we will be working to get CAMP passed. Thanks to everyone who took action, and stay tuned for future updates!

Original post: Addressing climate change requires a dual approach of preparing for its impacts and reducing emissions. To date, Massachusetts policymakers have focused more on reducing emissions, providing national leadership on the promotion of energy efficiency and renewables.

Mass Audubon is now asking the Legislature to provide leadership on preparedness in the face of climate change impacts like rising sea levels and increased flooding, as Massachusetts lacks an integrated approach to enhance safety, reduce risks, and protect our infrastructure.

Hurricane Sandy hitting the coast of Hull, MA. Photo credit: Aislinn Dewey

Hurricane Sandy hitting the coast of Hull, MA. Photo credit: Aislinn Dewey

Please ask your state Representative today to cosponsor Representative Smizik’s amendment establishing a Comprehensive Adaptation Management Plan (CAMP) in response to climate change. The amendment is to bill H.4377.

Rep. Smizik’s amendment to H.4377 would require the Commonwealth to:

  • Establish sound management practices that take into account existing natural, built and economic characteristics of the Commonwealth’s most vulnerable areas and human populations
  • Document the preparedness and vulnerabilities in our emergency response, energy, transportation, and other systems
  • Establish a regional grant program to provide financial assistance to regional planning agencies for the development and implementation of CAMP
  • Establish a coastal buyback program to acquire by voluntary purchase properties severely and repeatedly damaged by weather

No costs are associated with this amendment; state operational, capital and federal funds are already available to carry out this plan.

We are on a tight time frame – the House will be voting on H.4377 and its amendments tomorrow afternoon. Please contact your Representative today and urge them to support Rep. Smizik’s climate preparedness amendment. Thank you for your advocacy!

What You Need to Know About Gas Pipelines

You’ve probably heard about at least one of the new natural gas pipelines proposed to cut across Massachusetts. Increased natural gas capacity is often touted as a “clean” way to meet Massachusetts’ growing energy needs. But according to the Attorney General’s office, Massachusetts can meet its energy needs and lower costs without building new pipelines, through strategies like increasing energy efficiency and reducing consumption during peak demand times.

Example of pipeline construction. Photo by Rosemary Oakeshott

Example of pipeline construction. Photo by Rosemary Oakeshott

Mass Audubon agrees that additional natural gas pipeline capacity is not the best option for meeting our long-term energy needs. We oppose a number of proposed pipelines that would have major environmental impacts on public and private conservation lands and wildlife habitat, including some of our own sanctuaries.

We are also concerned about some of these projects’ compliance with state and federal environmental standards. In some cases, even properties that have been designated for “permanent” protection under Article 97 of the State Constitution are at risk.

Otis State Forest

Otis State Forest

We have been participating in the public review process for three proposed projects to voice our concerns and encourage alternatives to be considered:

  • The Kinder Morgan/Tennessee Gas Pipeline Co. Northeast Energy Direct project would have cut through our West Mountain wildlife sanctuary in Plainfield. After suspending work on the project last month, Kinder Morgan has now withdrawn its application, effectively killing the project. The company cited inadequate commitments from prospective customers as the reason for the withdrawal. Although this is good news, other projects around the state are still moving forward.
  • The Kinder Morgan/Tennessee Gas Pipeline Co. Connecticut Expansion project would involve a four-mile expansion of existing pipelines in southwestern Massachusetts. This pipeline would cross lands that Mass Audubon assisted the Department of Conservation and Recreation in protecting at Otis State Forest in Sandisfield (learn more on that here). We supported the Attorney General’s defense against the project in court. Update: While the project is still moving forward, AG Healey successfully negotiated for compensation to the state for conservation land taken by eminent domain during its construction. The company will pay $640,000 to the state, and identify and acquire additional conservation land “that provides ecological functions equivalent to the land impacted by the pipeline” such as the nearly two miles of pipeline through pristine Otis State Forest.
  • Spectra Energy/Algonquin Gas Transmission is partnering with Eversource and National Grid on the Access Northeast project, which would expand 125 miles of Algonquin’s existing pipeline system. It includes 26 miles of proposed new pipeline in Norfolk County including construction through Mass Audubon’s 100-year-old Moose Hill Wildlife Sanctuary in Sharon.

Learn more about our work in opposition to these projects at: www.massaudubon.org/pipeline