Tag Archives: clean energy

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.

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.

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.

New IPCC Report Urges Bolder Action Now

A new special report from the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change warns that we need to make large-scale and rapid changes to limit global temperature increase to 1.5°C, beyond which the authors say will bring on the most catastrophic impacts of climate change. The warning is clear, but we still have a chance to put into place the “disruptive innovation” needed to change course if we act now.

Global climate change must be addressed through both effective state and federal policy and our own individual actions. Our personal choices in areas like home energy use, travel methods, and diet can all contribute to this global shift.

A continued and accelerated shift to clean energy sources on a global scale will be one necessary strategy to prevent the worst impacts of climate change.

Looking for ideas?

Get some tips on how to make those changes happen. 

Tell the White House that failing to take action on climate change is unacceptable.

Urge your federal representative and senators to speak up for stronger climate policies.

Learn how your community can participate in the state Municipal Vulnerability Preparedness (MVP) grant program.

There will also be an opportunity soon to oppose recent federal proposals to weaken emissions standards for methane – we’ll keep you posted!

Global Climate Action Summit: Progress and New Policies

Last week the Global Climate Action Summit was held in San Francisco, bringing leaders and citizens together from around the world to celebrate achievements on climate action and commit to further steps. A few takeaways:

  • It was announced that 27 major cities, including Boston, have already reached peak greenhouse gas emission levels and are now seeing emissions decline, while still growing their economies.
  • A group of 29 philanthropists pledged $4 billion over the next five years to combat climate change – the largest-ever philanthropic investment focused on climate change mitigation.
  • The U.S. Climate Alliance, of which Massachusetts is a member, committed to taking several new actions that include protecting more of our natural and working lands that sequester carbon, transforming the transportation sector to reduce emissions, and increasing access to affordable clean energy for all.

Get all the news from the summit here. And remember, there are lots of ways you can make a difference in the fight against climate change.

A Year in Review

The past year started out as a difficult one for those of us that advocate on behalf of the environment. The new President appointed friends of the fossil fuel industry to lead the country’s Environmental Protection Agency, pulled America out of the Paris climate accord, and began hacking away at programs that protect our air, land, and water.

But despite the topsy-turvy year we’ve had, here at Mass Audubon we are ending 2017 with renewed hope. Through collaboration with our partner groups, conversations with our elected and appointed government officials, and the support and action of our members and subscribers, we showed Capitol Hill the resilience and determination of America’s environmental movement.

And that’s just what we are – a movement. We organized, we marched, and we spoke up.

We’ve continued to focus on a three-pronged strategy:

First, we’ve fought to uphold our existing federal environmental laws. Mass Audubon and our environmental partners met with Senator Ed Markey, Congressman Jim McGovern, and aides to Senator Elizabeth Warren, Congressman Seth Moulton, and Congresswoman Katherine Clark, where we discussed strategy for environmental advocacy at the federal level. We will continue to meet with the rest of the Massachusetts delegation in 2018. We also met with Massachusetts Attorney General Maura Healey and her senior energy and environment staff to discuss our legal options. Attorney General Healey told us that she wouldn’t hesitate to take the president to court to defend the rule of law, and she has already done so more than 15 times. We stand alongside her.

From L-R: Mass Audubon President Gary Clayton, Massachusetts Attorney General Maura Healey, and Mass Audubon Director of Public Policy & Government Relations Jack Clarke

Second, we stepped up our game at the state and local levels of government. Although the President denies climate change and supports the fossil fuel industry, 95% of utility and electricity oversight is in the hands of states, not the federal government. States like Massachusetts will continue to set the tone for reducing heat-trapping emissions and requiring industry to produce and use more green energy, and several states including ours formed the US Climate Alliance. Mass Audubon has continued to advocate for strict enforcement of the Massachusetts Global Warming Solutions Act, Green Communities Act, and the Ocean Management Act. Similarly, we will continue to defend the Massachusetts Endangered Species Act, which protects 432 native Massachusetts plants and animals, and their habitats even if protections are relaxed or removed at the federal level. We’ve also continued advocating for a minimum of 1% of the overall $40 billion state budget devoted to protecting the nature of Massachusetts – we’re not there yet.

Piping plovers are protected under the Massachusetts Endangered Species Act. Photo credit: US Fish and Wildlife Service

And third, we continued to advance a progressive environmental agenda. This includes a clean energy economy, water resources protection, and land and species conservation at both the federal and state levels. A few highlights from 2017:

  • Our Advocacy director Jack Clarke engaged with hundreds of Mass Audubon members and partners around the state on our environmental advocacy strategy.
  • Our Shaping the Future of Your Community program reached over 1,000 people and showed citizens how they can help conserve land and incorporate more sustainable development methods in their cities and towns.
  • We helped pass the Community Preservation Act (CPA) in 11 more municipalities, bringing the state total to 172 cities and towns. CPA has resulted in the protection of over 26,000 acres of open space in Massachusetts.
  • Our statewide Climate Adaptation Coalition continued to grow to more than 50 organizations, who are working to ensure that Massachusetts’ residents and landscapes are resilient in the face of climate change impacts. Mass Audubon staff were also trained as providers through the Commonwealth’s Municipal Vulnerability Preparedness program, which helps communities identify local vulnerabilities in the face of climate change and develop actions to increase resilience.
  • Our priority legislation that would better codify Massachusetts for climate change preparedness passed in the state Senate, and we are hopeful that it will pass in the House and be signed into law in 2018.
  • We supported communities that organized bans on single-use plastic bags – 61 cities and towns including Boston have now taken action to phase out these sources of pollution.

And we couldn’t have done any of this without support from our members and supporters. Thank you for all that you do to help Mass Audubon protect the nature of Massachusetts for people and wildlife. We look forward to continuing to use our collective voice and achieving even more together in 2018.

Snowy in Boston, Busy in DC: Staying on Top of Environmental Reviews

As we dig out from our recent blizzards here in Boston, congressional committees are ramping up their work this week in our nation’s capital. Unfortunately, this may be bad news for some of our environmental policies. A number of hearings are scheduled with the goal of “modernizing” these policies, but the real purpose of the hearings is to undermine our nation’s basic environmental protections and renewable energy methods; for instance, by promoting gas pipelines and fossil fuels over wind and solar. A bill was also introduced in Congress this month to terminate the Environmental Protection Agency. Mass Audubon stands in direct opposition to any such attempt.

Here are the hearing specifics:

Two House Energy and Commerce Committee subcommittee hearings will hold focus on energy infrastructure and important environmental laws like the Clean Air Act. The Senate Environment and Public Works Committee will review the Endangered Species Act, and House Energy and Oversight subcommittees will focus on an energy innovation loan program.

We will be closely following these and other federal legislative issues this week, and will let you know when and if your help is needed with calls to your Senator or Congressperson.

And for some pro tips on how to be most effective when contacting your federal legislators, read this recent Op Ed by Congressman Barney Frank.

Latest State Energy Updates

Supporting Green Jobs Legislation

Mass Audubon joined with several of our partner groups last week in signing onto a letter urging Senators to co-sponsor An Act Creating 21st Century Clean Energy Jobs (sponsored by Senator Marc Pacheco, D-Taunton). There are over 100,000 people in Massachusetts working in the clean energy industry today. This legislation will help that number continue to grow, build on our position as the strongest state for energy efficiency, and help us reach the requirements of the Global Warming Solutions Act. Read the letter here.

Offshore wind development will be one source of clean energy jobs along Massachusetts’ south coast.

Making Progress on State’s New Solar Incentive Program

The Department of Energy Resources (DOER) is designing a new solar incentive program to promote cost-effective solar development in Massachusetts. Last week, DOER presented the final program design to stakeholders. The goal of the new program, named the Solar Massachusetts Renewable Target (SMART), will be to procure 1,600 MW of new solar capacity, as well as to provide 10- or 20-year fixed-price compensation for solar projects, depending on their size. You can see the whole presentation here. Dates for public hearings and the deadline for the written comment period are expected to be announced in March.

Learn more about solar incentives and project siting in our previous blog post.

Rooftop installations are a great way to generate solar energy while avoiding the loss of ecologically-important land areas Photo credit: EEA

Congratulations to Massachusetts’ Newest Green Communities!

DOER also recently announced that an additional 30 Massachusetts cities and towns have been designated as Green Communities. Under the Green Communities Act, cities and towns must meet five criteria to be designated a Green Community and receive funding, including reducing municipal energy consumption by 20 percent over five years. Green Communities are eligible for grants to complete renewable energy and energy efficiency projects.

Over half of Massachusetts municipalities have now been designated, and more than 64% percent of residents live in, a Green Community. Among the newly-designated cities and towns are Chelsea, Fitchburg, Marshfield, and North Adams.

More details available here.