Tag Archives: federal government

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.

Meeting with Congressman Moulton

Last week, Mass Audubon and our environmental partners met with Congressman Seth Moulton and his staff at their Salem office. We discussed a wide range of issues, from chemical contamination of drinking water supplies at military sites, to regional marine fisheries issues.

We also focused on funding mechanisms for conservation, including the Federal Land and Water Conservation Fund, securing annual funding for which is one of our key federal priorities.

Congressman Moulton with Jack Clarke, Mass Audubon’s director of public policy & government relations

Our conversation emphasized the need for fact-based decision-making and bipartisan dialogue. We look forward to continuing this work with the Congressman as we advocate for federal policies that uphold and strengthen our environmental protections.

In addition to Mass Audubon, the other groups in attendance included Appalachian Mountain Club, Conservation Law Foundation, Environmental League of Massachusetts, The Nature Conservancy, The Trustees, and Union of Concerned Scientists. 

Conservation Groups Head to DC

Earlier in April, Mass Audubon took part in the Land Trust Alliance DC fly-in. This annual event is a chance for land trusts from around the US to meet in our nation’s capital, where we strategize and meet with federal leaders on our land protection priorities.

Along with The Trustees, the Greater Worcester Land Trust, and the Kestrel Land Trust, Mass Audubon met with staff for Senator Warren, Senator Markey, Congresswoman Clark, Chairman Neal, Congresswoman Pressley, Congressman Kennedy, Congresswoman Trahan, and Congressman Keating, The group also met personally with Chairman McGovern along with his staff.

L-R: Mike Cusher, Mass Audubon; Colin Novick, Greater Worcester Land Trust; Jen Ryan, The Trustees; Kristin DeBoer, Kestrel Land Trust; Congressman Jim McGovern

Our meetings focused on:

  • Ensuring full funding for the recently reauthorized Land and Water Conservation Fund
  • Timely implementation of the 2018 Farm Bill, which expanded several agricultural conservation programs, but needs to be put into action for states and organizations to take advantage of the programs’ benefits
  • Building support for H.R.1992, the Charitable Conservation Easement Program Integrity Act, which would close loopholes that allow bad actors to take advantage of the charitable deduction for land donations

Protecting nature for people and wildlife is a team effort. Building these relationships, both  with Congressional offices and with other land trusts in Massachusetts and across the country, is an invaluable component of Mass Audubon’s advocacy work. By working together, we strengthen our collective impact and  ensure a greater chance of success for our shared legislative priorities.

Thanks to the Land Trust Alliance for organizing another successful event!

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.

Big News for Land Protection – LWCF is Now Permanent!

Great news – the federal lands bill that includes permanent re-authorization for the Land and Water Conservation Fund (LWCF) has been signed into law by President Trump!

The Natural Resources Management Act (S.47) not only reauthorizes LWCF, which expired in September, but also designates more than one million new acres of protected wilderness. Please take a minute to thank your US Representative for their recent vote in support of this bill – the Massachusetts delegation voted “yes” across the board.

The Cape Cod National Seashore has been preserved thanks in part to LWCF funding

The bill also designates sections of the Nashua, Squannacook, and Nissitissit Rivers as part of the National Wild and Scenic Rivers System, which helps ensure the preservation of rivers with outstanding natural, cultural, and recreational values. Mass Audubon has supported this designation for the past 3 years while the Nashua River Wild and Scenic Study Committee worked to secure it.

Now that the Natural Resources Management Act has been signed into law, we can celebrate the continued protection of our invaluable wild spaces across Massachusetts and the United States. Thanks to everyone who took the time to contact your legislators in support of this bill – you helped ensure its passage!

Help Protect Monarch Butterflies

It’s hard not to smile when spotting the distinctive orange patterns of a monarch butterfly. They are symbols of both fragility and strength, their delicate wings carrying many of them as far as 3,000 miles during migration season. Monarchs also serve as pollinators for many types of wildflowers.

Unfortunately, monarchs are on the decline – their populations have decreased by over 80% in the past 20 years due to factors like habitat loss, pesticides, and climate change.

Photo credit: USFWS

Mass Audubon is signing onto a letter, led by our partners at the Center for Biological Diversity and the Natural Resources Defense Council, to support monarch butterfly conservation funding in the federal budget. We’re urging the House Appropriations Committee to substantially increase the amount of funding spent on the conservation of monarchs, and on the restoration of their habitat.

You can help! If you live in Congresswoman Katherine Clark’s district, please urge her, as a member of the House Appropriations Committee, to increase the amount spent on monarch conservation in the FY2020 federal budget to $100 million per year.

Photo credit: USFWS

And no matter who your federal legislators are, you can still ask them to support increased budget funding for monarchs.  $100 million per year in federal budget funding would cover the cost of restoring one million acres of milkweed and pollinator habitat per year, allowing monarchs to be more resilient to the numerous threats they face.

Monarchs are one of our most beautiful harbingers of spring. Thank you for taking action to help ensure their long-term survival so we can have the privilege of co-existing with them for many seasons to come.

P.S. – There are lots more ways you can help protect Monarchs and other pollinators.

Land and Water Funding Close to Victory

Update 3/12/19: The bill was signed into law! Learn more.

Update 3/4/19: The bill making LWCF permanent passed in the House! Thank you everyone who called and wrote to their Representatives.

Great news – the US Senate voted last week to pass public lands legislation that would ensure the future of the Land and Water Conservation Fund (LWCF). The Natural Resources Management Act (S.47) not only reauthorizes LWCF, which expired in September, but also makes its reauthorization permanent. The bill also designates more than a million new acres of protected wilderness, among many other features.

Thanks to everyone who contacted Senators Markey and Warren urging them to support the bill – both voted in favor of its passage. Overall it passed with a strong majority of 92-8.

Bish Bash Falls, Mount Washington, MA. Photo credit: MA DCR

The US House of Representatives still needs to vote on this legislation before the LWCF can be reauthorized. Help keep up the momentum by contacting your US Representative and ask them to support S.47. Please also take a minute to contact Senators Markey and Warren  to thank them for their support. For 52 years, the LWCF has protected land throughout Massachusetts, from the Cape Cod National Seashore to Bash Bish Falls State Park in Mount Washington. To see those successes made permanent will secure the future of these public lands for generations to come.

Help Prevent Bird-Building Collisions

In the U.S., window strikes are estimated to kill up to 1 billion birds annually, and window strikes are one of the leading causes of death for migratory birds.  The problem occurs when birds see their natural habitat mirrored in windows and fly directly into the glass, causing injury, and, in 50 % or more of the cases, death.

Photo credit: John McHugh CC BY 2.0

To help reduce these preventable bird deaths, Congressman Mike Quigley (D-IL) has reintroduced the Bird-Safe Buildings Act: legislation requiring all new and redesigned federal buildings to incorporate bird-safe building materials and design features.

You can help by asking your US Representative to protect birds by cosponsoring H.R. 919, the Bird-Safe Buildings Act.

Learn more about this issue.

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.

Say No to Seismic Testing

Recently, the National Marine Fisheries Service (NMFS) authorized the use of seismic testing for offshore oil and gas resources in the Atlantic Ocean. According to the lawsuit filed by a group of nine Attorneys General, including Massachusetts’ Maura Healey, this decision violates environmental law and has the potential to harm more than 300,000 marine mammals. The group is suing the Trump administration over this decision.

Specifically, the NMFS decision issued Incidental Harassment Authorizations to five private companies for seismic testing for offshore oil and gas exploration in the Mid- and South-Atlantic Ocean. 

A North Atlantic right whale and calf. Photo credit: NOAA

Going forward, the Bureau of Ocean Energy Management (BOEM) is responsible for permitting geophysical surveys, and makes decisions about energy development in the waters of the outer continental shelf. The seismic testing decision also comes as the federal government is moving forward with a proposal to expand US offshore oil and gas drilling – which we also oppose.

Let BOEM know it would be unacceptable to permit any surveys that allow harmful seismic testing – you can email BOEMPublicAffairs@boem.gov. Our marine species, like the critically endangered North Atlantic Right Whale, are already vulnerable to threats like climate change, and the impacts of these types of tests on their populations could be disastrous.