Tag Archives: legislation

Ask Your Legislators to Support Strong Environmental Bills!

At the beginning of each legislation session, Mass Audubon decides which bills we’ll be championing. Our top priorities this session will focus on expanded clean energy initiatives, protecting pollinators and invaluable old growth forest, and expanding the impact of the Community Preservation Act.

The more legislators that decide to cosponsor a bill, the better chance it has of gaining momentum since it has more decision-makers working toward its passage. Last week we helped organize an environmental bill sign-on day at the State House. We had a great turnout, and were able to speak with lots of legislators and their staff about our priorities and encourage them to sign on as co-sponsors.

You can help too! Contact your local legislators and urge them to sign on as cosponsors for these bills before the deadline this Friday, February 1.

Our legislative priorities this session include policies to improve climate change mitigation and to protect Massachusetts’ natural resources. Boston Harbor Islands photo credit: National Park Service

Here’s more information on the top bills we’re supporting:

An Act to Secure a Clean Energy Future 
SD757; Lead Sponsor: Senator Marc Pacheco (Taunton) 
HD1248; Lead Sponsor: Representative Ruth B. Balser (Newton)

The climate of Massachusetts is already changing, and with it, our natural lands, waters, and wildlife. These changes affect our health, the nature we love, and the natural resources on which we depend. We still have time to correct our course and align Massachusetts’ climate strategy with the best scientific data available to ensure that the policies we put in place lower our greenhouse gas emissions while creating a flourishing clean energy economy.  

This bill would set emissions reduction requirements in line with the latest climate science, increase the renewable portion of the state’s energy portfolio, and set zero-emissions standards for state-owned or leased vehicle, among other components. See the bill fact sheet.

A Resolve to Protect Pollinator Habitat
SD61; Lead Sponsor: Senator Jason Lewis (Winchester)
HD1857; Lead Sponsor: Representative Mary Keefe (Worcester)

A rapid decline in pollinators like bees, birds, butterflies, and bats is threatening biodiversity both globally and here in Massachusetts. One in every three bites of food we eat depends on pollinators, but their populations have been declining for decades due to factors like disease, pesticide exposure, loss of habitat, and Colony Collapse Disorder.

This bill would establish a commission to study statewide opportunities for improving pollinator health by increasing and enhancing native habitat. See the bill fact sheet.

Photo credit: Zeynel Cebeci

An Act Relative to the Protection of Old Growth Forests
HD3173; Lead Sponsor: Representative Natalie Blais (Sunderland) 

Old-growth forests are extremely rare, and provide a host of benefits, from providing rich and diverse habitats for birds, insects and reptiles, to serving as carbon sinks by helping to sequester greenhouse gases that cause climate change. Although 3 million of Massachusetts’ 5 million acres are forested, only 1,500 acres of this land is original old-growth forest. 

Currently, old-growth forests in Massachusetts are not lawfully protected from timber cutting; instead, they are protected only by policy that could change at any time. This bill would change that by establishing a system of permanent old-growth forest reserves on state lands, among other protections. See the bill fact sheet.

An Act to Sustain Community Preservation Revenue
SD746; Lead Sponsor: Senator Cynthia Stone Creem (Newton)
HD2835; Lead Sponsor: Representative Ann-Margaret Ferrante (Gloucester)

The Community Preservation Act (CPA) is a state law that allows participating communities to establish a dedicated fund for open space, historic preservation, community housing, and outdoor recreation projects. To date, over 26,000 acres have been protected through local CPA projects. When a city or town votes to adopt CPA – currently 175 Massachusetts have done so – they agree to add a small surcharge to local property taxes. In exchange, they are promised matching funds from the Statewide CPA Trust Fund. As the number of CPA communities has increased, however, Trust Fund payout to CPA communities have declined.

To sustain CPA benefits for communities, legislation increasing the Trust Fund’s dedicated funding component—registry of deeds recording fees—must be passed. This bill’s goal is to provide a minimum 50% base match to all CPA communities. See the bill fact sheet.

For more information on Mass Audubon’s legislative priorities, contact our legislative director Mike Cusher.


End of Session Wrap-up

by Karen Heymann

On July 31st, the clock ran out for the majority of the  8,727 bills filed in the 2017-2018 legislative session, of which around only 400 were signed into law by Governor Baker. While there are many factors that go into determining the probability of a bill becoming law, those numbers translate to about a 5% chance of getting a bill passed in the Massachusetts legislature. That number drops even lower once you subtract the number of routine bills filed, such as the state budget, liquor licenses and sick leave banks.

Given these odds, the passage of our priority bill, An Act providing for the establishment of a comprehensive adaptation management plan in response to climate change, or CAMP, first filed in 2015, was remarkable. This success represented the collective efforts of many, including the Baker administration, legislators, municipal leaders, environmental organizations, businesses and others. The strong support of the Baker administration was essential; not only had Governor Baker adopted the major provisions of CAMP in an Executive Order (an excellent step, but not law), he also took advantage of the need for a new environmental bond bill and included CAMP as an outside section of the bill when he filed it. Bond bills are funding authorizations typically passed every 5 years, and can be one of the best legislative vehicles for environmental legislation, since bond bills are usually passed in the same session they are filed.

Mass Audubon advocacy director Jack Clarke, Governor Charlie Baker, and Mass Audubon president Gary Clayton at the bond announcement in Scituate back in March following a severe winter storm season

When we first started working to get this bill filed in 2015, few legislators were aware of the seriousness and magnitude of the climate threats facing Massachusetts. Even just a few years ago climate change still seemed far off, something that would impact future, not current, generations. The frequency and severity of winter storms over the past few winters however, were a wake up call to many that we are already experiencing the impacts of climate change, and that we need a comprehensive plan to prepare to deal with this threat. With the passage of CAMP, the current and future administrations are required to update a statewide climate adaptation plan every 5 years, and to support a program to provide technical and financial assistance to communities in assessing and addressing their own climate impacts.

The Bond: A Deeper Dive

Also included in the environmental bond bill were provisions which will also help reduce the Commonwealth’s climate emissions by protecting, restoring, and enhancing natural carbon storage areas like forests and salt marshes. One of Mass Audubon’s priority bills, supporting the Mohawk Trail Woodland Partnership (MTWP), was included in the final environmental bond, and will support rural economic development in the Berkshire region by promoting local sustainable forestry and eco-tourism. Mass Audubon’s Losing Ground report series has documented the threats facing privately-owned forests in Massachusetts, largely from residential and commercial development. Innovative forest management approaches, such as the MTWP, could serve as a model for other states facing similar development threats to forests and other open space.

Not all of our legislative priorities were included in the final bond or approved for final passage. The “No net loss” or “Public Lands Protection Act” (PLPA) bill, which would have codified existing state policy preventing the loss of constitutionally-protected open space (known as Article 97 lands) by requiring replacement land, as well as notification to EEA prior to filing legislation to dispose of land, was not adopted. A statewide ban on plastic bags, adopted as an amendment in the Senate, was not included in the final bond bill despite local bag-ban ordinances in over 70 cities and towns. And our priority bill that would have improved protections for pollinators statewide also ran out of time.

The newly-passed energy bill will allow for further expansion of offshore wind development off Massachusetts’ coast.

The Governor did sign into law an energy bill that increases the growth rate of the state Renewable Portfolio Standard to 2% per year until 2029 and then 1% thereafter. This will increase the percentage of our energy required to come from renewable sources to 35% by 2030 (previously set at 25%) and to 45% by 2040 (previously set at 35%). Among other things, the bill establishes stronger targets for energy storage, and increased the potential for Massachusetts to procure up to 1,600 additional megawatts of offshore wind energy by 2035.

In FY19 state budget news, the legislature approved healthy increases for the environmental agencies, but did not include two critical and widely supported sources of conservation funding: an increase for the Land Conservation Tax Credit and a much boost for the Community Preservation Trust fund, which provides a state match for locally-raised Community Preservation Act dollars. One of the big challenges for next session will be brainstorming ways to move forward funding increases for these two popular and critical sources of land protection funding.

Karen Heymann is Mass Audubon’s legislative director

Action You Can Take This Week: Support Pollinator Habitat Protection

One of our top legislative priorities this session is a bill related to pollinator health: S.2460resolve to protect pollinator habitat, filed by Senator Jason Lewis (D-Winchester) and Representative Mary Keefe (D-Worcester). It was recently reported to the Senate Committee on Rules, the last stop before consideration before the full Senate.

We need your help to get this bill passed before the end of the session! Please call your state Senator today and ask them to support this bill, which is critical to protecting both wild and native bees, as well as a whole range of pollinators including butterflies.

Photo credit: Zeynel Cebeci

Adaptation Needs in the News

Massachusetts’ climate change adaptation needs have continued to top the headlines over the past week, as communities around the state are still reeling from the impacts of recent storms. Here’s some of the recent coverage:

TV

Radio:

  • WBUR’s story about recent storms, and the questions they’ve raised about how to protect our cities
  • Jack Clarke offering input on the coastal buy-back provisions of our Comprehensive Adaptation Management Plan (CAMP) bill during a WGBH segment:

 

Newspapers/online

  • The lead editorial in this Sunday’s Boston Globe focuses on “a must-do list for climate change in Greater Boston”
  • An earlier look by The Boston Globe’s at some of the recent storm damage, with input from Mass Audubon
  • State House News Service reports on our Massachusetts Climate Change Adaptation Coalition’s efforts to urge House leadership to take action on CAMP
  • WGBH’s piece on State House dynamics that have led to challenges in getting CAMP passed
  • This Banker and Tradesman column by A Better City’s Rick Dimino (who’s also a member of our Climate Change Adaptation Coalition) encourages the House to pass CAMP from a business standpoint

Jack Clarke discussing adaptation needs on The Take with Sue O’Connell

Senator Pacheco Speaks Out on Adaptation Needs

In light of recent storms, Massachusetts state senator Marc Pacheco, the lead sponsor of our climate change adaptation bill, gave a rousing speech on the Senate floor today on the critical need for action on adaptation planning. Here’s the speech in its entirety:

March 5th, informal session.

Senate President Pro Tempore Marc R. Pacheco (D-Taunton): “This year, we saw two hundred-year storms in a matter of two months. We had homes underwater and almost half a million people in Massachusetts without power. Roads were closed, and people were asked to evacuate. Nine people died – one right here in Massachusetts. Public safety officials tell us that the flooding is the worst that they have seen. If there’s ever a time to get climate readiness and climate adaptation into statute, it’s now.

In November, the Massachusetts State Senate passed legislation to create a climate adaptation management plan, and this is the fifth time we have done so. We should see the writing on the wall. If gone unchecked, severe weather will wreak immense havoc on Massachusetts. It’s already happening. It continues to happen.

Our communities, our cities and towns, are facing serious financial risks. Homes are being destroyed, properties are being ravaged. Moody’s Investor Services has already warned us that inaction will lead to costly credit downgrades. A report from Tufts University estimated that if the United States does not act to solve the global warming crisis, it will cost the economy $3.8 trillion annually by 2100.

In 2017, 16 weather and climate disaster events resulted in losses exceeding $306 billion across the United States. Overall, these events resulted in the deaths of 362 people and had significant economic effects on the areas impacted.

We have the ability to protect ourselves and our communities, but we need the political will in place to take action. Climate adaptation recommendations need to become requirements in state law.

Our bill directs key state agencies to develop a comprehensive adaptation management action plan. It also creates a climate adaptation grant program and creates a coastal buyback program. We – the Senate, the House and the Baker administration – need to get this done and put it into statute.

And if we truly want to be proactive and prevent the worst effects of global climate change in the future, then we, Mr. President, need to enact a comprehensive clean energy strategy immediately. What we are presently doing is just not enough. It may be more than many other states are doing, and we pat ourselves on the back for it, but it clearly is not enough.

The Global Warming and Climate Change Committee has submitted a bi-partisan, unanimously voted-on, omnibus clean energy bill to the Senate Ways and Means Committee. We look forward to the committee’s work on this bill, and hopefully we will see it before the Senate soon so that we can have the opportunity to take it up and send it over to the House. Let’s get it done.

In conclusion, Mr. President, I want to thank the countless numbers of firefighters, police officers, emergency medical personnel, the men and women out there on the electrical poles bringing back power, all across the Commonwealth and across New England, doing so in a very, very dangerous time, during and at the end of these storms, when their lives are also placed in danger and harm’s way because of live wires, because of things they can’t see, below the water level, in areas that are flooded. And we haven’t even come close to estimating the financial costs associated with these terrible days that we have just experienced. I saw my colleague, the minority leader, and the Governor, on a shoreline, actually out there and seeing what has happened along the coastline.

I want to thank the Baker administration publicly for some of the work they have been doing relative to climate adaptation as a result of an agreement done back when we did the Energy Diversity Bill. Our minority leader and myself and many others were very involved in that. To the extent that there is work being done, it came as a result of dialogue around the Energy Diversity Bill.

But I wanted to come to the floor today to get this on the public record, under the rule we’ve set aside to do this periodically, and I think this is one of the first times that we’ve used it. And I plan on using this rule more and more and more on this issue. Because I mentioned $306 billion, nationally – where does that money come from, Mr. President? I’ll tell you where it comes from, it comes away from public education, it comes from public safety, it comes away from protecting our environment, it comes away from funding our roads and bridges. It comes away from everything that we care about in terms of the core services of running a government. That’s where those moneys are coming from. So I urge us today to recommit ourselves to ensuring that we will get these things done. Because it is urgent that we do so.

Thank you, Mr. President.”

Action You Can Take This Week: Climate Adaptation Bill on the Move

Great news – Mass Audubon’s priority climate adaptation bill has been reported favorably as amended out of the Senate Committee on Ways & Means. It now has a new bill number – S.2196 – and it will be debated on the floor of the Senate this Thursday. We will be urging Senators to vote in favor of the bill and will attend the Senate session.

You can help by contacting your Senator and asking them to VOTE YES on S.2196. Let them know that this bill helps prepare Massachusetts for the impacts of climate change by identifying where we are most vulnerable to its impacts and taking measures to protect public health, public safety, and the economy.

Photo credit: Aislinn Dewey

2015-2016 Legislative Report Card Released

This week we released the twenty-eighth edition of our Legislative Report Card, in which we score state legislators based on their environmental roll call votes.  These roll calls are an objective way to evaluate Massachusetts legislators based on how they vote on Mass Audubon’s priority bills and funding line items.

During the 2015-2016 legislative session, the House voted on 14 of our priority environmental roll calls (out of a total 559 roll calls). The Senate voted on 11 of our priority environmental roll calls (out of a total 681 roll calls). A legislator’s score does not represent an endorsement, or lack thereof, by Mass Audubon.

Mass Audubon’s 2015-2016 Legislative Report Card scores state legislators based on their environmental roll call votes. Photo credit: Tim Lenz

The votes we scored included a landmark energy bill requiring the procurement of 1,600 megawatts of offshore wind power, and our Comprehensive Adaptation Management Plan (CAMP) for climate change resilience, though the latter was ultimately stalled.

It remains one of Mass Audubon’s goals to encourage the legislature to engage in more floor debate on environmental legislation. Crucial decisions on environmental and energy policy should not be made during back-room meetings, but through open discussion on the House and Senate floors. This is particularly important in the House, where hardly any roll calls on our priority legislation besides budget amendments and overrides took place.

We will continue to advocate for bolder, more progressive environmental bills during the current legislative session. Massachusetts must remain a committed leader on issues like climate change and clean energy now more than ever

You can see the latest Legislative Report Cards, along with archives going back to 2000,  at:  www.massaudubon.org/advocacy/reportcard.

Mass Audubon’s Legislative Priorities for the 2017-2018 Session

by Karen Heymann

As we head into a new legislative session on Beacon Hill we are rolling out Mass Audubon’s legislative priorities, along with a fresh legislative report card (to be released in February) on the prior 2015-2016 session.

And while we can’t promise perfect scores for all, we can promise that the votes we score are based on the environmental roll call votes that align with our legislative priorities, which we deliver to every Senator and Representative at the start of each session.

Activity is ramping up again at the Massachusetts State House with the start of the 2017-2018 session

For over 100 years Mass Audubon has advocated for the nature of Massachusetts, and our legislative priorities reflect our continued full court press on climate change, land conservation and wildlife protection.

Some of our top priorities you will recognize from last session: climate adaptation, Community Preservation Act (CPA) funding, and land conservation tax credits. The good news is that some progress was made last session on climate adaptation in the form of an executive order by Governor Baker, and that House and Senate leaders are actively discussing the need for creating new revenue – something we have not heard in recent years.

Coastal properties like these will be more vulnerable to sea level rise if climate change continues at current rates. Photo credit: John Phelan

Our priorities focus on creating a long-term, statutorily-required process around climate change preparedness; pushing for more funding for a green budget, CPA, and land protection; and expanding the state’s focus on pollinator health to include a broad range of pollinator species as well as their habitat.

We will plan to rally other organizations and members around key issues, meet with legislators one-on-one, hold legislative briefings, testify at committee hearings, and keep our readers up to date on our needs and progress. Stay tuned for detailed fact sheets, updates on bill numbers and ways you can get involved!

Karen Heymann is Legislative Director

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!