Tag Archives: legislation

The Beacon Hill Weekly Roundup Digest – July 2020

A sampling of news from Mass Audubon’s weekly advocacy updates – sign up here.

Actions You Can Take

It’s hot outside, which means we’re using more energy to keep cool. During peak hours, the state’s energy grid operators have to tap into additional dirty fossil fuels, but we can Shave the Peak.

Summer is the season for Firefly Watch. Mass Audubon has teamed up with researchers from Tufts University to track the presence of these amazing insects, and you can help!

Beautiful coastlines, sparkling beaches, and local seafood are part of what makes Massachusetts special. From food to carbon absorption, oceans provide us with so much, and they need our help. Let’s take an oath for our oceans.

Humpback whale. Photo credit: Bill Thompson, USFWS

Mass Audubon Weighs In

In this Boston Globe article, we help explain why expanding solar energy resources is important for reducing emissions, but clear-cutting forests to do so is counterproductive.

With conservation partners, we made recommendations on Massachusetts’ 2030 Clean Energy and Climate Plan, focusing on how to include natural and working lands in plans to decarbonize the state.

We voiced support for state legislation providing economic investments in climate-smart housing, community development, and workforce training. We also suggested steering those investments to environmental justice populations and incorporating nature-based solutions.

Our Alliance for Clean Energy Solutions wrote to House leadership action on net-zero emissions and environmental justice legislation before the session runs out.

Otis State Forest

Updates from the State

Great news – Congress passed the Great American Outdoors Act, which will permanently fund the federal Land and Water Conservation Fund. This is a big win for the protection of wild spaces across the US.

State legislation addressing mosquito borne disease has now been signed into law. We’ll be following its implementation and advocating for statewide mosquito control reform.

Our Shaping the Future of Your Community program joined partners and state leaders, including Governor Baker, at an event highlighting the Assawompset Pond region. We’re collaborating there to reduce flooding, increase climate resilience, and restore habitat.

The federal Bird-Safe Buildings Act, which would require many new or renovated public buildings to incorporate bird-safe design features to reduce collisions, passed the House. Now it heads to the Senate.

MassDEP is seeking public input on their new Solid Waste Master Plan, with a particular focus on issues of environmental justice, climate change, and COVID-19 impacts. The Plan will determine how waste is managed over the next decade.

Governor Baker speaking at the Assawompset Pond project event.

Climate Central

→ Democrats in Congress have a new climate plan.
→ A floating island in the Charles River will mimic natural systems to reduce algae blooms.
→ How climate action benefits our health.
→ This toolkit offers resources for launching a coastal restoration project in your community.
→ The island of Dominica is on track to become the world’s first “hurricane-proof” country.
New study calls Boston’s sunny-day flood risk high
→ New York announces largest combined clean energy solicitation ever issued in the US
Planting tiny urban forests to boost biodiversity and fight climate change
→ NEPA rollbacks have been finalized, but lawsuits fighting them are expected

The Beacon Hill Weekly Roundup Digest – June 2020

A sampling of news from Mass Audubon’s weekly advocacy updates – sign up here.

Actions You Can Take

Birds in the US are in trouble due to factors like climate change and habitat loss, and now the Trump administration has taken another step toward rolling back Migratory Bird Treaty Act protections. We’re fighting these changes, and you can help >

Good news – the US Senate passed the Great American Outdoors Act, which will permanently fund the federal Land and Water Conservation Fund. Next the bill heads to the House, where we’ll continue to advocate for its swift passage – you can too.

Mass Audubon supports legislation that lays out a roadmap for Massachusetts to achieve net zero carbon emissions by 2050. Learn more about its goals in this recently recorded webinar, and help it pass by taking action here.

Eastern bluebird (photo credit: Cheryl Rose)

Mass Audubon Weighs In

Mass Audubon spoke to the Cape Cod Times about a damaging proposed state mosquito control bill. That bill has now been updated, though more changes are still needed.

Mass Audubon supports state legislation that would help nonprofits cope with the financial strains of the global pandemic. The bill would provide $75 million of public investment back into these community-based organizations.

With our coalition of wildlife protection groups, Mass Audubon submitted comments on the latest phase of federal review of the Mayflower Wind Energy project. Our comments focused on ensuring site surveys are done in a way that mitigates harm to marine mammals.

Photo credit: MA Department of Public Health

Updates from the State

Massachusetts and a coalition of 30 other states, cities, and counties are suing the Trump Administration over changes to Clean Car Standards.

After a pause due to COVID-19, the state has resumed enforcement of beverage container redemption requirements – a win for recycling.

Healthy forests are critical for public health, and the state has released updates to its Forest Action Plan to ensure the health of Massachusetts trees and forests into the future. We provided input on the updates.

Massachusetts could be on the way to removing natural gas from our energy portfolio. The state will investigate the future of the industry as we transition toward renewables.

Each year, Massachusetts celebrates its Commonwealth Heroines, women making outstanding contributions to their communities. This year’s class includes Deb Cary, Mass Audubon’s Director of Central Sanctuaries.

Climate Central

→ Hurricane season is here, and NOAA predicts an above-normal year
→ Racism derails our efforts to save the planet
→ The best protections from natural disasters could come from nature itself
→ Northeast states hit snag on offshore wind – we weigh in
→ To save the climate, look to the oceans
→ A large, bipartisan majority of Americans support bolder action on climate

Update from the State House

As we all adjust to our new normal over these past few weeks during the COVID-19 crisis, activity at the State House has redirected, but hasn’t stopped. Here’s a quick recap on what’s been happening.

COVID-19 Relief Legislation

The Massachusetts state legislature has introduced 26 different bills (and counting) to address the current pandemic. These proposals range from creating a COVID-19 Quarantine Assistance Fund that to assist residents who are unable to earn wages due to infection or quarantine, to directing the department of revenue to send a $1,000 check to households who meet certain income criteria.

So far, the only bill that has been signed into law is S.2599, Governor Baker’s bill that waives the one week waiting period for those qualifying for unemployment.

At the federal level, congress is also working on several proposed bills to address the pandemic. One has passed so far: The Families First Coronavirus Response Act (H.R. 6201) was signed into law by President Trump last week. Its components include:

  • Providing free COVID-19 testing to the public, with no copays or deductibles.
  • Requiring employers with 500 or fewer employees to provide two weeks paid sick leave to employees unable to work due to quarantine or for the care of someone with COVID-19 (and provide related tax credits to the employer)
  • Providing $1 billion in state grants to assist in unemployment claims
  • Increasing funding for SNAP and WIC nutrition benefit programs.

State Budget

It is expected that the Massachusetts state budget will be delayed, and that once it does go through, there will be reduced spending across all sectors. We’ll still continue to push for our Green Budget priorities, since state environmental office and programs continue to need all the support they can get.

Old Growth Forest Protections

We were pleasantly surprised to see our priority legislation improving protections for old growth forests was reported favorably out of committee last week. Now it awaits approval by the Senate Committee on Ways and Means before it can head to the House and Senate floor for votes.

New Climate Legislation Passes the State Senate

Last week, the Massachusetts state Senate approved legislation to move us forward on climate action. An Act setting next-generation climate policy (S.2477) calls for net-zero carbon emissions by 2050 – a more ambitious goal than the current state target.

This newly introduced, fast-moving bill is a top Mass Audubon legislative priority, and would advance our organization’s Climate Action Plan. It was among three climate-related bills to pass, the other two of which address energy efficiency and electric and net-zero vehicle programs.

Participants in the Youth Climate Strike calling for action at the State House this past September

Currently, thanks to the Global Warming Solutions Act passed in 2008, Massachusetts is required to reduce its emissions to 80% below 1990 levels by 2050, with an interim goal of 25% below 1990 levels by 2020.

The new Next Generation bill ramps up those goals to achieve net-zero emissions for our state by 2050. It would set interim targets every five years, and would require a market-based, carbon-pricing mechanism for the transportation, commercial building, and residential sectors.

Mass Audubon, with our partners at The Nature Conservancy and The Trustees, helped ensure an amendment was included to recognize the importance of carbon sequestration by natural and working lands towards meeting emissions reductions goals. If the bill passes, this would mark the first time in Massachusetts this type of recognition would be given in emissions regulations.

The bills will now move on to the House, where we will work to amend it further to include industrial scale offshore wind – an important clean energy component for achieving emissions targets. Stay tuned for opportunities to help these Next Generation policies succeed!

Help Massachusetts Reach Net Zero

Massachusetts has made great strides in the fight against climate change, but we need to move even faster to avoid its worst impacts.

That’s why Mass Audubon supports H.3983, An Act to Create a 2050 Roadmap to a Clean and Thriving Commonwealth. This state legislation would update our emissions reduction targets, and requires the state to create a plan to reach net-zero by 2050, along with interim targets to keep us on track.

We’re working with our friends at the Environmental League of Massachusetts to get this bill reported out by the Committee on Ways and Means before the legislature goes on its November break, and you can help. You can use their call form, or you can contact your Representative yourself – just ask them to urge the Committee Chair to report the bill out favorably .

Massachusetts must continue to lead on climate action, and this bill, which complements our other priority climate legislation, will help make sure we do just that.

Help Protect Pollinators

Our priority bill to protect pollinator habitat in Massachusetts is up for a State House hearing this week!

Monarch butterfly (photo credit: USFWS)

Pollinators like bees, butterflies, and bats are in trouble. Factors like habitat loss, pesticide use, invasive species, disease, and climate change are all to blame, and their impacts on pollinators also present a larger threat to biodiversity and food supply.

An Act to Protect Pollinators would establish a commission to investigate solutions that better protect and promote pollinators’ health. The bill would require the commission to include individuals with expertise in the protection of pollinators, wildlife protection and expertise in native plants.

You can help this bill pass!

If your state legislator is on the Environment, Natural Resources and Agriculture Committee, ask them to quickly and favorably pass S.497/H.818 out of committee. Even if your legislator isn’t on the committee, you can ask them to urge the committee to support the bill.

Let them know that this legislation would set Massachusetts on the right path to a sustainable future for the pollinator species on which we rely for so much, from crops to ecosystem health.

Interested in other ways to help pollinators? Here are some ideas.

A Cleaner Future for Massachusetts

Last week at the State House, we testified on our priority legislation: An Act to secure a clean energy future (S.2005/H.2802). This bill would set Massachusetts on a clear path forward for mitigating the impacts of climate change.

The climate of Massachusetts is already changing – and with it our natural lands, waters, and wildlife. These changes are affecting our health, the nature we love, and the natural resources on which we depend.

We still have time to correct our course and align the Commonwealth’s climate strategy with the best scientific data available, but we have to act quickly. S.2005/H.2802 will do this by ensuring the policies we put in place lower our greenhouse gas emissions while creating a flourishing clean energy economy.

Some of these goals include:

  • Setting deadlines for market-based compliance, like carbon pricing, by 2022
  • Increasing the number of state-owned electric vehicles
  • Incentivizing electric vehicle purchases for residents
  • Increasing access to solar panels
  • Setting minimum standards for energy storage on our grid network
  • Increasing offshore wind
  • Improving access to clean energy programs for environmental justice populations

You can help this bill pass! If your state legislator is on the Telecommunications, Utilities and Energy Committee, ask them to quickly and favorably pass S.2005/H.2802 out of committee. Even if your legislator isn’t on the committee, you can ask them to urge the committee to support the bill.

Let them know that this legislation would set Massachusetts on the right path to reducing the impacts of climate change while we still can by expanding our reliance on, and access to, clean energy.

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