Our Shaping the Future of Your Community program is hiring! We’re looking for a Southeast Regional Coordinator to help promote smart development and protect natural resources in the Taunton River Watershed and South Coast.
Last week was a big one for the future of climate change planning, when bills filed by Governor Baker and by Speaker DeLeo to fund community preparedness had their hearings at the State House.
The success of the state Municipal Vulnerability Preparedness (MVP) program has made clear that Massachusetts cities and towns are eager to be proactive about planning for climate change impacts. Planning for these impacts also reduces the long-term costs of climate-related risks and protects property values. With 71% of Massachusetts municipalities enrolled in the program’s first three years, additional funding is now needed to help meet demand for planning and action grants.
Baker’s bill, An Act Providing for Climate
Change Adaptation Infrastructure Investments in the Commonwealth (S.10),
Establish a new, sustainable source of revenue for cities and towns to fund resilient infrastructure and nature-based solutions to climate impacts
Build upon the MVP program to meet its increased demand
Increase the state’s deeds excise from $2.28 to $3.42 for every $500 of a property sale. This would allow approximately $137 million annually to be invested in climate change adaptation and resiliency projects throughout Massachusetts to protect public health, safety, and property
Deposit funds into a Global Warming Solutions Trust fund to provide loans, grants, and technical assistance to cities and towns for their priority adaptation projects
Allow funds to be spent across fiscal years, lending flexibility to support larger, more complex projects
Establish a GreenWorks resiliency program for Massachusetts cities and towns, which would include grants for public infrastructure improvements, renewable energy production and storage, and MVP-related adaptation projects
Develop a matching grant program to support and provide technical assistance for cities and towns to develop municipal microgrid clean energy systems
Develop a grant programs to encourage electrification of vehicle fleets owned by municipalities or regional transit authorities
Establish a grant program to allow municipalities to hire sustainability coordinators
Establish a Green Resiliency Fund to provide loans to municipalities for resiliency improvements and investments
Provide this funding, which would total about $1.3 billion, through the sale of specially-designated bonds
Mass Audubon submitted testimony in support of each bill, both independently and with partners like our Climate Change Adaptation Coalition and the Massachusetts Rivers Alliance. You can also read testimony on S.10 from Governor Baker and EEA Secretary Theoharides.
they are a member of the Joint Committee
on Telecommunications, Utilities and Energy, contact them and urge them to
report H.3846 favorably out of
Even if your legislator isn’t on either Committee, you can ask them to contact Committee members in favor of these bills. Let them know that as the impacts of climate change continue to become more severe, it’s crucial that Massachusetts cities and towns are as prepared as possible. These bills would help make sure that happens by setting aside steady income streams to fund community resiliency projects.
Action You Can Take This Week: Support a Strong State Budget
The Massachusetts Senate begins debate on their version of the state budget tomorrow, and you can help make sure they strengthen funding for the Community Preservation Trust Fund and Mass Audubon’s Trailside Museum. Ask your Senator today to support amendments for CPA and for Trailside!
A curated selection of climate news from Mass Audubon’s climate change
This May, hundreds of valedictorians across the US will deliver the same commencement message on the need for climate action.
Boston makes the “A” list for cities leading the world on climate action!
The South Shore Climate Change Symposium, co-hosted by Mass Audubon’s North River Wildlife Sanctuary, was a successful day of idea sharing
Choosing Renewable Power for Boston
Incorporating renewable energy into local power choice programs helps communities take emission reductions into their own hands. We submitted comments on the City of Boston’s draft Community Choice Power Aggregation plan, urging them to adopt the strongest renewable component possible.
Speaking Up for Healthy Soils
We also submitted testimony with partners in support of legislation to promote healthy soils statewide. Soils are essential for life on earth, and policy makers have an important role to play in planning for their long-term health.
The Plastic Problem
Mass Audubon weighed in on this recent Cape Cod Times article on our plastic pollution problem – a global issue that includes significant impacts along Massachusetts coasts.
Next Steps Needed on Adaptation
We joined partners in supporting state legislation that would provide a needed framework – consistent, predictable policies and regulations – to support the progress Massachusetts has made so far on adaptation planning.
As the FY20 state budget continues
its progress through the State House, we’re at a crucial point for Mass
Audubon’s Blue Hills Trailside Museum funding.
Trailside is the interpretive center
for the state-owned Blue Hills Reservation and features a natural
history museum and outdoor exhibits of rescued wildlife. Mass Audubon operates
the museum in partnership with the Massachusetts Department of Conservation and
Recreation, which means we receive a crucial component of Trailside’s funding
through the state budget each fiscal year. Trailside welcomes more than 100,000
visitors a year and is home to the Snowy Owl Project.
Although the Governor’s original
FY20 budget did not include funding for Trailside, Senator Walter Timilty has
filed an amendment requesting $1 million for the site. The Senate begins debate
of their version of the FY20 budget on May 21.
Over the past few years, Trailside
has faced a continuing revenue shortfall and received only a fraction of the
state funding needed to sustain its operation and public programs. Senator
Timilty’s amendment is a chance to reclaim that much-needed funding.
You can help! Please contact your state Senator and ask
them to cosponsor Senator Timilty’s Amendment #908 for Trailside, and to
support the amendment when it comes up for debate next week. A quick call
or email can make a big difference. Thank you for your advocacy!
In 2018, the United States dealt with 14 different billion-dollar weather disasters. The four highest annual occurrences of billion-dollar weather disasters have all been within the past decade, and last year’s events had a total economic impact of $91 billion. This number includes both the direct costs of destruction as well as indirect costs like lost wages during and after the disaster, both of which pale in comparison to the increased health risks and tragic loss of life due to these storms.
Massachusetts was impacted by two of these devastating
weather disasters last year during nor’easters that hit in January and in March.
With these events, we are seeing the destruction of our 1,500 miles of
coastline and major flooding of our inland rivers. The Commonwealth is in
desperate need of increased revenue to ensure our most vulnerable communities
are ready for more such impacts in the coming years. We know that being
proactive in response to these weather events will cost less, and reduce
damage, compared with reacting to disasters after they have occurred.
A big part of the solution comes from the state Municipal
Vulnerability Preparedness (MVP) program, which enhances climate
adaptation practices at the local level. The program provides support for
communities across Massachusetts to consider their local strengths and
vulnerabilities to climate change, and to prioritize actions they can take to
create a safer and more resilient future. Mass Audubon is a certified MVP
provider, and assists communities with this work.
But in addition to these local planning efforts, Massachusetts
also needs more funding for state and local agencies to prioritize resilience.
This occurs through actions like retrofitting vulnerable flood controls,
transportation infrastructure, and water resources, and by implementing
regional climate-smart land and coastal protection frameworks.
Earlier this year, Governor Baker introduced legislation to address this need. An Act providing for climate change adaptation infrastructure investments in the Commonwealth (S.10) would create a new stream of funding to help our communities prepare for the future. The Governor’s proposal would raise $137 million annually, through a real estate tax increase, to go into the Global Warming Solutions Trust Fund. This funding would then be reinvested into our cities and towns, both through the MVP program and as other assistance for the state and local communities to protect vulnerable assets.
This legislation is a way to leverage a small increase in the deeds excise tax, paid during real estate transfers, into a major investment in the future of our Commonwealth. S.10 is a promising next step in our ongoing process to deal with the greatest threat our world has ever faced.
Mike Cusher is Mass Audubon’s legislative director
We are proud to report that our climate change adaptation legislation, our top legislative priority for the past four years, has passed as part of major environmental legislation (see below). This bill makes law a requirement for Massachusetts to adopt a statewide plan to address the impacts of climate change, and also codifies a grant and technical assistance program for cities and towns to develop their own plans. The bill also leaves the door open for future development of a voluntary coastal buyback program, which would help willing homeowners relocate away from hazardous coastal zones. It will be the first plan of its kind in the country to be codified into law.
Protecting wetlands that act as natural flood absorbers is one adaptation strategy
Along with our 52-member Climate Change Adaptation Coalition, we thank the bill’s sponsors Senator Marc Pacheco (D-Taunton) and Representative Frank Smizik (D-Brookline) for their tireless dedication in getting this bill over the finish line.
Details on the Environmental Bond
The environmental bond that includes our adaptation bill is now on the way to Governor Baker’s desk for his signature. The bond bill passed today was a compromise between the versions passed separately in the House and Senate. It authorizes $2.4 billion funding for conservation grant programs, climate resiliency, and coastal infrastructure, with special consideration given to projects utilizing nature-based solutions. In addition to our climate adaptation bill, the bond included a number of other policy provisions we support including the Mohawk Trail Woodlands Partnership, a grassroots initiative to stimulate conservation, sustainable forestry, and eco-tourism in the Berkshire region.
Our Commonwealth Conservation Council, a coalition of statewide organizations which Mass Audubon chairs, advocated for a strong bond bill. While we consider the final legislation to be a success, we were disappointed that several components from Senate version were not included in the final bill. These included a provision to ensure consistency between the statewide adaptation plan and other state policies, a statewide plastic bag ban, and codification of the state’s “no net loss” policy for permanently-protected conservation land.
The Governor’s environmental bond bill (H.4438) is expected to go to the House floor for a vote this week. This bond includes several components of our priority climate change adaptation bill, and if signed into law, its passage will be an important step toward implementing goals we’ve been advocating for over the past six years.
The Governors’ Climate Change Bond, which includes many of Mass Audubon’s priority adaptation goals, had its public hearing Tuesday before the House Committee on Bonding, Capital Expenditures and State Assets. The bill (H.4438) is an important step forward for boosting funding for climate change preparedness, bringing the state’s bond authorization for that purpose to $300 million. Our Massachusetts Climate Change Adaptation Coalition is also still urging the legislature to add in a “consistency provision,” which would ensure the Commonwealth’s climate change plan does not sit on a shelf when completed but instead is implemented and complied with by state agencies.
You can help by calling the Committee at (617) 722-2017 and asking them to report H.4438 out favorably. Please also also ask them to support our Coalition’s “consistency provision” amendment. Our Coalition, which is co-chaired by Mass Audubon, has already provided testimony to the Committee. Read it here for more information on the additions we hope to see made.
Mass Audubon staff joined Governor Charlie Baker, state officials, and nonprofit partners on the windy shores of Scituate last week where the Governor announced the filing of a 5-year, $1.4 billion capital spending bond. The good news for us: the proposed bond includes several aspects of our priority climate change adaptation bill.
As proposed, the bond would codify into law requirements for vulnerability assessments based on future climate change impacts, positions for science and state agency climate coordinators, and the statewide Integrated Hazard Mitigation and Climate Change Adaptation Plan. It also requires ongoing support and an increase in funding for the state Municipal Vulnerability Preparedness Program, through which several Mass Audubon staff have been certified as trainers. Boosts in funding are also proposed for existing programs like the state’s Clean Water Trust Fund, state parks, and forest land protection programs.
Mass Audubon advocacy director Jack Clarke, Governor Charlie Baker, and Mass Audubon president Gary Clayton at the bond announcement in Scituate
The bond does not include every component of our adaptation bill. For instance, we would like to see its voluntary coastal buyback provision included, which would authorize the state to purchase storm-damaged properties along the shore. But it’s still a huge step toward implementing goals we’ve been advocating for over the past five years. Our job now is to work with the legislature to further strengthen and improve the bond, and get it back on Governor Baker’s desk soon for his signature.
With support from Governor Baker and Executive Office of Energy & Environmental Affairs Secretary Matt Beaton, we hope we have the momentum we need this time to get climate adaptation measures signed into law.
Learn more about the bond’s funding breakdown and see what Mass Audubon advocacy director Jack Clarke had to say in this WBUR piece on the announcement, and in this Salem News article.
And you can read the language of the bond itself here.
When Massachusetts cities and towns vote to adopt the Community Preservation Act (CPA), they become eligible for state matching grants that help fund CPA projects. 172 cities and towns – nearly half of all the cities and towns in Massachusetts – have adopted CPA and collectively raised $1.75 billion dollars for community preservation. Over 9,000 CPA projects have been completed to date, including the protection of 26,000 acres of open space and preservation of 4,400 historic resources.
The Department of Revenue released its annual budget memo to municipalities last week, and it includes an estimate of a 15% funding match (based on what communities levy through surcharges on property taxes) for the first round of FY2018 CPA Trust Fund distribution. Cities and towns that adopted a surcharge of 3% will receive additional funding in rounds two and three.
Unfortunately, this 15% estimate does not include Boston Springfield, Holyoke, Pittsfield and all other cities and towns that recently adopted CPA, as they won’t receive their first match until the fall of 2018. So, unless the legislature acts to support the CPA Trust Fund, the match will take another big drop next year. Mass Audubon continues to advocate in support of An Act to Sustain Community Preservation Revenue, which would adjust the recording fees at the Registries of Deeds to provide a higher match to all 172 CPA communities.
Center Hill Preserve, a 78-acre property in Plymouth, was Massachusetts’ top preservation priority in 2006 when it came on the market. CPA funds helped protect it.