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.
You can help by contacting your state representative and asking them to vote yes on H.4438.
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.