Tag Archives: state funding

The Beacon Hill Weekly Roundup – July 29, 2019

Greenworks Bill Passes House

Speaker DeLeo’s “Greenworks” bill, which would develop a state grant program for resiliency and clean energy projects, passed in the House last week. Members of our Massachusetts Climate Change Adaptation Coalition helped improve the bill to include more nature-based solutions and environmental justice criteria, among others.

Climate Central

→ CNN will hold a Democratic presidential town hall focused on the climate crisis
→ Boston is America’s top-rated city for clean energy!
→ Many species aren’t adapting fast enough to withstand climate change
→ Automakers struck a deal with California on improved efficiency standards, despite a federal push to roll them back.

Greening Transportation Workshops

State agencies will hold more community workshops in August to gather input for a regional, low-carbon transportation plan. Part of the multi-state Transportation and Climate Initiative, these workshops will focus on how to reduce emissions and make our transportation systems more resilient and equitable.

Taking Action on Chemical Contamination

We signed on to testimony in support of bills that would establish an interagency task force on the group of chemicals known as PFAS. PFAS chemicals threaten both public and ecosystem health through groundwater contamination, and the state needs a plan to improve their management.

Upholding Hydropower Regulations

Mass Audubon was also among 70 groups opposing a state proposal to change the way hydropower generators are certified as river-friendly facilities. The change would allow a qualified project to retain that status regardless of environmental changes or needed updates, which could negatively impact river systems.

Help Pass a Strong State Budget

The Massachusetts state legislature released their final FY20 state budget over the weekend following conference committee deliberations, and there’s good news for many of Mass Audubon’s priority programs, including our Blue Hills Trailside Museum:

Trailside director Norman Smith preparing to release a snowy owl
  • Trailside received $500,000, the amount we requested and a $200,000 increase compared to FY19
  • A long-awaited deeds fee increase that would restore needed Community Preservation Act funding was upheld, and an additional $20 million was directed to the CPA Trust Fund
  • Our recommended funding levels were met or exceeded for several Green Budget line items and the Mass Cultural Council (see table below)
  • The conference committee also included $2.19 million for state climate change adaptation programs

Now the budget is on its way to Governor Baker’s desk for final approval. He can still veto line item funding, so help make sure he knows Massachusetts residents value these programs! You can email his office and encourage him to pass a budget that upholds funding levels for these programs.

Mass Audubon will be submitting our own request to the Governor as well.

The Beacon Hill Weekly Roundup – June 24, 2019

Rally Support for Community Climate Funding

Last week was a big one for the future of climate change planning in Massachusetts—bills filed by Governor Baker and by Speaker DeLeo to fund community preparedness had their hearings. More about the bills, our input, & how you can help >

MVP Making Strides

Massachusetts has awarded $12 million in 2019 grants through the Municipal Vulnerability Preparedness (MVP) Program, which helps cities and towns become more resilient to climate change through planning and projects. Mass Audubon is a certified MVP provider.

Climate Central

→ May was the second-wettest month on record in the US.

→ Climate change preparation will cost Massachusetts $18 billion.

Join Our Team

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.

Help Rally Support for Community Climate Funding

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.

Nature based solutions, like protecting floodplains and forests, are prioritized through MVP.

Governor Baker’s bill, An Act Providing for Climate Change Adaptation Infrastructure Investments in the Commonwealth (S.10), would:

  • 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

Speaker DeLeo’s “Greenworks” bill (H.3846) would:

  • 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
Flooding following a storm this past winter. Photo credit: FEMA

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.

You can help too!  

If your state representative or senator is a member of the Joint Committee on Revenue, contact them and urge them to report S.10 favorably out of committee, so it can continue its path toward being signed into law.

If 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 committee.

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.

The Beacon Hill Weekly Roundup – May 20, 2019

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!

Trailside’s work includes the Snowy Owl Project. Photo credit: USFWS

Climate Central

A curated selection of climate news from Mass Audubon’s climate change program manager

  • 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
State Representative Joan Meschino was a speaker at the South Shore Climate Change Symposium

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.

Drumlin Farm produce

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.

Photo credit: NOAA

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.

Coastal properties like these are vulnerable to sea level rise and storm damage. Photo credit: John Phelan

Support Trailside in the State Budget

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.

Trailside director Norman Smith preparing to release a snowy owl

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!

Preparing Our Communities for Climate Change

by Mike Cusher

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.

The nor’easter of March 2018 caused significant coastal flooding and hurricane-force winds in Massachusetts. Photo credit: NOAAA

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.

Conserving wetlands, which naturally absorb floodwaters, is one way to strengthen community resilience against climate change impacts. Photo credit: USFWS

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

Climate Adaptation Legislation Passed!

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.

Action You Can Take This Week: Support Adaptation Funding in the Environmental Bond

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.

Help Climate Change Funding Move Forward

Updated 5/17/18

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.