Flash flooding due to heavy rainfall. Heat waves that hurt older adults. An increase in Lyme disease.
These are some of the dangers of climate change that Massachusetts Energy and Environmental Secretary Katie Theoharides discusses as she touts Gov. Charlie Baker’s administration’s efforts to help fight climate change. Theoharides, who replaced former Energy Secretary Matt Beaton at the end of May, met with editors and reporters of The Republican/MassLive.com on Thursday.
A centerpiece of Baker’s effort is the Municipal Vulnerability Preparedness program, which gives grants to cities and towns to plan for the impacts of climate change.
Springfield in 2017 developed an extensive plan that includes a range of recommendations to address energy and climate issues, from adding more bike lanes to developing community solar power to planting trees. (read more)
The massive offshore wind farm that would usher Massachusetts into a new clean-energy era sure has hit rough water.
No one said starting a new industry is easy. But wind-energy supporters are getting nervous about the unexpected events this week involving permits for Vineyard Wind’s 84-tower wind farm to be built south of Martha’s Vineyard.
The project, jointly owned by Avangrid and Copenhagen Infrastructure Partners, had seemed to be gathering permits the way a kid gathers shells on the beach. One after another, the developer added them to the bucket.
Then the snag: The Edgartown Conservation Commission on Wednesday denied an underwater cable route off the town’s coastline, citing the potential disturbance to marine habitats and other conflicts. (Local fishermen weren’t happy, either.) On Friday, Vineyard Wind vowed to get a “superseding order” from the state Department of Environmental Protection — a more sympathetic venue — that would overturn the commission vote. (read more)
LOWELL —The proportion of green energy used by the average Lowell resident is poised to increase this October.
City Council voted unanimously on Tuesday to support a Community Choice Aggregation agreement that increases the portion of green energy purchased through the program by 45 percent.
This is in addition to the state required 14 percent, meaning if all goes well, come October, 59 percent of energy bulk purchased by the city will be renewable.
Energy Manager Katherine Moses said the agreement needs to be brokered then finalized by City Manager Eileen Donoghue before taking effect.
According to Moses, at the current market rate, the agreement would equal a $6 per month cost savings for the average Lowell resident, someone who uses just over 500 kilowatt hours per month.
"The market right now has the opportunity to really increase our renewable content while also helping to save for our residents and business," Moses said. (read more)
Massachusetts mayor says access to cheap gas not worth the cost to climate (Energy News Network 7/9/19)
The debate in Holyoke, Massachusetts, is not unique in the Northeast, where pipeline constraints are forcing decisions.
A Massachusetts mayor is siding with safety and environmental groups in a pipeline debate that’s pitting climate fears against local economic concerns.
Holyoke, Massachusetts’ municipal utility has halted new natural gas hookups because it can’t meet growing demand under existing pipeline constraints. One possible solution: build more capacity. Holyoke Gas & Electric is supporting a proposed project to add 2.1 miles of 12-inch pipeline through several towns in the region.
The city’s mayor, though, says that expansion should not be built. In mid-June, Mayor Alex Morse wrote to federal regulators asking them to deny the project because it would increase emissions and run counter to the city’s goal of meeting its energy needs with clean and renewable resources. (read more)
The Walsh administration will lay out an ambitious effort to recycle or compost 80 percent of the city’s trash within about 15 years, including a paid subscription pilot program to pick up food waste and surplus textiles at the curbside that could start as soon as this fall.
The plans, to be announced Wednesday, would also expand the collection of yard waste and create a drop-off site on American Legion Highway, while encouraging residents to cut their consumption of products such as single-use plastics.
Called Zero Waste Boston, the plan spells out 30 recommendations to help convert about 638,000 tons of the city’s annual output of about 1.2 million tons of waste to compost, or to recycle it.
The ultimate goal, officials say, is to increase the amount of landfill-bound waste that is recycled or composted to 80 percent by 2035 and to 90 percent by 2050 — up from 25 percent currently.
Weymouth resident Chet Austin said the area along the Fore River Basin where a natural gas compressor station is being proposed has considerable pollution.
“My family grew up in Wessagusset,” he said during a crowded meeting with Congressman Stephen F. Lynch and officials from the Pipeline Hazardous Safety Administration in Weymouth on June 17. “If you want to see the pollution it is still there. Wait for the tide to go out and walk the beach. When the tide goes out, it is covered with coal, and it has not been cleaned up. There was a major oil spill in the ’70s which destroyed the spawning ground for flounder. Why would you want to put something like this on that polluted land? Just walk the beach, and it will blow your mind.”
Spectra Enbridge Energy received a conditional certificate from the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission in January 2017 to construct the 7,700 horsepower station. (read more)
WORCESTER - Residents and advocates filed into City Hall Monday demanding that public utility Eversource fix five natural gas leaks near five schools in the city, citing health concerns surrounding asthma.
Councilors on the Standing Committee on Public Health and Human Services filed an order asking the full council to require Eversource to fix the leaks and kept the matter on the agenda for future meetings. Massachusetts law dictates that gas companies prioritize repairing leaks within a school zone, or within 50 feet of a public or private school, preschool or Head Start.
District 4 Councilor Sarai Rivera expressed confidence that the city can work with Eversource to fix the “public health crisis.” Ms. Rivera said next steps include reaching out to the gas company and including the effects of gas leaks on the public in future community health improvement plans. (read more)
Advocates, legislators and local officials are calling on Gov. Charlie Baker to put an end to a controversial Weymouth gas facility as his Department of Environmental Protection comes under scrutiny for withholding important air quality data.
“It’s disappointing to see agencies that are in place to protect us like the DEP aren’t doing their job,” Alan Palm of 350 Massachusetts said. “Ultimately, the buck stops with the governor … He has been willing to publicly say it’s out of his hands, it’s a federal issue, but it’s not. It’s his agencies approving this and his willingness to ignore the opportunity … he has to step in and stop it.”
DEP officials seemed confused in a continued air-quality permit appeal hearing Monday, not directly answering why they withheld over 700 pages of data last month that showed certain toxins above the limits in an already highly polluted area. The decision deadline was extended to July 12. (read more)
BOSTON - State Department of Environmental Protection officials acknowledged under oath Monday that they were prompted to revisit key air-quality tests nine months after receiving the results because of a freelance journalist’s reporting that highlighted inconsistencies in the data tied to a proposed Weymouth natural gas compressor station.
The department’s decision to ask for updated test results in May and a subsequent weeks-long wait to disclose that information upended an appeals hearing on an air-quality permit issued for the compressor station and led hearing officer Jane Rothchild to threaten consequences and extend the hearing.
The process resumed Monday, but the proceedings did not bring a decision in the case. Rothchild now wants to extend the final deadline for a decision by two weeks given the matter’s “voluminous” nature. However, Rothchild said the hearing did reveal a “somewhat unfortunate process” within the department itself and one that cast the department in a “not so favorable light” on a day when protesters slammed the department’s work. (read more)
Wheelabrator Millbury is cited as a top polluter, example of ‘environmental apartheid’ (Worcester Telegram 6/9/19)
MILLBURY — A new report criticizing the economics and health effects of municipal waste incinerators ranks Wheelabrator Millbury as one of the dirtiest such facilities in the country for two pollutants that contribute to respiratory problems.
“The incinerator industry is in trouble,” concludes the report, “U.S. Municipal Solid Waste Incinerators: An Industry in Decline,” from the Global Alliance for Incinerator Alternatives and the Tishman Environment and Design Center at The New School. “These aging facilities are too expensive to maintain, too risky to finance, and too costly to upgrade ... These facilities can create financial burdens while generating health-harming air pollution for local communities. Finally, these plants represent an environmental injustice because they burden communities of color and low-income communities where they are located. (read more)
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