Eyes on the Environmental Bond Bill

Several dozen climate activists showed up for a Massachusetts Senate hearing on a major bill that affects our climate goals, protection of coastal areas, fishing rights, support for agriculture, and resilience in many areas, plus special-interest perks for such pressing concerns as sports licenses and frozen lobster. This Environmental Bond Bill, a regular expenditure proposed by the governor, is so broad that an official's "brief overview" took 45 minutes. Members of the public had to jostle for space with Senators, staff, agency heads, and local officials.

The climate teams were there to call for more measures that would help Massachusetts meet its energy reduction goals, such as ramping up energy storage, offering consumers lower rates for off-peak energy use, and our constant bugaboo--fixing methane leaks in pipelines.

But our focus was a sinister little clause in the bill that appears to allow the government to claim it is meeting clean energy goals by using more natural gas. The official introducing the bill addressed our concern, showing that the administration is on the defensive, but claimed the clause didn't say what we thought it did, and called our critiques "silly" and "laughable." Several Senators took up the matter, though, and promised to clarify the bill so that natural gas could not be considered clean.

I stayed for the next hour of this all-day hearing, taking in a mix of far-thinking questions and bureaucratic minutiae. It was gratifying that so many people are scrutinizing our policies toward irreplaceable resources. It was also good to hear Senators and other officials affirm that the storms and flooding that the Northeast has experienced recently are the start of a new normal, and that we must take the lead on both mitigating and adapting to climate change.

Andy Oram