Governor’s environmental bill focuses on climate adaptation

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On March 15, Gov. Charlie Baker filed a $1.4 billion multi-year environmental bond bill that includes $300 million in authorizations for infrastructure improvements to adapt to and mitigate the effects of climate change.
 
The bill includes $170 million for infrastructure such as seawalls and nature-based climate resilience solutions, and $130 million for new initiatives such as the integrated state hazard and climate adaptation plan and the Municipal Vulnerability Preparedness program.
 
The bill also includes funding for the Executive Office of Public Safety and Security’s development of emergency response and natural hazard preparedness programs, climate science and data, grants for public entities for electric vehicles and charging stations, implementation of the state’s Global Warming Solutions Act, and a climate change workforce skills grant program.
 
The bill would provide $270 million for environmental protection, including grants to help communities comply with the MS4 stormwater permit, $60 million for the Clean Water Trust, and $50 million for the Complete Streets program.
 
The legislation includes a revolving fund to assist communities in implementing transfer-of-development-rights zoning and an authorization and framework for municipalities to engage in public-private partnerships.
 
The bill would codify key principles in the governor’s Executive Order 569, “Establishing an Integrated Climate Change Strategy for the Commonwealth,” issued in 2016.
 
The filing of the governor’s bill follows winter storms that caused severe flooding, widespread power outages, and infrastructure damage in many communities, particularly in coastal areas. The legislation is intended to build on the administration’s efforts to increase resiliency in municipalities. About 70 communities are already participating in the state’s Municipal Vulnerability Preparedness program, which helps communities assess their vulnerabilities to climate change.
 
Meanwhile, the Senate is taking up its own clean energy bill, which would also address climate adaptation. The legislation would create more ambitious requirements for reducing greenhouse gas emissions by allowing the Massachusetts Department of Environmental Protection to promulgate regulations that exceed standards set by the Paris Climate Agreement. The Senate bill also would expand the definitions in the state’s Global Warming Solutions Act to more directly deal with emissions from all sectors.
 
The Senate bill would set new goals for solar energy, expand opportunities for wind and hydropower and energy storage, and increase the renewable portfolio standard. The bill would lift the net-metering cap in order to promote solar projects and establish a comprehensive climate change adaptation management plan.
 
The Senate bill contains provisions that would impose standards on municipalities for the reduction of municipal solid waste, requiring the MassDEP to establish standards to reduce solid waste to not more than 600 pounds per capita per year by July 1, 2020, and to not more than 450 pounds per capita by July 1, 2024.
 
The MMA submitted testimony to the Senate Committee on Ways and Means on several sections of the wide-ranging bill.