MMA letter to Joint Committee on Environment supports legislation promoting climate change adaptation

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The Hon. Anne Gobi, Senate Chair
The Hon. William Smitty Pignatelli, House Chair
Joint Committee on Environment, Natural Resources and Agriculture
State House, Boston
 
Dear Senator Gobi, Representative Pignatelli, and Distinguished Committee Members,
 
On behalf of the cities and towns of the Commonwealth, the Massachusetts Municipal Association is writing in support of H. 4318, An Act Promoting Climate Change Adaptation, Environmental and Natural Resource Protection, and Investment in Recreational Assets and Opportunity. Climate change is threatening our communities, and many provisions in this environmental bond bill would build on the Administration’s work to increase resilience in our cities and towns and our Commonwealth. Municipalities are on the front lines of environmental protection and the fight against climate change, and municipal leaders take this responsibility seriously. Local officials are committed to upgrading infrastructure in order to adapt to the changing environment and are prioritizing the use of clean energy to combat climate change.
 
Local officials are increasingly engaged on the issue of climate change and thinking about its impacts as they make decisions in their communities. In 2016, Governor Baker signed Executive Order 569, which mapped out the state’s plan to reduce greenhouse gas emissions, improve resiliency, and protect against the impacts of climate change. Since the signing of the order, local officials have attended summits on state and local collaboration on climate change, considered how to reduce emissions from the transportation sector and participated in the Municipal Vulnerability Preparedness program, which provides grants for cities and towns to participate in a process to identify local hazards and vulnerabilities and develop strategies to become more resilient. As we continue to combat the impact of climate change and build more resilient infrastructure, state and local officials will need to work collaboratively to give communities the tools that they need, including technical assistance and funding opportunities.
 
The legislation before your committee provides over $1.4 billion in capital investments, including $300 million for infrastructure and climate adaptation and mitigation. The bill includes $50 million in funding for the Municipal Vulnerability Preparedness grant program to support and provide technical assistance for communities to complete climate vulnerability assessments, develop resiliency plans and implement adaptation solutions. The bill puts into statute the establishment of a framework to enable municipalities to complete vulnerability assessments that can be incorporated into the state’s climate plan. The bill also includes appropriations for the improvement and repair of infrastructure such as seawalls, jetties and retaining walls and the construction or removal of municipally-owned dams.
 
At the state level, the bill includes funding for the implementation of the integrated hazard mitigation and climate adaptation plan and for the development of climate science and data. The legislation would put into statute the requirement for state agencies to coordinate efforts to strengthen the resilience of our communities by publishing a climate action plan every five years.
 
H. 4318 also includes funding for the Massachusetts Electric Vehicle Incentive Program. Municipalities have a strong interest in electric and zero emission vehicles, and the MMA supports provisions that would help to create charging infrastructure and encourage electric vehicle usage in communities.
 
Municipal officials are also passionate about environmental protection and maintaining open space in their communities, and this legislation includes funding for the maintenance of parks and trails, and funding for grant programs for land, soil, water and natural resource conservation and open space preservation. The MMA supports funding for the Massachusetts Department of Environmental Protection which would allow for investment in air and water quality. The MMA supports the expansion of funding for MassDEP to provide grants to assist municipalities with compliance with the MS4 stormwater permit and new permit requirements under the Water Management Act.
 
H. 4318 includes $60 million for the Clean Water Trust for the state match to the federal capitalization grants for the State Revolving Loan Fund program. Cities and towns continue to face major water infrastructure funding problems, as documented by the state Water Infrastructure Finance Commission and by a recent report by State Auditor Suzanne Bump. Both reports determine that our state’s municipalities are facing a needs gap of billions of dollars in order to adequately maintain drinking water, wastewater and stormwater systems. The MMA supports increased funding for the Clean Water Trust and supports language that would authorize additional funding through the creation of a $1 billion water infrastructure bond authorization for a capital outlay program for maintenance and improvements to municipal drinking water, wastewater and stormwater infrastructure.
 
Section 31 of this legislation would establish a framework and authorize municipalities to engage in public private partnerships for water infrastructure projects. Under the current public construction law, cities and towns cannot use a single contract to procure the design, construction, financing and operational services for wastewater and drinking water treatment facilities, and are limited to federal and state financing programs or the issuance of local debt. The section would allow cities and towns, at local option, to issue a request for proposals for the design, construction, financing and operational services for wastewater and drinking water treatment facilities. Public-private partnerships offer an opportunity to expand capacity and reduce costs.
 
MMA supports this legislation as a part of an overall strategy to combat climate change. The MMA has also supported bills that would bring more clean and renewable energy to the Commonwealth by increasing the net metering cap and ensuring opportunities for municipalities to move forward with renewable energy projects in the future.
 
We appreciate your commitment to protecting the environment and combatting the impacts of climate change. If you have any questions, please do not hesitate to have your staff contact me or MMA Legislative Analyst Victoria Sclafani at (617) 426-7272, ext. 161 at any time.
 
Thank you very much for your consideration.
 
Sincerely,
 
Geoffrey C. Beckwith
Executive Director & CEO