Resolution Supporting a Strong and Enduring Local-State-Federal Partnership to Protect the Environment (2016)

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As adopted by the members on January 23, 2016.

Whereas, the cities and towns of Massachusetts are national leaders as environmental stewards, embracing renewable energy technology, protecting and preserving land and natural resources, and providing safe, clean and affordable drinking water, wastewater and stormwater management systems; and
Whereas, 155 municipalities have become Green Communities and 350 municipalities host renewable facilities, producing more than 985 megawatts of solar power, far exceeding the original solar goal of 250 megawatts by 2017, established in the 2008 Green Communities Act; and
Whereas, thanks in great part to the leadership of cities and towns, Massachusetts is now ranked number one in the nation in energy efficiency and ranked sixth for solar energy generation; and
Whereas, the dramatic increase in locally based and locally supported renewable energy facilities has occurred under existing property tax laws that enable cities and towns to appropriately collect revenues from private developers and protect the interests of local taxpayers; and
Whereas, cities and towns are among the largest consumers of energy in Massachusetts and 25 percent of the region’s power resources are facing retirement, energy demand for electricity generation is expected to exceed capacity in the winter months; and
Whereas, an enhanced and diversified state energy portfolio that includes new technology such as energy storage capacity could provide safe, efficient and uninterrupted energy delivery to improve our economic growth and provide a high quality of life for our residents; and
Whereas, the Massachusetts Water Infrastructure Finance Commission has estimated a $20.4 billion gap needed for water and wastewater infrastructure over the next 20 years, in addition to an $18 billion shortfall in resources necessary to fund proposed federal stormwater regulations; and
Whereas, the federal government continues to impose costly environmental regulatory requirements on the cities and towns of Massachusetts without any additional appropriations; and
Whereas, the cities and towns of Massachusetts cannot continue to absorb these and additional unfunded mandates and the corresponding workload imposed by the Commonwealth of Massachusetts and the federal government without reimbursement or relief, as these state and federal unfunded mandates undermine the ability of municipal officials to adequately safeguard the environment and maintain current services and programs;
Therefore, it is hereby resolved that the members of the Massachusetts Municipal Association support the following essential policy positions to ensure a strong local, state and federal partnership to protect the environment:
• The state Legislature, the governor, the Commonwealth’s administrative agencies, the U.S. Congress, the president, and federal agencies should commit to a cooperative partnership with municipalities and should reject all proposals and policies that would undermine this partnership, either by imposing unfunded mandates or preempting municipal taxing authority in any way; and
• The state Legislature should pass legislation requiring the Executive Branch and the Legislature to provide a fiscal note as part of any proposal in order to clearly explain the benefits and costs imposed on municipal government and local taxpayers as a result of such legislation or regulation, including staff necessary to administer or implement said legislation or regulation and the benefits to be derived through such expenditure; and
• In the event there is a cost identified in a fiscal note, the Legislature or executive agency should refrain from enacting any legislative proposal or regulation until such time as an appropriation matching that amount is provided both initially and annually thereafter, or the enacted or promulgated proposal shall cease to have authority; and
• The state Legislature and the governor should approve a $1 billion water infrastructure bond bill to fund water, wastewater and stormwater infrastructure improvements and grant authority to cities and towns to establish drinking water, stormwater and sewer infrastructure banks to build, repair and maintain water-related infrastructure systems; and
• The Massachusetts Department of Environmental Protection should examine the feasibility, cost, advantages and disadvantages of obtaining delegated authority from the United States Environmental Protection Agency, otherwise known as primacy, over the enforcement of National Pollutant Discharge Elimination System programs, as state primacy could possibly reduce the administrative burden for communities through improved science, new technology, and a more efficient permit process by integrating all aspects of watershed management and providing communities more flexibility in meeting permit requirements; and
• The state Legislature and the governor should develop a balanced, long-term energy plan with a range of energy sources to ensure a diversified and sustainable energy supply for residents, businesses and communities; and
• The state should lift the net metering cap on solar projects to allow all current and future municipal projects to go forward and should preserve a net metering credit at the full retail rate for municipal projects, with no surcharges or offsetting cost charged by utilities which could affect savings; and
• The U.S. Congress and the president should, at a minimum, restore funding for the Drinking Water and Clean Water state revolving fund programs to the fiscal 2010 level of $1.38 billion and $2.1 billion, respectively, in the fiscal 2017 Interior Appropriations Bill; and
• With the coastal waters and estuaries of Massachusetts threatened by pollution and sea-level rise, the state and federal government should work with coastal communities to provide more funding and expertise to help mitigate the aforementioned issues; and
It is further resolved that a copy of this resolution shall be presented to the governor, the members of the General Court of the Commonwealth, the members of the Massachusetts Congressional Delegation, and the president of the United States.