CCE Celebration this Thursday

2017 marked a major milestone in the campaign for Community Choice Energy in Boston — an order passed unanimously by the City Council and signed by Mayor Walsh.

Come celebrate!  Boston Climate Action Network invites you to join us this Thursday:

Community Choice Energy Celebration
January 18, from 6-8 PM
The Nate Smith House
155 Lamartine Street, Jamaica Plain

The Nate Smith House is near the Stony Brook T stop. With campaign partners Boston Node 350MA, Sierra Club, Green Justice Coalition, and Mothers Out Front, we will update you on the progress toward implementation and discuss the next steps to keep CCE moving forward. There will be refreshments, music, and time to network and socialize.

Hope to see you there! For more information, email us at bostonclimateaction@gmail.com.

Back Bay Pipeline Hearing Tomorrow!

As we have reported, National Grid has proposed to construct a new, mile-long gas pipeline through Boston’s Back Bay and South End. The line would carry “fracked” gas to service new buildings. On Thursday, December 7, the City of Boston’s Public Improvement Commission (PIC) will hold a public hearing to discuss this proposal. Located within Boston’s Public Works Department, PIC has the authority to grant or deny permits for projects which use public space for business ventures. Like the previous PIC hearing on November 2, this is a strategic opportunity for citizens to speak out against the pipeline.

Boston Public Improvement Commission – Back Bay Pipeline Hearings
Thursday, December 7th, at 10:00 AM
Boston City Hall, Room 801

Opposition to the pipeline is being spearheaded by the Boston Clean Energy Coalition (BCEC), a grassroots group with eleven member environmental organizations, including the Boston Climate Action Network. According to its website, BCEC’s mission is accelerate Boston’s “transition to a clean, green economy,” and its current focus is “on halting the expansion of fracked gas and other fossil-fuel infrastructure while promoting net-zero carbon standards for the built environment.”
BCEC hopes to pack the house for the hearing, which takes place this Thursday at 10:00 AM, Boston City Hall, Room 801. To request more information, or to sign a petition against the pipeline, go to BCEC’s site.

A powerful argument for Community Choice Energy

Low- and moderate-income people make up 40 percent of the country’s population, but account for less than 5 percent of all solar customers. And “An equitable and complete transition to renewable energy cannot occur without the full participation of low- and moderate-income households,” says Dr. Martha Nathan of Climate Action Now.

Community Choice Energy would make renewable energy available to all Boston households, including low- and moderate-income residents who rent (67% of the city), lack the credit to put solar panels on their roofs, or can’t use tax credits to recover part of that cost. That’s why we want Community Choice Energy now. And that’s why we support a solar access bill that the state legislature is supporting. Click here for an article about that bill.

Hearing Tuesday: Boston must step up the pace of climate action!

This Tuesday, BCAN and our allies will argue before Boston’s City Council that the city government must take a crucial step to speed up its actions to fight climate change: implement Community Choice Energy. Be there: anytime from 1:30 till 5pm, in the City Council’s temporary meeting room at 26 Court Street, one block up hill from State Street Station.

Boston’s leaders know that addressing climate change with a range of tactics is essential, but hardly any attention has been focused on switching our energy dollars from fossil fuels to clean, safe and renewable energy. Community Choice Energy is a tactic that numerous other cities and towns in eastern Mass. have already embraced. It’s time for Boston to take this step too.

This can’t wait for another plan to be created. Climate change is already affecting Boston residents with heat waves and stronger storms. Just this past Saturday a torrential downpour produced severe flooding in East Boston and other North Shore communities. Here’s a report compiled by The Harborkeepers:

“Yesterday was another warning sign of the increasing impacts of the changing climate and the increase of more frequent and intense storm events and precipitation. East Boston received 4.54 inches of rain within a matter of hours. Other North Shore towns like Winthrop and Lynn underwent a worse fate, in some ways. I took some notes and did a recap.

  • East Boston received 4.54 inches, most of it in a matter of hours
  • Homes in East Boston which typically don’t get basement flooding got their basements flooded
  • The stormwater drainage system & sewers could not handle the amount of rain hence they overflowed
  • Route 1A in East Boston both South and North by the Chelsea Street bridge and right next to the oil terminal got flooded causing an accident, at least 1 car stuck and backups on the highway
  • 2 neighborhoods in particular in Lynn and Winthrop (Michael’s Mall & Ingleside Park) were  flooded with more than three feet of water causing cars to get stuck and forcing evacuations of homes and rescues2017-9-30 Winthrop flooding
  • Power outages were reported in Winthrop, East Boston and Lynn
  • Unprecedented amounts of rain gushed down the hills of Orient Heights causing a mudslide from Gladstone to Leyden streets which broke a retaining wall and pushed mud and silt down city streets and sewers
  • Some roads and streets were flooded to the point of being impassable including in Winthrop, Lynn, Chelsea, Revere and East Boston
  • A house fire was reported at around 3am in the area where there was flooding in Winthrop
  • Downed distribution poles also were reported.”

Community choice energy would significantly speed up our transition to renewable power. Come out on Tuesday and let the City Council and the Mayor know it’s time to step it up on reducing Boston’s use of fossil fuels.

CCE Before the City Council

During the Boston City Council meeting on August 2, Council President Michelle Wu and Councilor Matt O’Malley introduced an order authorizing the City of Boston to research and develop a community choice energy (CCE) contract and to solicit bids from alternative electricity suppliers. The order stipulates a default offering with at least 5% more renewables than is currently required by state law, with an option to opt up to 100% renewables.

In her remarks, Councilor Wu thanked Mayor Walsh for his advocacy on climate change issues. “Minutes after [President Trump’s] decision to withdraw from the Paris Climate Accord,” she said, “Boston was in the national news announcing that we would proceed no matter what.” However, she went on to stress the importance of adding CCE to the portfolio of climate measures already planned by the Walsh administration. “For the safety of our neighborhoods with heat island effects, and so many other ways that climate change disproportionately hurts low income residents and the seniors and those medically vulnerable, we have to do more to reverse climate change,” Wu said.

Councilor O’Malley echoed the need to do more. “I wanted to let you in on a little secret,” he said. “The City of Boston has won a number of awards for being environmentally courageous and showing leadership. The secret is that we don’t deserve it yet. But we can. A great first step to do that will be passing community choice energy.”

Eight other city councilors – Campbell, Ciommo, Essaibi George, Flaherty, Jackson, LaMattina, McCarthy, and Zakim – have co-sponsored the order, indicating their interest in studying it further. As the next step in the process, the City Council will hold a hearing, anticipated this fall. Stay tuned for the date, and go to the Community Choice Energy website to sign our petition!

Dispatches from the leading edge of climate adaptation

Two new areas of research hold out hope that we can slow carbon accumulation in the atmosphere and lessen its worst effects.

Soil carbon restoration says that we can’t just stop burning fossil fuels if we want to avoid climate catastrophe. We have to take carbon out of the atmosphere, and there is one practical way – to put it back in the soil. Soil Carbon Restoration: Can Biology do the job explores the science and practice of carbon sequestration. The author, Jack Kittredge, is the policy director for the Northeast Organic Farmers Association/Massachusetts Chapter.

Water for the Recovery of the Climate – A New Water Paradigm says we are drying and heating the planet by draining precipitation directly to streams, thus disrupting nature’s small, local water cycles. If we retain rainwater locally, it will permeate soil, water plants, replenish groundwater,  and rise into the atmosphere to regulate temperature and rainfall. Hydrologist Michal Kravcik is speaking to members of Biodiversity for a Living Climate for a potluck/discussion meetup in Cambridge Sunday, March 26 at 6 pm potluck, 7-9 pm discussion ($10 donation). RSVP .

Does the BPDA know how to do anything but push excessive development?

Let’s find out!

From Jamaica Plain and Roxbury to Winthrop Square, the BRA – now the “Boston Planning and Development Agency” – has been pushing through developments that neighbors say are too expensive, too big, and too damaging to the local environment.

Now the BPDA is looking at 1000 Boylston Street – 324 units of luxury residential housing. One of the two proposed glass towers would be huge – 620 feet tall. The Neighborhood Association of the Back Bay says this would block sun as far as the Commonwealth Ave Mall, the Esplanade, and the Fens(!). With two other towers planned near the same corner, it would create an “urban canyon” filled with wind and traffic. And the developer is only giving lip service to energy efficiency.

NABB is asking people across the city to tell the BPDA: Boston deserves better design. Please contact Phil Cohen Phil.Cohen@boston.gov by this FridayMarch 17 and copy elected officials. Questions? Email dtcnabb@nabbonline.com.

More details and talking points:

NABB’s Top 10 Concerns about the Proposed Design

GUIDELINES

  • Neighborhood guidelines ignored. The Developer largely disregarded the “Civic Vision for Turnpike Development” guidelines, designed to protect Back Bay and Fenway neighborhood’s historic character and livability. These were established (by consensus) after public meetings with BRA staff and urban planners. “Only one taller building above 15 stories should be allowed on either Parcel 12 or 15. No other buildings on these parcels should exceed 14 stories.” Further, the guidelines call for no visible parking, 24-foot-wide sidewalks, and some form of public benefit, such as assisted living, childcare, cultural facilities, affordable housing, etc. This proposal includes none of these.

ENVIRONMENTAL IMPACTS

  • Increased shadows. This project will create unacceptable shadow on our parks and will darken many homes. We can expect significant new shadows throughout the year. These are indicated on the minimal shadow studies included in the PNF. See Link for the PNF. During some seasons, shadows will extend across the Comm. Ave. Mall to the Esplanade and Charles River. At times these shadows will adversely affect significant areas of parks, homes, and public buildings for several hours daily. Request additional, specific studies in comments.
  • More wind. Wind studies have not been completed, but these towers will intensify winds in our already gusty neighborhood. Request additional, specific studies in comments.
  • More traffic. Adding 342 residential units (or possibly 700 people) plus 300 cars on this block will have significant impact. Keep in mind that our Fire Station is across the street. Impact studies have not been completed. Request additional, specific studies in comments.
  • Should be greener. This project meets the third-tier quality benchmark (Silver) for LEED certification (Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design). Massachusetts ranks as a top state for sustainable, energy-efficient building. Projects here should be built to Gold or Platinum LEED standards.
  • No green space for pedestrians. Even street trees may not be possible with the current design. However, a small garden belonging to St. Cecilia Parish will disappear. Comments could include requesting an alternative design to construct a park on the portion of the air rights owned by the Prudential to offset this loss.

URBAN DESIGN

  • No justification for increased height. No building of this size has ever been supported by the neighborhoods for Boylston Street (in the Back Bay). The developer has not shown that a project of this scale is financially necessary to offset the costs of building over the Turnpike, although cost arguments alone would not necessarily garner support for the project.
  • Only one design is under consideration. This is not an “all-or-nothing” situation. NABB would welcome a smaller development that conforms to the Civic Vision and avoids this proposal’s lasting harmful consequences to our neighborhood. We propose that an alternative, smaller-scale design must be evaluated before any decisions are made. Even the state Executive Office of Energy and Environmental Affairs requested additional studies in their review: 1) No-Build Alternative, 2) Reduced-Build Alternative originally proposed by the Proponent in 2013, and 3) Preferred Alternative
  • “Urban Canyon” effect. The larger buildings on Boylston Street (500 and 888 Boylston) were set far back from the sidewalk edge to reduce the canyonization of the street and the shadow impact on Newbury Street and the residential neighborhood. In contrast, this project has no significant setback for either tower.
  • More towers coming. Berklee College is approved to add another tower on Mass. Ave. near Boylston Street as part of its Master Plan. Yet another tower is planned on air rights at Mass. Ave. across from the Hynes T stop. Four towers would add tremendous density and shadow to the neighborhood.

Composite Shadow Diagram – One page from the PNF document – Composite shadow study from the PNF only includes hours from 8am to 3pm. Morning and afternoon shadows will be longer. No composite is included for the longest shadows in the late fall and winter. Request additional days/times studies, such as dawn to dusk, more winter days, in comments.

MAKE YOUR VOICE HEARD!

Please email your comments to the BPDA. Send your message to Phil Cohen at the BPDA (with copies to our elected officials) before the Friday, March 17 deadline (or by Sunday night at least). Also copy dtcnabb@nabbonline.com to receive project updates or ask questions.

Sample Message

To: Phil Cohen <Phil.Cohen@boston.gov>

Re: 1000 Boylston Street Project Notification Form (PNF)

Introduce yourself (include where you live)

Give your reasons why BPDA should send the developer back to the drawing board (see stripped-down sample letter  at 1000 Boylston Basic letter)

CC: Cut and paste this to:

Mayor@boston.gov, Michelle.Wu@boston.gov, Bill.Linehan@boston.gov, Josh.Zakim@boston.gov, Ayanna.Pressley@boston.gov, A.E.George@boston.gov, Tito.Jackson@boston.gov, Salvatore.Lamattina@boston.gov, Michael.F.Flaherty@boston.gov, Andrea.pbell@boston.gov, Frank.Baker@boston.gov, Timothy.McCarthy@boston.gov, Matthew.OMalley@boston.gov, Mark.Ciommo@boston.gov, Byron.Rushing@mahouse.gov, Jay.Livingstone@mahouse.gov, William.Brownsberger@masenate.gov, dtcnabb@nabbonline.com, info@nabbonline.com

(Mailing address is: Phil Cohen, Project Manager, Boston Planning & Development Agency, One City Hall Square, Boston, MA 02201)