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 by this FridayMarch 17 and copy elected officials. Questions? Email

More details and talking points:

NABB’s Top 10 Concerns about the Proposed Design


  • 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.


  • 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.


  • 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.


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 to receive project updates or ask questions.

Sample Message

To: Phil Cohen <>

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:,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,

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



City Council President Calls for Community Choice Energy

On January 24, City Council President Michelle Wu and Councilor Matt O’Malley introduced an order for a hearing on Community Choice Energy, which would make renewable electricity available to all Bostonians. Here is Wu’s statement.

At today’s 12PM Boston City Council meeting, we’ll be taking up a hearing order that I’m filing in partnership with Councilor Matt O’Malley on Community Choice Energy. Also called “community choice aggregation” or “municipal aggregation,” this refers to a state law that gives MA cities and towns the ability to determine our own energy future. The law lays out a process for the City of Boston to choose to power our city as a whole with renewable energy resources such as solar and wind. Community choice energy is the fastest way that Boston can get on the path to being a 100% renewable energy city. Read more about the process here:

Just last week, we saw the swearing in of a new President who denies climate change and plans to install climate change deniers to lead our federal environmental agencies. Yesterday, he issued executive orders attempting to move forward with the Dakota Access and Keystone XL pipelines, which threaten water supplies, indigenous communities, and our environment. 2017 also could very well turn out to be the FOURTH consecutive year with record high average global temperatures (…/earth-highest-temperature-record.…). It will take swift and bold action on the local level, trying our hardest to prevent global temperatures from reaching a catastrophic tipping point. Cities across the Commonwealth, nation, and globe have been leading by getting on the path to 100% renewable energy. It is time for Boston to get on board. Please follow our progress and JOIN US as the Council works on this legislation. Attend our future hearings to testify, or watch online and email in testimony. Give feedback directly to your City Councilors. Attend future working group meetings. As we’ve seen in recent weeks, changing the energy market won’t happen with a top-down approach; it will only happen with your support and action.

Fighting climate change and protecting our environment is about equity and social justice, standing together to prevent disastrous impacts that will fall disproportionately on vulnerable communities. There are many other opportunities in Boston and Massachusetts to get involved! Just a few that I’ve encountered (feel free to suggest others in the comments section and I’ll update):
–Join your local chapter of 350 Mass. Here is the link: Their advocacy training for this Saturday is full, but sign up and express your interest for a future training.
–Follow these pages on Facebook & show up to their meetings: West Roxbury Saves Energy Mothers Out Front – Mobilizing for a Livable Climate, Roslindale Affinity Group, Boston Climate Action Network, Stop the West Roxbury Lateral Pipeline, Mass Sierra Club, Clean Water Action Massachusetts, Boston Node of 350 Mass, Mass Power Forward, Environmental League of Massachusetts (ELM), Mass Energy Consumers Alliance.
–Buy 100% New England Wind to power your home. Learn how this works: My family switched over to this in 2016.
–Support Boston’s proposed plastic bag reduction ordinance (…) by reaching out to your Councilors and asking them to vote yes. Until then, use fewer bags. Even one fewer bag in landfills or littering the streets of Boston makes a difference.
–Tell your local elected officials that you support more investment in lower emissions transportation infrastructure, such as bicycles, buses, and trains. Come to our City Council transportation briefings, Feb 2nd on Transit Signal Priority and March 2nd on Parking Management.
–If you are purchasing a new car, consider your Drive Green options. Some helpful research:
–There are lots of rivers in greater Boston – the Charles, the Neponset, the Mystic. Join your local riverwatershed non-profit mailing lists and join annual river cleanups, fundraising events, etc. Charles River Watershed Association The Charles River Conservancy Mystic River Watershed Association Neponset River Watershed Association
–Look for ways to support efforts against the Keystone XL and Dakota Access Pipeline. Groups will be organizing drives for supplies to be sent to protestors who will camp
–Stand with local college student groups demanding that colleges divest their endowments away from fossil fuels.


Getting Boston ready for climate change

Climate change is here. Summers are getting hotter, sea levels are rising, storms are getting stronger and wetter, and there’s more flooding.

The City has been studying those changes with researchers at UMass Boston and a public advisory group (including BostonCAN) for over a year. Their final report is out and it includes:

  • Detailed projections, including climate change’s “equity impacts” — how low-income communities, people of color, and other vulnerable populations will be affected.
  • A detailed look at the neighborhoods that’ll be hit hardest: Charlestown, the Charles River, Dorchester, Downtown, East Boston, Roxbury, South Boston, and the South End.
  • Steps we can take.

Greenovate Boston is asking us to spread this climate change consciousness to our neighbors. Find a blog, article, image, or video about Climate Ready Boston that you can share to keep your friends and family up to date on climate change in Boston.

Push back on Trump’s Climate Deniers


San Francisco, December 13: scientists push back on Trump’s cabinet picks

Trump has appointed Big Oil representatives and climate deniers to lead four key agencies: the Department of Energy, the Environmental Protection Agency, the Interior Department, and the State Department. Now national environmental groups are taking action. Here’s what they are doing and what you can do.

Rex Tillerson – Secretary of State rallies, calls, ads, and a petition

  • Tuesday Dec 20: Rally at Trump transition headquarters in Washington, DC.
  • January 3, when the new Senate takes office: make thousands of phone calls to every Senator telling them to vote against the Denier Cabinet.
  • The following week: take to the streets in all 50 states to oppose their nominations.
  • Fill the digital airwaves with ads calling out Senators who say they agree with climate science, but still support Trump’s climate denying cabinet.
  • Sign this petition. [Unclear whom it’s going to]

Sierra Club: Petition urging our senators to oppose Tillerson’s nomination.

Why push back on this nominee: Tillerson, a lifelong employee and CEO of ExxonMobil, has shaped its history as one of world’s biggest, most environmentally destructive fossil fuel corporations.

ExxonMobil deliberately concealed its knowledge of climate change while funding denialist groups for decades in order to prevent climate action from hurting their profits. [See Exxon’s decades of deceit: A timeline of what Exxon knew about climate science, and what they’ve done to deny, hide, and muddy the truth]

It was responsible for the Exxon Valdez oil spill, one of the costliest environmental disasters in history, and countless other spills. Elsewhere around the world, Exxon has supported violence and intimidation against communities where it operates.

As Secretary of State, Tillerson would oversee everything from negotiating international climate agreements to issuing annual human rights reports and reviewing the Keystone XL pipeline.

Rick Perry – Department of Energy

Friends of the Earth: Petition urging our senators to block Perry’s nomination

Why push back on this nominee: As governor of Texas until 2015, Perry championed fossil fuel production. He wrote that climate science is a “contrived phony mess” and accused climate scientists of manipulating data to get money.

He fought the regulation of greenhouse gas emissions because of the “devastating implications” for the energy industry. He opposes truly clean energy like wind and solar.

Perry has received some $2.5 million from polluters. As head of the Energy Department, Perry would have power to roll back climate progress.

Ryan Zinke: Interior Department

Friends of the Earth: Petition urging our senators to block Zinke’s nomination

Why push back on this nominee: Ryan Zinke is a freshman Congressman from Montana. In just two years he’s received a whopping $345,000 from fossil fuel interests.

Zinke has said that climate change is “not a settled science.” He’s opposed the most basic protections for our public lands. He thinks our national forests should be handed to the logging industry with no protections for the environment, and he’s been a leader in opposing the Obama administration’s attempts to keep coal in the ground.

As head of the Department of the Interior, Zinke would have a lot of power to roll back our progress. He would not keep fossil fuels in the ground on our public lands and waters. Instead, he’d work for a massive expansion of fossil fuel development. That would amount to billions of dollars of giveaways for Big Oil.

Scott Pruitt – EPA Administrator

Sierra Club: Petition urging our senators to block Pruitt’s nomination.

Why push back on this nominee: Climate denier Pruitt has taken more than $300,000 from fossil fuel interests since 2002. As Oklahoma’s Attorney General, he sued the EPA — the agency he’s slated to lead.

All four nominees

Friends of the Earth: Organize a Day of Action at your local congressional office

Hosting an action outside your Member of Congress’s local office will push them to hold Trump accountable. It’ll also connect you with other progressives who want to do more.  After you sign up, the Sierra Club will send you an Action Toolkit, a letter to deliver to the Congressional office, and they’ll invite you to a series of training calls. They recommend holding your action on January 23, Trump’s first work day as President.


Last month we urged BostonCAN members to resist Trump’s “cook the planet” agenda by taking three steps:

  • Call our senators and representatives, asking them to pull together a bipartisan force for climate progress.
  • Make that safe for their colleagues by writing letters to the editor in other states. Sample letters here.
  • Build national support by talking to your family and friends in red and purple states.