Solidarity Action: Testify for Energy Justice

From our allies, Clean Water Action Massachusetts:

CWA is very thankful for your continuous support of their Energy Efficiency campaign, as the Department of Public Utilities review process comes to an end, we need as many advocates speaking up about access to benefits as possible.

We know the EEAC voted on a plan that centers equity, now we need the DPU and the administration to approve it and make sure EJ communities have access to weatherization and energy efficiency. 

The good news is you can help us make this possible, and it will only take 2 minutes of your time! Sign up to testify at either one of the hearings, as a reminder, we are stronger together and cannot let our communities suffer any longer. 

• Wednesday, December 1, 2021, beginning at 7:00 p.m.

• Thursday, December 2, 2021, beginning at 2:00 p.m.

Here is a document with talking points for the hearings, and attached are the demands GJC has been pushing for. Please let me know if you have any further questions, I’ll be available Monday and Tuesday to help you all prep for the hearings. You can reach Paulina Casasola, Clean Water Action Climate Justice Organizer at 617 3388131 x 206.

Attendees can join the December 1, 2021 hearing at 7:00 p.m. by entering the link, https://us06web.zoom.us/j/85706654588, and the December 2, 2021 hearing at 2:00 p.m. by entering the link, https://us06web.zoom.us/j/84475716947, from a computer, smartphone, or tablet.

For audio only access to the hearings, attendees can dial in to either hearing at (646) 558-8656 or (301) 715-8592 (not toll free) and then enter the Meeting ID# 857 0665 4588 for the December 1, 2021 hearing and Meeting ID# 844 7571 6947 for the December 2, 2021 hearing.

If you anticipate providing comments via Zoom during either public hearing, please send an email by Monday, November 29, 2021, to jeffrey.leupold@mass.gov with your name, email address, mailing address, and hearing date.

If you anticipate commenting by telephone, please leave a voicemail message by Monday, November 29, 2021, at (617) 305-3684 with your name, telephone number, mailing address, and hearing date.

Lastly, if you are planning on speaking at the hearing please kindly let Paulina Casasola know.

Boston Climate News: Boston Underwater

Summary of this Boston Globe article

Post by Eliza Curtis

The United Nations projects that the world is currently on the path towards 3 degrees Celsius of warming (post-industrial levels) by the end of the century. Even with commitments from participating countries, the plans currently in place are simply not enough. With the UN’s Climate Change Conference in Glasgow scheduled for October 31 through November 12, one of the primary questions to tackle will be how to align global efforts with the original Paris Agreement, which aims to cap warming at 1.5 degrees C. 

So, what does this mean for Boston? According to Climate Central, many of Boston’s landmarks, including Boston Common, will be underwater if we continue on this current track. While the timeline for this is uncertain, we do know that “what we do in the next 10 years will matter for 10,000 years.” The research organization has released an interactive map that allows users to see with their own eyes the possible extent of sea level rise and its consequences, in both the 1.5 and 3 degrees Celsius scenarios. You can have a look here.


In 1850s Chicago, they raised the city 14 feet to combat flooding and consequent health hazards from Lake Michigan. One wonders what creative solutions the City of Boston may have to dream up in the near future, especially if we fail to aggressively curb our carbon emissions and remain on the globe’s current path.

BERDO Victory Celebration!

In a ceremony held Tuesday, October 5, at City Hall, Mayor Kim Janey signed what appears to be the most sweeping climate action ordinance in the nation. Boston’s Building Emissions Reduction and Disclosure Ordinance (BERDO) mandates owners of large building to reduce climate-warming emissions 100% by 2050. To celebrate, we invite you to join us on Thursday, Nov. 4, from 5:30 – 7pm, across the street from City Hall at the outdoor, rooftop beer garden “Sam Adams Tap Room,” 60 State St, Boston, MA 02109. (Note that this is not the Sam Adams Brewery in Jamaica Plain.) RSVP for the party here.

The updated city ordinance sets carbon emissions limits for buildings 20,000 square feet or greater, a key strategy in Boston’s plan for a carbon-neutral city by 2050. The event was attended by the press and by members of community groups who had advocated for the amendments, BCAN included.

BCAN played a key role in ensuring passage of BERDO 2.0, building a coalition that included allies from the Green Justice Coalition and Boston Clean Energy Coalition, and turning out volunteers time and again throughout the almost two-year process. Since the May 2019 campaign launch, BCAN volunteers have created digital and print educational materials, giving dozens of presentations throughout the city, gathered petition signatures, and delivered substantive policy suggestions to City staffers working to craft the policy. In the final days before the City Council voted on the measure, we delivered over 2000 petition signatures, with more from our coalition partners, and generated 210 letters from constituents to the district and at-large City Councilors.

Boston is the first U.S. city to codify in law a decreasing set of emissions targets to achieve 100% decarbonization. Three other U.S. cities have adopted building performance standards that are less comprehensive. As pointed out by Synapse, the City’s technical consultant on the process of developing that set of targets, the City’s new policy “incorporates innovative and flexible strategies to help building owners drive down emissions, create benefits for occupants, and ensure smart oversight.” BERDO 2.0 establishes a review board staffed by community-nominated experts to enforce limits on climate-warming emissions from Boston’s biggest buildings, the source of the vast majority of emissions coming from Boston. Winning this policy change is a huge victory! 

For more coverage of the BERDO victory, click here and here.

Mayor Kim Janey signs BERDO! (photo courtesy of City of Boston)

City Council Hosts BERDO Working, Discussion Sessions

The Government Operations Committee of the Boston City Council held two meetings in August to refine proposed amendments to the Building Energy Reporting and Disclosure Ordinance (BERDO). In a working session on Monday, August 23, councilors conferred with Mariama White-Hammond, Boston’s Chief of Environment, Energy, and Open Space (EEOS), and Alison Brizius, Commissioner of the Environment Department. Councilors Matt O’Malley, Lydia Edwards, and Julia Mejia participated throughout the livestreamed session. (Initial trouble with the livestream link, plus a format which showed only the active speaker, made it unclear whether or not other councilors were observing.)

Councilors and EEOS staff were in agreement about requiring Renewable Energy Certificates (RECs) to be Class I and disallowing offsets for non-electricity-related emissions. Most also agreed that Review Board members must have relevant technical expertise, as well as being nominated by community groups in two-thirds of cases.

The Review Board’s set of responsibilities was also raised at a virtual discussion session on Thursday, August 26, where the public was invited to offer opinions and concerns. Whereas the proposal gives the board the authority to enforce penalties for non-compliant owners, groups representing the real estate industry argued that this function should rest with the Environment Department. BCAN disagrees. The proposal gives building owners time to prepare for retrofits, ways to apply for exceptions in special circumstances, and alternative compliance payments to cover over-limit emissions that remain despite honest efforts. Owners who take the standards seriously should not fear accountability to a knowledgeable community board.   

The next step in the BERDO process will be a second working session on Monday, September 13, at 10:30 AM. 

BERDO 2.0’s Review Board—Does it Deliver Community Oversight to the “Greening” of Boston’s Largest Buildings?

Written by Paula Georges

Boston’s large buildings, including office, commercial and residential buildings, account for over half of the city’s carbon footprint. To reduce pollutants from Boston’s dirtiest buildings and meet Boston emissions reduction goals, the City has drafted an overhaul of the Building Energy Reporting and Disclosure Ordinance (BERDO). The amended ordinance, now called the Building Emissions Reduction and Disclosure Ordinance, requires building owners to meet emissions standards that become more strict over time.

This ordinance’s implementation will be overseen by a Review Board. This Review Board will have responsibility for the following functions: approve hardship compliance plans and other waiver applications, approve expenditures from the Equitable Emissions Investment Fund, propose regulations to the Air Pollution Control Commission (APCC), and oversee enforcement.

But who will be making these decisions? Who will sit on the Review Board? Review Board members have significant regulatory authority to determine how strictly the rules are enforced and how equitably funds are spent.  Will big building owners be allowed to police themselves? Or will there be true community accountability? Review Board members must have credibility with under-served neighborhoods and residents in carrying out their significant authority. Board members should be drawn from community-based groups who can represent and give voice to the environmental justice populations most affected by climate change and who will benefit the most from building upgrades.

Coming Up: Boston City Council hearing on BERDO 2.0 on Thursday, July 22, 3PM. The hearing offers an opportunity for BCAN and other climate advocacy groups to weigh in on these amendments. 

Watch live at bit.ly/BostonCityCouncilTV

Behind Closed Doors

Written by Paula Georges

In January 2021, a group of researchers at the Institute for Environment and Society at Brown University, led by Professor J. Timmons Roberts, published a report, Who’s Delaying Climate Change in Massachusetts? The report documents how industrial actors successfully lobby against climate legislation at the state level. The report may not surprise climate activists on how corporate interests in Massachusetts  ̶  armed with incredible financial resources  ̶  are able to block climate legislation; nevertheless, these findings are potentially useful to mount an effective offense against these outsized powerful interests.

One key finding is that the opponents of climate action rarely testify publicly about their opposition to climate bills, but rather meet with policy-makers behind closed doors. Of particular importance to the successful passage of strong amendments to the Building Energy Reporting and Disclosure Ordinance (BERDO), now under consideration at the Boston City Council, is that the public hearings and working group meetings may not reveal the opposition from the real estate trade associations such as NAIOP Mass, the Greater Boston Real Estate Board and Mass. Association of Realtors.

As documented in the report, commercial real estate interests resist residential energy efficiency standards and mandating energy audits. Using social justice narratives, real estate interests complain that these kinds of regulations would place an undue burden on housing affordability. Yet, they never talk about how energy bills could be lowered by retrofitting housing with efficiency measures. One possible tactic to neutralize the power of trade associations is to ask those individual members of the association who are friendly to reforms to testify in favor of BERDO amendments.

Another important finding is that pro-climate actors do not always support each other’s bills. For example, solar activists do not necessarily lobby in favor of raising efficiency standards. Expanding the network of green actors that support a wide range of climate bills could increase our movement’s lobbying power. In this light we invite all organizations and activists involved in environmental, energy, and social justice campaigns in the City of Boston to contact your City Councilors in support of passage of a strong amendment to BERDO.

Regional Proposals to Adapt to the Consequences of Climate Change

Written by Paula Georges

Three recent opinion pieces published on the Boston Globe’s opinion page on Monday, May 31, 2021, suggest three ways to address the impact of climate change on Boston and the other communities along Massachusetts’ vulnerable coastline and its regional economy. These proposals are worth reviewing, but the first line of defense is to reduce greenhouse gas emissions.

The first one, entitled “Managing rising seas may require a managed retreat,” by Richard W. Murray and Daniel P. Schrag, proposes that communities in harm’s way must adapt to the “new, future coast, without promises of a perfect safety net that we cannot afford.” The authors maintain that we cannot build our way out of the threat of rising seas with costly sea walls that are only short-term solutions at best. Difficult decisions must be made by all levels of government to end low-cost flood insurance and require relocation away from the coast.

The second piece entitled, “Developing a climate resilient Boston waterfront,” by Jocelyn Forbush, suggests that building a greener waterfront is one way to protect vulnerable at-risk neighborhoods, such as East Boston. This adaptation method calls for a “raised, grassy park with natural plantings and salt marsh” that can absorb flood waters and bounce back after disruption. This approach calls for open, green space that offers respite from city streets to the public and provides opportunity for “inclusive programming.”

The third piece entitled, “Planning a ‘layered defense’ for Boston Harbor,” by Bill Golden, suggests that all the 15 cities and towns linked to Boston Harbor should develop a regional sea gate system and integrate it with locally based coastal resiliency plans. The author points out that New Bedford, with its regional, reliable sea gate system, has protected the city from the devastation of storm surge for over 50 years.  Given that the Boston Metropolitan area acts as New England’s economic engine, the author maintains these actions must be taken to preserve our regional economy.

A robust discussion must be had on what to do about the increasing flood risk to the low-lying neighborhoods of South Boston, East Boston and other at-risk neighborhoods. Special attention must be paid to the concerns of the low- and moderate-income households living in these at-risk neighborhoods. While these discussions are critical, the reduction of climate-warming emissions remains the priority, because burning fossil fuels is the root cause of climate change.

You Can’t Manage What You Don’t Measure!

Written by Loie Hayes

This old adage – you can’t manage what you don’t measure – goes to the heart of why BCAN fought for the first version of Boston’s Building Energy Reporting and Disclosure Ordinance (BERDO) back in 2013. Without accurate data about how much energy our city’s biggest buildings are using, there’s no way for their owners to achieve necessary reductions, nor to be held accountable for doing so.

BERDO now requires owners to report their buildings’ energy use annually. BERDO was a big win for the climate movement in Boston all those years ago, but it is not yet known for its accurate data. We’ve spent many hours collectively analyzing the BERDO data, and we’ve found that many building owners are reporting improbably low – or high – energy usage.

We applaud Boston’s Environment Department for proposing significant revisions to BERDO (aka “BERDO 2.0”), but we do have to call into question a couple of parts of the proposal. The first one, which this blog post addresses, is the manner in which building owners will have to verify the accuracy of their reported energy use.

Under the current version of BERDO, building owners must report their energy use data to the City annually, but they don’t have to have an independent professional certify that their data are accurate. The Environment Department now recommends that, every five years, an owner be required to obtain certification for his or her past five years of data. (This process is referred to as “third party verification” in BERDO 2.0.)

BCAN has pointed out that, when owners’ data are inaccurate, a five-year delay in certification could result in their learning for the first time after 2025 that they are out of compliance with the 2025 emissions standard—too late to avoid a violation and too late to prevent potentially tons of greenhouse gas emissions.

BCAN proposes that owners be required to obtain certification for their first annual report after the amended BERDO takes effect, with subsequent certifications due every five years after that. It’s only common sense to measure well so we can manage well.

Boston: Divest from Fossil Fuels!

Congratulations to Boston City Councilors Lydia Edwards, Michelle Wu, and Matt O’Malley for having introduced on March 17 an ordinance that would divest City funds from the fossil fuel, tobacco, and private prison industries. As Councilor Edwards tweeted: “Boston has led on divestment before. It’s an effective strategy. We need to put our money where our mouth is.” You can view of video of the City Council meeting at https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=rpgPrJlA9kU. The introduction of the proposal begins at 19:00.

All City Councilors except Councilor Baker signed on in support of the proposal during the City Council meeting.

If you live in Councilor Baker’s district, we urge you contact him in support of this divestment proposal: Frank.Baker@Boston.gov or 617-635-3455.

If you live elsewhere in Boston, check to see if your Councilor serves on the Committee on Government Operations and urge them to take urgent action to move this proposal forward.

The proposal can be found at https://meetingrecords.cityofboston.gov/sirepub/cache/2/szzfwfbwhhyhd3eladi13p4o/3194760317202107251154.PDF on page 13.

The text is also copied below:

AN ORDINANCE RELATIVE TO THE INVESTMENTS OF THE CITY TREASURY

WHEREAS: The City of Boston exercises significant discretion in investments of the City Treasury; and

WHEREAS: Investments of the City Treasury carry significant exposure to fossil fuels; and

WHEREAS: Climate change is an existential threat, requiring mobilization across every sector of government and society; and

WHEREAS: The City of Boston and Commonwealth of Massachusetts have established strict greenhouse gas emission reduction goals in order to climate change; and

WHEREAS: In 2014 and 2019, the Council held hearings related to divestment from fossil fuels; and

WHEREAS: The Council has previously voted to support state legislation authorizing and directing pension fund investment; and

WHEREAS: In February 2019, the City of Boston updated its Cash Investment Policy to promote Environmental, Social and Governance standards in local investments; and

WHEREAS: The Boston City Council has taken local action to divest the City Treasury from tobacco, to promote human rights and to combat apartheid; and

WHEREAS: Additional measures to promote sustainability and socially responsible investment are necessary; NOW

THEREFORE BE IT ORDERED:

Be it ordained by the City of Boston, as follows:

SECTION 1. The City of Boston Code, Ordinances, Chapter 6, Section 3, is hereby amended by striking section 6-3.7 and replacing it with the following:

6-3.7 Prohibiting Certain Local Investments

(a) No public funds under the care and custody of the Collector-Treasurer of the City of Boston, as specified in subsection 6-3.11, shall be invested or remain invested in the stocks, securities or other obligations of any company which derives more than fifteen (15%) percent of its revenue from the sale of tobacco products.

(b) No public funds under the care and custody of the Collector-Treasurer of the City of Boston, as specified in subsection 6-3.11, shall be invested or remain invested in the stocks, securities or other obligations of any company which derives more than fifteen (15%) percent of its revenue from the combustion, distribution, extraction, manufacture, or sale of fossil fuels, which shall include coal, oil and gas, or fossil fuel products. The Collector-Treasurer of the City of Boston shall divest public funds under their care from investments related to fossil fuels no later than December 31st, 2025.

An electric distribution company with corporate affiliates that combust, distribute, extract, manufacture or sell fossil fuels shall be considered a fossil fuel investment.

The Collector-Treasurer shall establish a screen for non-fossil fuel energy sources, including biomass energy, and related combustion activities, including incineration technologies such as gasification and pyrolysis, which have a deleterious impact on the human health and the environment by (1) negatively impacting climate change and/or (2) contributing to asthma, chronic obstructive pulmonary disorders, cardiovascular diseases or premature death.

(c) No public funds shall be invested or remain invested in the stocks, securities or other obligations of any company which derives more than fifteen (15%) percent of its revenue from the operation, maintenance, servicing or supply of carceral facilities.

(d) Any proceeds of the sales required under this subsection shall be invested as much as reasonably possible in institutions or companies which invest or conduct business or operations in the City of Boston or the Commonwealth of Massachusetts so long as such use is consistent with sound investment policy.

SECTION 2. The City of Boston Code, Ordinances, Chapter 6, Section 3, is hereby amended by inserting after section 6-3.7 the following:

6-3.7.2

Report on Local Investment Within 120 days of enactment on this section, the Collector-Treasurer shall submit a report to the Boston City Council regarding the feasibility and legality of alternative investment strategies. Such report shall include:

● A review of the financial instruments and investments permitted for the city treasury

● A review of the financial instruments and investments permitted for the pension funds of the City of Boston and its affiliates

● An analysis of the feasibility and legality for the City of Boston to direct investment toward (1) land or housing; (2) community economic development, included in cooperative businesses and businesses that are not publicly traded through a stock market index; (3) public infrastructure within the Commonwealth of Massachusetts; (4) public infrastructure outside of the Commonwealth of Massachusetts. To the extent such investments are not directly permitted, the Collector-Treasurer shall investigate whether similar investments could be made through combined investment funds or banking or trust investments authorized by Section 55 of Chapter 44, Section 38A of Chapter 29, or other relevant sections of the General Laws.

● A review of any strategies the City currently employs to effectuate local investment

SECTION 3. This ordinance shall take effect upon signing.

Filed On: March 17, 2021

Summer Internship Opportunity

Application deadline: April 1

Boston Climate Action Network is accepting applications for a paid internship position, Outreach Organizer, to support our campaign to cut greenhouse gas emissions from Boston’s largest buildings. More than half of Boston’s greenhouse gas emissions come from the largest 3% of its buildings. We are working with allies to pass legislation to bring these buildings to net zero emissions by 2050.

The City Council will be actively debating our proposed legislation this summer. We need to build a volunteer base to advocate for our campaign in ways that resonate with the public. As the BCAN intern, you will help build our volunteer base in every City Council district, with training and support from BCAN staff and longtime volunteers.

At BCAN, we use phone, email, video conferencing, and, to the extent that it is COVID-safe, in-person canvassing and presentations to reach out to local communities, recruit new members, and build volunteers’ skills.  We will track the campaign’s progress through volunteer sign-up rates, petition signatures, and attendance at meetings with activists, the public, and political figures.

Essential qualities of successful applicants:

  • Familiarity with Boston’s neighborhoods
  • Ability to attend events at a variety of locations in Boston on a daily basis as needed
  • An understanding of climate justice and of the climate impacts affecting Boston residents
  • Ability to work well with volunteers with diverse communication skills
  • Effective public speaker

Helpful qualities:

  • Boston residency
  • Involvement in a community-based organization within the City of Boston
  • Fluency in Spanish, Mandarin, Cantonese, Vietnamese, or Cape Verdean or Haitian Creole

Hours are flexible with the expectation that you’ll work approximately 20-25 hours during the 9 to 5 weekday and approximately 10-15 hours during evenings and weekends. The start date is negotiable, but not earlier than May 1 and no later than June 15.

Applicants must supply their own computer and work space and be experienced with working remotely. Please indicate in your application your level of expertise with Google Docs and Sheets, Zoom, and Powerpoint.

Stipend: $16/hr, 35hrs/wk, 12wks. Deadline for applications: April 1. Send resume and cover letter to BostonClimateAction@gmail.com with the heading: Internship application. No phone calls please.