National Grid Suing City to Allow Continued Pollution

Natural gas utility National Grid has chosen to sue the City of Boston. The purpose of the suit to protect National Grid from having to conform to the gas leak ordinance passed by the City Council and signed by the Mayor in 2016.  The ordinance was passed in the wake of a multi-year campaign kicked off by BostonCAN in 2013.  You can see a video of our gas leaks street theater here.

“Unfortunately, utilities have filed suit to prevent the implementation of our gas leaks ordinance. National Grid has filed suit,” said O’Malley to Jamaica Plain News. “It is incredibly disappointing because it is something that was worked on and got to the heart of fixing the 4,000 to 5,000 gas leaks in the city. Instead of working to address these public health and safety issues the utility company has chosen to prevent its implementation by filing suit.”

The decision by the utility is short-sighted and clearly driven by “business over community welfare” thinking.

BostonCAN on the News

BNN News interviewed members of BostonCAN as part of a larger piece on climate readiness in Boston in the wake of two recent “Once in a Generation” storms that caused so much flooding.

Storm Prompts Call for Climate Action from Chris Lovett on Vimeo.

BNN interviewed Boston University professor Nathan Phillips, who discussed the need for Community Choice Energy to be acted on more urgently as a critical part of the climate plan for the City of Boston.

Rising Seas Rally in the News

BCAN’s Rising Seas Rally made a splash.

We got picked up by multiple news outlets.  The Boston Globe interviewed our campaign coordinator Andy Bean:

Bean said he hopes the city this year implements the Community Choice Energy plan that Boston’s City Council approved in October 2017, which would increase the amount of renewable energy residents and businesses use without raising costs.

The city has a Climate Action Plan, which aims to cut greenhouse gas emissions 25 percent by 2020 and be carbon neutral by 2050, but Bean said it is overdue for an update.

We were also in the North End Waterfront neighborhood news and Universal Hub.  Attendees were also interviewed by Boston Neighborhood Network News.

Carbon Free Boston, mostly Content Free

Last Wednesday, 2/8, many of us attended the City’s “Let’s Talk Carbon Neutral” program. Presenters included Environment, Energy and Open Space Chief, Austin Blackmon; Director of Climate and Environmental Planning, Alison Brizius;  Professor of Earth and Environment at Boston University and lead researcher on the Carbon Free Boston project, Cutler Cleveland; and Boston University Sustainability Director, Dennis Carlberg.

This was the first time the public was welcomed to hear presentations about Carbon Free Boston, a research initiative designed to quantify the choices that Boston must make in its efforts to reduce our collective contribution to global climate change. The data will be used to shape the 2018 iteration of the City’s Climate Action Plan. We were told that our opinions would be important in helping City officials make “tough choices.” Unfortunately we weren’t offered anything concrete about what options the City is considering, or even an overview of where we stand now on achieving the goals identified in Boston’s 2014 Climate Action Plan.

Climate action advocates we spoke with after the event generally shared our sense that the program conveyed very little information about how the City is defining “carbon free” or “carbon neutral,” what metrics Carbon Free Boston researchers are using, and what the process will be for community engagement in shaping the plan. This is especially disappointing given the extensive outreach and community education that influenced the writing of the City’s 2011 and 2014 Climate Action Plans.

Boston has set a goal of being “carbon free” by 2050.  Tough choices demand more detailed understanding of the assumptions underlying the options.

Flooding in Boston

Boston began to feel the toll of sea level rise during last week’s winter storm.  The waters came up all over city – in the Seaport, Atlantic Avenue, the South Shore, Neponset, and the North End.

The pictures are pretty astounding.

We’re starting to see these “once in a generation” events several times a year now.   Hurricane Harvey in Texas, the devastation in Puerto Rico, endless wildfires across the west.

In recent interviews with Mayor Walsh and EEOS Chief Blackmon, both officials discussed the storm floods last week, and emphasized the importance of building infrastructure to be able to withstand increased sea levels during winter events.  But neither mention Boston’s role in cutting emissions to help prevent sea level in the first place.

The City will clearly need to prepare for the new reality of higher sea levels – that reality is already here now.  But it will get much worse – too much to handle with bigger sea walls – if we do not act to curb our emissions.

Mayor Walsh and Chief Blackmon must implement Community Choice Energy, as the quickest way to cut greenhouse gases and help stop sea levels from rising past the point of no return.

Joel Wool of Clean Water Action says:

Remember to call, email, vote, tweet, stand up, protest, obstruct, whatever else you can, to keep up the political urgency to fight climate change, to adapt to it. It’s going to take continued action and massive investment. Without your active involvement, the investment that happens is going to protect the 1%. Seriously – be the squeaky wheel. Tell other people to speak up, too.

Back Bay Pipeline Delayed

On November 2, 2017, Boston’s Public Improvement Commission (PIC) held a public hearing on a pipeline proposed by National Grid. Transporting fracked natural gas, the pipeline would go through the Back Bay and South End.  Approximately 60 Boston residents attended the hearing in protest.  Organized by the Boston Clean Energy Coalition (BCEC), the hearing’s protestors included members of the Boston Climate Action Network (BCAN), Mothers Out Front, 350.org, and the Neighborhood Association of the Back Bay.

According to Jom Michel, a Steering Team Member of BCEC, “In the Back Bay, a few activists are trying to wake up their fellow citizens,” most of whom oppose the pipeline. He said that National Grid has not been open at all.  “The planning process was behind closed doors.  Before that, you could call it a rumor.”

To reduce Boston’s carbon emissions, BCEC advocates energy efficiency and clean energy for the City’s buildings, with the goal of making them net zero in terms of their carbon footprint. Jom stated that it doesn’t make sense to construct buildings powered by natural gas.  He said, “The pipeline is going to feed luxury condos so they can have their gas fireplaces and their gas stoves . . .  It’s not passive housing; it’s not what it needs to be.”

For the time being, the City Council has placed a moratorium on the decision-making process to allow National Grid to proceed with its pipeline. This is thanks to BCEC asking Councilor Josh Zakim to introduce a resolution calling for the moratorium.  PIC will hold another hearing regarding the pipeline on November 16, 2017.  The Mayor’s office has also asked National Grid to hold a public hearing, so residents will have a chance to voice their concerns.  Thus far, no date has been set for this hearing.

 

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.