CCE Automatic Enrollment: Done for Us, Not to Us

As the City of Boston rolls out Community Choice Electricity (CCE), we hear or read occasional criticism of the program’s “opt-out” nature. To some, switching customers into the program unless they object feels like overreach, and non-transparent. We firmly disagree that the City has been either deceptive or coercive.

Communication about CCE has been open. The City sent a letter to every eligible customer, explaining the program, the comparative rates, and the available choices, including opting out. If the letter’s recipients, like its critics, found it confusing, it included clear instructions about where to get more information. Additionally, CCE has been well-advertised across several platforms, with many opportunities for engagement around questions and concerns. These have included press releases, posters, webinars on multiple dates with translation into multiple languages, and virtual “office hours” with City officials.

To those who find automatic enrollment in CCE heavy-handed, we offer a reminder: before CCE, people moving to Boston were not left to shop on their own for an energy provider, either. Instead, incoming residents were automatically assigned to Eversource, where they stayed unless they took the initiative to contract with a different electricity supplier. If it was previously acceptable for Eversource to be the default supplier, why is it a concern now to establish a different default that offers greener energy? The rollout only moves customers from one default to another: anyone who has already chosen a supplier other than Eversource will not be moved. And customers who are switched do not lose any of their choices: although January 11 was the deadline to prevent being enrolled in CCE, people can still switch back to Eversource at any time—or, alternatively, change to a more or less expensive CCE plan.

CCE skeptics also note that CCE’s rates are only guaranteed to be lower than Eversource’s through June, and that CCE could possibly end up costing more over all. However, every supplier changes its rates periodically, and there is no guarantee that Eversource will be the cheapest in the long run, either. What we do know is that the City is committed to keeping rates favorable and stable over time, being a principle priority of the program as disclosed on their website.

We get it: no one likes to feel pushed around. But that is not what’s happening here. Opt-out programs are designed to sign up a critical mass of participants in a timely way, not by entrapping the unwilling, but by making the process effortless for the rest.    

CCE is a critical element of Boston’s Climate Action Plan, which aims for our city to be carbon neutral by 2050. We think that implementing CCE efficiently is a form of facilitation, not pressure. Claiming that city government either overstepped its bounds or was secretive in the instance of the CCE rollout is not factual. When the City Council hearing on CCE was held in 2017, over 300 Bostonians showed up to voice their support. As a city, we have demanded swift and meaningful climate action; let us not now criticize our officials for fulfilling their promise.

Donate to win big in 2021

You know the facts of climate change. You want to “fight like hell for the living,” as Mother Jones has told us. Boston Climate Action Network is leading the effort for city-level urgent and ambitious action on climate. Here are four reasons to join us in the fight and donate to make sure we win big in 2021. 

  1. We put our muscle where it makes a tangible impact. As residents of Boston, we know our City Councilors and Mayor listen to us. When we move City of Boston policy, that sets a precedent for the rest of New England. For example, soon Boston residents will have 10% more regionally produced renewable energy feeding into our electricity grid, for no extra cost, thanks to the BCAN-promoted Community Choice Electricity program.
  2. We focus on issues that take big bites of the climate apple. Our current campaign – Green Buildings, Not Greenhouse Gases – aims to radically reduce emissions from the biggest source of emissions in the city: large residential and commercial buildings.
  3. We know how to  network! There are countless groups in Boston working to solve various aspects of the climate crisis and the social crises that make climate issues so difficult to resolve. BCAN brings a social and political lens to climate organizing and builds networks for every campaign.
  4. We’re in it for the long haul. For 20 years we’ve been building the climate justice movement in Boston, training activists, educating the public with theater and song, and forming coalitions to achieve our goals. 

Despite the COVID-19 pandemic, we remain strong. This year as policies to meet our 2030 and 2050 goals are battled out in city hall and in community forums, BCAN will continue to push the envelope. The transition to low-carbon heating and high efficiency buildings will not happen unless activist groups like BCAN turn out residents to demand ambitious measures. 

Boston will also be choosing a new Mayor in 2021. The verbiage will be flying and BCAN will be there to parse the routine ideas from the truly innovative. You count on BCAN to alert you to Boston’s climate news every two weeks and to the moments when you need to show up so City Hall understands the force of people’s desire for urgent climate action.

Can we count on you to support the key role BCAN plays in leveraging Boston as a climate leader nationwide? Please become a sustaining donor this year if you do, or make the most generous annual donation your budget permits. 

Our climate is changing exponentially fast, and a dollar toward activism now can prevent having to spend hundreds of dollars for climate adaptation measures in the decades to come.

Thank you for your support!

Loie Hayes, Natasha Khatri, Judith Kolligian, Stephanie Komorowski, Terry Mason, Michael Weinstein, and Andy Wells-Bean
BCAN Board of Directors and Campaign Coordinator

PS: To donate, you can mail a check to: BCAN, POBox 300984, Boston, MA 02130;
To make a tax-deductible contribution online:

  • Go to the New England Grassroots Environmental Fund website, grassrootsfund.org/donate/now
  • Fill in your contact information and preferred contribution, then scroll down to “Program”
  • Click on “Fiscal Sponsored Group”
  • Write in “Boston Climate Action Network”

King Tides and Rising Seas

BCAN continues to document the increasing frequency of flooding in Boston due to sea level rise. This is especially noticeable at “king tide” events, the next of which is upcoming on Sunday November 15th. And this is only just the beginning. These coastline maps demonstrate the city’s vulnerability over the next several decades. Move the arrows to observe how the city is impacted.

The map on the left-most side of the slide projects the high tides around the coastline of Boston in the 2030s, with 9 inches of sea level rise due to increasing global temperatures. The lighter blue represents flooding of sea water into city neighborhoods. The map on the right-most side of the slide depicts high tides in the 2070s, after a projected 36 inches of sea level rise, and additionally a middle-of-the-road scenario for flooding in our streets from stormwater, shown in aqua green. The purple, red, and bright green colors show the places in the city where our most vulnerable populations reside–low income residents, people of color, and the elderly.

These images give you just a peek into what has become our reality here in Boston. King tide events—AKA perigean spring tides—are not going away any time soon. We will see more and more of these flooding events in our city, and as the maps show, they will get worse and worse, especially for our most vulnerable and under-resourced communities. We must take bold and aggressive climate action now to protect our coastal neighborhoods and forestall the impact of climate change.

The City of Boston has a great tool for finding the projected flooding for any address in the City. To learn more about anticipated flooding in your neighborhood and at the places you like to visit, go to https://www.boston.gov/departments/environment/climate-ready-boston-map-explorer.

Protect the Results

BCAN’s campaign efforts usually do not include electoral issues and government appointments. However, the uncertainty of the presidential election warrants BCAN to use its influence to encourage a fair and democratic outcome. 

On October 30, 2020, BCAN submitted the following letter to Massachusetts Governor Charlie Baker addressing the November 3 election. In this letter, we have asked for the Governor to publicly affirm his commitment to defending the popular vote and to denounce efforts that are intended to undermine the results of this election. This includes prosecuting ballot tampering and voter intimidation, counting every vote before validating a candidate, and ensuring the state electors respect the outcome of the popular vote. 

We are asking that the Governor protect the results of the election, regardless of the outcome, and allow the will of our state’s majority to be reflected in the electoral college. These requests do not aid in the election of a particular party or candidate, but support the framework of our democracy. We also ask that Charlie Baker encourage other governors across the country to abide by these same principles.

Thank you to BCAN’s allies at Massachusetts Climate Action Network, Greater Boston Tenants Union, Climate Code Blue, 350 Mass for a Better Future, Mothers Out Front, Boston Clean Energy Coalition, and “e” inc. The Environmental Learning and Action Center for showing solidarity on this important issue. 

If you want to take individual action to help protect our democracy, you can tell Charlie Baker you support the demands of this letter by signing this petition: http://bit.ly/tell-charlie-baker

News Roundup: October

Campaign Update – Mothers Out Front Joins Buildings Campaign

We’re building a coalition to green our buildings! This month, Mothers Out Front adopted a better BERDO 2.0 as one of their priorities. BERDO is the City’s 2014 ordinance mandating certain energy efficiency actions in buildings 35,000 square feet or larger. The City has begun a process to strengthen BERDO in line with the City’s goal of reaching carbon neutrality by 2050.

We’re thrilled to have such an energetic ally on this campaign. With allies like Mothers Out Front our coalition can outweigh the resistance of some in the real estate industry who don’t want to see tougher regulation. We support the City of Boston as it works to enact stronger, more enforceable regulations. When BERDO 2.0 becomes law, we will urge the Mayor to implement it with adequate personnel resources to help the owners, managers and occupants of the largest buildings in the city cut their carbon footprints effectively and rapidly. Join us when Mothers Out Front holds their first buildings campaign orientation on the evening of December 7. Please register!

Climate News – Thousands of Environmentalists Vote for the First Time

Thanks to the efforts of the Environmental Voter Project (EVP), 259,575 environmentalists have already cast their first-ever ballots in the 2020 election. EVP’s website states that “tens of millions of Americans strongly prioritize progressive environmental policies – the real problem is that these people do not vote.” Its mission: to turn this group into consistent voters. This year, the non-profit has concentrated its efforts in 11 swing states.

What Can You Do?

Vote! Election Day is Tuesday, November 3. Polls are open from 7 am to 8 pm. If Trump loses the election but won’t accept defeat, then plan to join an action to protect our democracy. Peaceful protests can keep the government and courts accountable by demanding that every vote be counted. Be prepared to show up until Inauguration Day, January 20, 2021. In Boston, Protect the Results Mobilization is planned for November 4, 3:30 pm, 139 Tremont Street. To find an event in your city or town go to https://protecttheresults.com

Upcoming Events

The BCAN Action Team meetings have changed dates for the remainder of the year! To avoid conflicts with Thanksgiving and Christmas, the Action Team will meet on the first and third Thursdays of the month, with the next meeting this Thursday, November 5 at 6 pm on Zoom.

Join us to get all the latest updates about CCE and the buildings campaign, and ways you can get involved.

King Tide Rally 10/17/2020

On Saturday 10/17, members of BCAN joined forces for the King Tide Rising Seas Rally. King Tides are especially high tides that occur during new or full moons, and pose an added danger to coastal cities such as Boston when combined with climate change. Click through the gallery below to check out some of the highlights from the event!

“Say Her Name”: BostonCAN in solidarity with Black Lives Matter Boston

BostonCAN helped to swell the crowd during the “Say Her Name” march and rally, sponsored by Black Lives Matter Boston, on Saturday, July 4. The event was organized to “center and uplift the lives of ALL Black womxn [with] radical joy and dancing because, as Audre Lorde wrote, ‘it is better to speak/remembering/we were never meant to survive.’ Womxn hold up half the sky all over the world and have always been essential, yet Black womxn are too often overlooked, erased, and devalued.”

BostonCAN volunteers at the Say Her Name rally.
BostonCAN calling for justice for Black women

“Green Buildings” FAQ

On Earth Day 2020, we launched a petition drive as part of our “Green Buildings, Not Greenhouse Gases” campaign. The petition is aimed at accelerating the pace of energy retrofits of large, existing buildings citywide. Because the current applicable city law, BERDO, is not strong enough to ensure that these retrofits happen, the petition asks the City to amend BERDO with strict building emissions standards and to ensure that they are implemented and enforced.   

Since the petition launch, we have been receiving some great questions from our members and the general public. Read on: your question may be answered here. 

What is the big idea behind your “Green Buildings” campaign?

The ultimate purpose is to reduce the carbon emissions that cause climate change. The latest update to Boston’s Climate Action Plan includes steps to reduce carbon emissions in three main sectors: buildings, transportation, and energy supply. 

Why did BCAN decide to focus on buildings

Over 70% of citywide greenhouse gases come from buildings. While it is important to reduce carbon pollution from all sources, BCAN wanted to concentrate on the sector with the most emissions.

Why existing buildings?

An estimated 85% of the buildings that will exist in Boston in 2050 are already built today. (That said, it is also important to keep new buildings from adding to the emissions problem. The Boston Clean Energy Coalition, of which BCAN is a member, is leading a separate campaign to ensure the adoption of net zero standards for new buildings.)

Why large ones?

Boston’s largest buildings—less than 3% of the total number–account for about half of total citywide emissions. 

Which buildings are we talking about?

Specifically,

  • nonresidential buildings that are 35,000 square feet or larger,
  • residential buildings that are 35,000 square feet or larger, or have 35 or more units, and
  • any parcel with multiple buildings that sum to 100,000 square feet or 100 units.

This group of 2,200 buildings encompasses many types: hospitals, laboratories, universities, office buildings, hotels, multi-family housing, and more. Some are owned by the City, but many are privately owned. 

What is BERDO?

BERDO, the Building Energy Reporting and Disclosure Ordinance, is a City law passed in 2013. It requires owners of large buildings (as defined above) to report annual energy and water usage to the City. It also requires the City to make the data public. Every five years, owners are required to do something additional about their energy usage: either take an energy action or get an energy assessment.  

What happens if building owners don’t comply?

The penalties specified under BERDO are light. The Air Pollution Control Commission, which is part of the City’s Environment Department, is authorized to fine non-compliant owners or tenants. However, the fines are capped at $3,000 per building annually, and applying them is cumbersome because it involves taking non-compliers to court. In actuality, the City has not been enforcing BERDO. BCAN believes the City needs to allocate more staff resources to the implementation of this law.  

Why do you say that existing requirements are not strong enough?

Every five years, owners of large buildings are required either to take an energy action or get an energy assessment.

To fulfill the “action” option, owners may prove their buildings are already energy-efficient by earning certain certifications, or demonstrate that they have achieved a 15% reduction in energy use. However, the worsening pace of the climate crisis necessitates a higher rate of reduction.

The “assessment” option, while a valuable start, does not alone seem like sufficient progress for a five-year period. 

What kind of changes would building owners need to make in order to make a difference?

There are many ways to reduce a building’s carbon footprint: insulation and air-sealing; more efficient heating, cooling, and lighting; producing or purchasing “green” electricity; occupant behavior changes; and more. What will work best is different for different buildings. 

Massachusetts’ cities and towns cannot specify how buildings must be built. They must adopt one of two building codes passed by the state. This is why Boston will update BERDO with a carbon emissions standard, setting limits that will probably vary by building size and type. It will be up to owners to decide how to meet the standard. That said, the City will offer guidance to owners and builders about ways to cut carbon emissions.     

How will this measure move forward at City Hall?

The Environment Department is leading a technical analysis that will use input from experts and citizens to decide on a new carbon emissions standard. By 2021, the new standard will be proposed to the City Council, who will be asked to pass it as an amendment to BERDO, replacing the old action/assessment requirement.   

How does my signing the petition help?

In its latest Climate Action Plan, the City has committed to a new carbon emissions standard for existing buildings. However, government plans can lose steam without support and demand from citizens. By signing the petition, you provide evidence that Bostonians want owners to fix their large buildings in order to protect our climate. 

Have another question that isn’t answered here? We’d love to hear from you. Email Andy, our coordinator, at andy@bostoncan.org.

Solidarity Strengthens our Movement: Black Lives Matter

Boston Climate Action Network understands that solidarity strengthens us rather than weakens us. Standing with movements that are not primarily focused on climate change expands our ability to envision and actualize a more equitable, sustainable world. As an organization focused on organizing City of Boston residents to speak out for climate justice, we know that anti-Black racism is one of the barriers we face to achieving our mission of climate justice; we also know that climate change continues to disproportionately affect communities of color.

In this historic moment when the flames of racist violence are being fanned by figures of authority, we join the majority in demanding societal recognition that Black Lives Matter and an end to systemic racism.  We invite you to join us in learning from the many Black activists speaking out about the links between police brutality, anti- Black racism, and environmental sustainability. Here are a few to get you started.

Dominique Thomas, 350.org Northeast Regional Organizer: “Black people in this country are being systematically suffocated, whether that’s with police officers using their knees to suffocate us, through the coronavirus attacking our lungs, or whether that’s through the fossil fuel industry…”

Ayana Elizabeth Johnson: marine biologist and founder of the non-profit think tank Urban Ocean Lab: “…If we want to successfully address climate change, we need people of color. Not just because pursuing diversity is a good thing to do, and not even because diversity leads to better decision-making and more effective strategies, but because, black people are significantly more concerned about climate change than white people (57 percent vs. 49 percent), and Latinx people are even more concerned (70 percent). To put that in perspective, it means that more than 23 million black Americans already care deeply about the environment and could make a huge contribution to the massive amount of climate work that needs doing….” 
https://www.washingtonpost.com/outlook/2020/06/03/im-black-climate-scientist-racism-derails-our-efforts-save-planet/

Mary Annaïse Heglar, writer in residence at Columbia University’s Earth Institute and co-creator of the Hot Take podcast: “…it’s not just time to talk about climate — it’s time to talk about it as the Black issue it is. It’s time to stop whitewashing it. In other words, it’s time to stop #AllLivesMattering the climate crisis. It’s time to talk about how extreme heat exacerbates police violence and increases deaths from tasers. It’s time to talk about what happens in prisons, which often lack air conditioning and heat, as temperatures skyrocket. It’s time to talk about climate gentrification. It’s time to talk about the use of tear gas — which hurts respiratory systems during a pandemic that is already disproportionately affecting Black people — as environmental racism….” https://www.huffpost.com/entry/climate-crisis-racism-environmenal-justice_n_5ee072b9c5b6b9cbc7699c3d


Boston Climate Action Network is a member of Boston Clean Energy Coalition. We endorse its statement, posted to Facebook on June 12, 2020.

Statement of Solidarity with the Movement for Black Lives

The Boston Clean Energy Coalition (BCEC) stands in solidarity with the Movement for Black Lives and all those working towards racial justice. BCEC was established in early 2017 to address the growing existential crisis of climate catastrophe, with a particular focus on grassroots organizing.

The destabilization of our global climate has its roots in the same exploitative and extractive foundation of our nation and the heart of our economic system, and to this day is inexorably entwined with the culture of white supremacy. While we have always understood this underlying connection between social and environmental injustice, the current moment requires us to step up our anti-racist efforts. Systemic racism demands systemic solutions that are based on listening, learning, empathy, solidarity, and action. No matter what lane we occupy in building a sustainable future, we can and will find ways to center and support racial justice.

We know that systemic racism is directly tied to an undue burden of environmental pollution and public health risk factors. We have seen the disproportionate impact of COVID-19 on folks identifying as black, indigenous, or people of color, and remain concerned about the environmental disparities that have contributed to this outcome. When “I Can’t Breathe” is again the horrible rallying cry against institutional racism, we also know that it is the awful daily truth for those who live in the most polluted areas of our city, in the sacrifice zones. We join the demand for justice for the murders of George Floyd, Ahmaud Arbery, Breonna Taylor, Tony McDade, and many others. We state loudly and publicly that Black Lives Matter.