Massachusetts Green Energy Bill is Down to the Wire

With a 35–0 vote, the Massachusetts Senate passed a comprehensive bill on June 14 that would “promote a clean energy future” across the state. Here are some of the bill’s most important provisions:

  • Raising Massachusetts’ Renewable Portfolio Standard (RPS) by three percentage points a year. The RPS is the minimum percent of the electricity sold by utilities and competitive suppliers that is required to come from local renewable sources. Currently, the annual increase is one percentage point. Raising the RPS faster would stimulate the development of new renewable energy projects in our region.
  • Eliminating the net metering cap. Net metering means that when solar panels produce more energy than the owner uses immediately, the extra goes into the grid and the owner gets a credit on his or her bill. Not limiting the amount of electricity that can be credited makes “going solar” affordable for more people.
  • Getting more specific about reducing statewide carbon emissions. The Global Warming Solutions Act had already mandated 80% reduction below 1990 levels by 2050. The new bill sets interim targets for 2030 and 2040, and it instructs the state administration to produce specific plans for meeting all the goals.
  • Encouraging further development and use of offshore wind, energy storage, and electric vehicles. All of these technologies would reduce fossil fuel use.
  • Regulating competitive electricity suppliers more strictly. Allowing independent suppliers to compete for the business of individual residents was intended to help people save money. However, a study by the Massachusetts Attorney General’s office shows that it does the opposite, and that vulnerable populations are hurt the most.

The next stop for the energy bill, now numbered S. 2545, is the House of Representatives. Unfortunately, time is tight: the current legislative session ends on July 31, and any bills that are still pending by then must start all over again next session.

Please contact your state representative now and ask him or her to pass the energy bill. If you can’t recall your rep’s name, here are three options:

  • Call (617) 722-2000, dial 2 for the House of Representatives, and speak with the operator.
  • Go to the Action Network website and compose an e-mail.
  • Go to the Massachusetts Legislature’s “Find My Legislator” page. Enter your address, then click on your rep’s picture to get contact info.

And while you’re at it, consider contacting your state senator, too, and thanking him or her for passing this important bill.

Join us for a Gas Leak Safari!

GAS-LEAK_84291

There are more than 3,300 natural gas leaks in the City of Boston, where miles of old corroded cast-iron pipes are badly in need of replacement with newer pipe material. The leaked natural gas is expensive for ratepayers who bear the costs. The methane in the gas is also a more potent greenhouse warming gas than CO2, meaning that the leaks represent a significant part of our collective carbon footprint. Natural gas leaks also harms trees and plantings, which has been documented along the Boston’s famed Arborway.

At 1pm, Sunday, Nov. 17, we will gather for a short briefing on the issue, and then depart to bike and caravan through Jamaica Plain, led by Boston University scientists, a professional detection team, and neighborhood leaders from Boston Climate Action Network and Clean Water Action. Please bring a bike or car, or plan to join a carpool. We will return to the Brewery by 3pm.

Who:  Concerned residents of Boston

BU scientist Nathan Phillips and his son Julian measuring gas leaks in Dorchester.
BU scientist Nathan Phillips and his son Julian measuring gas leaks in Dorchester.

What: Bike and car tour of natural gas leaks in Jamaica Plain

When: Sunday, November 17th at 1pm

Where: Meet at Bikes Not Bombs at the Jamaica Plain Brewery Complex

284 Amory Street, Jamaica Plain, MA02130

Entrance to Bikes Not Bombs is to the left of Ula Café entrance

RSVPs welcome or  to get involved in organizing this action and the on-going “Stop the Gas Leaks” campaign, contact: Becky Smith, Clean Water Action: bsmith<at>cleanwater.org, 617-314-2347 or Boston Climate Action Network: BostonClimateAction<at>gmail.com.

Green Minga Barnraising: Big Success

(En Español Abajo)
When was the last time you hosted a party and saved hundreds of dollars in fuel costs and thousands of pounds of global warming pollution? Yolanda Gonzalez and family did that just last week at the Green Minga barnraising!

Yolanda

Three generations of the Gonzalez family were joined by about 40 BostonCAN volunteers for the Green Minga barnraising, or community work party. Key among these were local professionals Victor Guillén of Carpentry Services Boston, Wilbert Seoane of Co-op Power, and Next Step Living’s Carl Lowenberg, who donated both time and materials to make the day a success. These three were joined by Manuel Gonçalves of Co-op Power, Loie Hayes of BostonCAN, and Matthew Schriener of Home Energy Efficiency Team as team leaders who taught volunteers ways to block cold air from sneaking in through windows and doors, and to keep heat in where it’s needed and not where it isn’t.

Spanish and English conversations echoed throughout the building, with more than a third of the participants being native Spanish speakers. Media professionals José Massó from WGBH’s Con Salsa and independent filmmaker Carla Pataky interviewed participants to document the event and discuss more broadly Latino efforts to address climate change. Jose and WilbertFreelance photographer Gretjen Helene took photos throughout the day and created a wonderful slideshow of highlights. Whole Foods donated a bounty of sandwiches and snacks to get volunteers fueled up for the four-hour work session.  Catalina Justiniano, the Green Minga organizer, commented afterward, “It was an exciting and beautiful experience of a community working together to improve the living conditions of these JP residents. Most impressive was how most of the volunteers were willing to come back again if anything else could be done beyond the possibilities of a four-hours work session.”

As in a traditional Minga, the homeowners offered food to thank their community after the work was done, Yolanda thanked the volunteers with a wonderful supper of chicken, rice, red beans and a delicious salad jointly prepared by the family. Volunteers took a break from work to enjoy this meal and share their joyful sense of accomplishment. Yolanda never stopped smiling throughout the day and days after she said “I feel blessed with all the work that was done, as it was something I really needed. What I like most was that there was a family-like feeling in the air and also that I’m positive I will save energy. Now I need to get the insulation and I hope that will happen soon.”

During supper, people had the opportunity to hear presentations on job openings in the weatherization industry. Jubeth Nuñez representing Renew Boston and  Next Step Living, Eunice Yu from Mass Energy, Mela Bush from Co-op Power, and Stephan MacPhee fromjob info session Solar City all discussed the types of positions that are currently open at their workplaces. Just the fact that so many more companies are now providing energy efficiency services to Boston residents, compared to even 4 years ago, is a testament to the potential of community development through investment in energy efficiency.

Victor Guillén and Co-op Power both donated planning time before the barnraising and Co-op Power came back after with a blower door test to measure how much our work had reduced the draftiness of Yolanda’s home. Based on that evaluation, we project that the building’s residents will save a combined $438 in energy costs every year going forward. That also means that there won’t be any of the global warming pollution that would have been created by burning that $438 worth of energy: a savings of more than 3895 pounds of CO2, which is equal to about a fifth of Yolanda’s household’s energy pollution footprint.  And all from do-it-yourself projects!

Green Minga organizer Catalina Justiniano is saying goodbye to BostonCAN as she moves out of the area. Thankfully she has created some wonderful precedents that our next barnraising organizer can use going forward. Please contact BostonCAN Coordinator Loie Hayes if you’re interested in helping to organize our next barnraising!

We’ve posted more photos on-line.