July 2021 Newsletter
Change is Coming!
New State Climate Law Takes Effect
Massachusetts is beginning to implement one of the strongest climate laws in the US. Known as An Act Creating a Next Generation Roadmap for Massachusetts Climate Policy, the new law came into effect on June 25. This was the legislation that ECA Massachusetts worked so hard to pass for the last several years. We believe it is important for everyone in ECA Massachusetts to understand the new law’s implications.

The focus of this “Next Generation Roadmap” is a revision to the state’s climate goals to achieve net zero emissions by 2050. The law sets out interim emission reduction goals every five years in order to reach this overall target. The law also outlines how state agencies must give consideration of Environmental Justice (EJ) populations in considering construction projects. And it begins a process to develop new statewide “stretch building codes” that will let towns/cities choose whether to require new buildings to be constructed to net zero standards. 

In addition to these changes, this law will affect the actions of many state agencies that impact our lives in various ways. Here are some of the immediate changes at the state agencies involved in implementing this new law.
  • Department of Public Utilities (DPU) must give equal weight to six factors in deciding rates for electricity and gas, reviewing contracts with utility companies and making policy. To DPU’s original priorities of system reliability and affordability are added four new criteria: safety, security (from cyberattack and sabotage), plus equity and reductions in greenhouse gas emissions.
  • Agencies involved in Mass Save must consider “the social value of greenhouse gas emission reductions" in design and evaluation of all programs. Agencies affected are the DPU, the Department of Energy Resources (DOER), the Energy Efficiency Advisory Council (EEAC), and the electric and natural gas companies regulated by the state as public utilities.
  • The Secretary of Energy and Environmental Affairs (EEA) must set a goal for the contribution Mass Save’s 2022-2024 program will make to the state’s 2025 emissions limits. Senator Barrett, one of the architects of the new law, explains that this requirement is intended to encourage EEA to think of Mass Save as a means to achieve the state’s emissions goals.
  • Finally, Governor Baker must appoint three new members of the Board of Building Regulations and Standards. These new members will be experts in energy efficiency and help the board improve emissions-related aspects of the state’s building codes.

Change is on its way…soon. Unfortunately, those responsible for implementing and funding the first steps are slow-walking progress. We’d like to see more communication from the administration (EEA) on what they are doing now and what they are recommending for funding their plan! There are obvious steps that can be taken now. Time is short!

For more on the law, See Arnie Epstein’s article, Climate Bill Signed into Law!, on the ECA Massachusetts website.
Also in this Issue
  • Save the Date!
  • Forest Protection (H.912) - An ECA Mass Legislative Priority
  • ECA Mass Highlights - Recent Presentations and Website News
  • Invitation to 4-Session Climate Webinar - Wednesdays starting July 21
  • What We're Reading - Finding the Mother Tree by Suzanne Simard

An Act Relative to Forest Protection (H.912)
An ECA Massachusetts Legislative Priority
By Rick Lent
ECA Mass Legislative Team Member

We are increasingly aware of the critical importance of forested areas, particularly those left in their natural, diverse state, to the health and well-being of the eco-systems we depend on, and to sequestering CO2 from the atmosphere. This bill would designate all 412,000 acres of park, forest, and watershed lands administered by the Massachusetts Department of Conservation and Recreation as parks or reserves. It would expand the existing system of parks and reserves and let natural processes proceed with minimal human interference. If enacted, this bill would represent a significant change to current public land policies that allow a variety of destructive practices, such as selling off the timber for commercial use.

The proposed law adds a requirement for “optimizing carbon sequestration” and requires “ensuring the highest standards of sustainable forestry and native biodiversity protection” while removing current language “providing a continuing and increasing supply of forest products for public consumption, farm use and for the wood-using industries of the Commonwealth.” The bill has been referred to the Joint Committee on Environment, Natural Resources and Agriculture.

There are many other details to the bill (summarized in this Save Massachusetts Forests fact sheet), and the full text can be found at https://malegislature.gov/Bills/192/H912. This bill was featured at our May 24 Deep Dialogue session and the recording is available at our website under Get Informed, at the sub-link ECA Mass Meeting Videos, https://ecamass.org/eca-mass-meeting-videos/)

For more about legislation we support, including two additional forest-related bills in our list of additional priorities, see ECA Mass Legislative Priorities on our website.

ECA Massachusetts Highlights
Recent Presentations and Website News

At our June 8 chapter meeting on Zoom, we were honored to host state Senator Michael Barrett. Senator Barrett is a longtime climate champion, the lead author in the Senate of the landmark climate "Next Generation Roadmap" law, and the Senate chair of TUE (Telecommunications, Utilities, and Energy joint committee) which is responsible for most state climate legislation.

Senator Barrett shared his thoughts about the new climate law and the way forward – focusing on a few key themes.
  • Our climate goals represent an enormous challenge. We need to make tough choices and cannot afford to be purists.
  • We all “own the problem.” We will not succeed unless all state agencies, communities, and residents do their part.
  • We cannot “kick the can down the road.” To achieve the state’s net-zero target we need frequent, specific interim targets that enable us to judge where we are and make midterm corrections where needed.

Following the presentation, Senator Barrett directly addressed difficult issues during the Q&A period. A video of the full presentation and Q&A session is available on the ECA Mass website: https://ecamass.org/eca-mass-meeting-videos/

Senator Barrett also issued a statement detailing the near-term deadlines of the Roadmap law and the changes it requires to align state agencies with the emissions goals.
ECA Massachusetts Conversation Series

At our June Deep Dialogue, Paul Reisberg of our Research Team dove into an important and controversial topic: The Role of Nuclear Energy in Combating Climate Change. Amy Meltzer, also of our Research Team, was the meeting facilitator.

In environmental discussions, nuclear energy often is as welcome as a skunk at a picnic. Do we really need it? Isn't solar, wind and storage enough? What about safety in a world full of malfeasance and incompetence? Don't waste products that last millions of years make nuclear a nonstarter? Are the next generation reactors an improvement?

Paul's interesting and informative presentation covered these issues and much more, followed by many questions and lively discussion with the 45 participants who attended on Zoom. We all learned a lot! Paul agreed with points made by Senator Barrett at the June chapter meeting, that we should go full speed ahead with solar and wind but not retire nuclear plants early while we continue development of new technology. Paul emphasized the need to quickly replace fossil fuels with clean dispatchable energy, and he believes nuclear should be one of those options.

You can watch the video of Paul's presentation and the Q&A discussion, and access his presentation slides, at the the ECA Mass website: https://ecamass.org/eca-mass-meeting-videos/.
ECA Massachusetts Website

In addition to videos of our June meetings, there's much more climate news and content at our website, https://ecamass.org/. For example, you'll find:
  • Featured posts at the home page - with quick links to articles about ECA Mass legislative priorities, the Biden Administration's climate plans and team, ECA Mass research papers, videos from our acclaimed 5-part educational series, Getting to Net Negative - A Massachusetts Approach, and more.
  • Drop-down menus at the Get Engaged and Get Informed sections of the website, with easy access to our ECA Mass Event Calendar and Facebook page, our current and past newsletters, more research papers and meeting videos - so many ways to learn about climate issues and how you can get involved with ECA Massachusetts.

So please explore our website - and come back often to see the latest updates!
Invitation to 4-Session Webinar
Can We Stop Climate Change?
Do you lie awake at night thinking about an iron-clad argument you can present to your next-door neighbor to convince them about climate change?
Katharine Hayhoe, a climate scientist at Texas Tech suggests you forget about that strategy. When approaching a person about climate change, you should start by finding out where they are at. Not where you are. Try asking questions like, “Are you concerned about climate change? Do you think it will affect you?” And then listen!

If you want a better understanding of climate change issues as well as ideas about how to start a conversation, sign up for a 4-meeting webinar "Can We Stop Climate Change?” Details below...
You are invited to participate in our 4-meeting webinar “Can We Stop Climate Change?” Classes meet Wednesdays, 7 to 8:30 pm EDT, July 21, July 28, August 4 and August 11. Retired science teachers Seth Evans and Tom Rawson will facilitate. Limit 15 people to allow for active participation.
We are beginning to see hopeful signs at all levels of government, not to mention contributions by a wide range of organizations, but there is plenty to do. Many scientists say we have less than 10 years for significant changes to stem the tide. It’s extraordinarily important that citizens be well informed and willing to talk about and act on climate issues.
The first Zoom session addresses the basic science and the manifestations of climate change. You may know a lot of this but new information will be introduced. The second session covers renewable energy sources, primarily wind and solar, and the incredible reduction in costs over the past ten years. The third meeting delves into climate modeling and specifically the En-ROADS Climate Solutions Simulator which is used in policymaking. You don’t have to be a scientist to grasp these concepts and appreciate their relevance. The last session takes a look at the audience we are trying to reach, as well as various opportunities for you to get active.
This webinar is designed for people who are interested in learning more about climate change, becoming more effective in communicating with others, and actively mitigating the impact on our planet and ourselves.
Please contact Seth Evans to sign up or ask questions. 

What We're Reading
Finding the Mother Tree: Discovering the Wisdom of the Forest
By Suzanne Simard (Knopf, 2021)
This book could only be written by a woman scientist, one who grew up in the forests of the Pacific Northwest, whose family knew the forests, whose first job was for a logging company. But early on she began questioning what clear cutting and the policy of removing all the undergrowth by using herbicides was doing to the unseen and unrecognized role of the mycorrhizal networks that interconnected the trees with surrounding plants.

Dr. Simard is a true scientific pioneer. As recently as the 1980s, forest soil was seen as little more than a medium for holding onto water and holding up the trees growing in it. As she framed her research direction: “are forests structured mainly by competition, or is cooperation as or even more important?” (p. 140). If she could show that collaboration in the forest is critical to its vitality, it would change the way forestry is practiced and protect more of the native plants in the forest. Her description of the experiments she ran with careful controls is a testament to her ingenuity and thoroughness as she sought to establish whether trees, even of different species, could exchange nutrients as long as the trees all had the same family of mycorrhizas.

Eventually she had hard proof that trees connected and cooperated. “Birch and fir were trading carbon. They were communicating. Birch was detecting and staying attuned to the needs of fir. Not only that, … fir gave some carbon back to birch too. As though reciprocity was part of their everyday relationship” (pp. 160-161). When she first published her results, Nature magazine put her discovery on their cover, and this was the beginning of her fame and difficult career as some entrenched interests pushed back.

You may have read elsewhere about the discoveries of interspecies collaboration, but in this book you learn about the science and the difficulty convincing forestry professionals that new practices (less clear cutting, for instance) were necessary for more rapid growth and less risk of wildfires. This book is part autobiography and part scientific whodunit with plenty of references to the published studies she’s authored in various peer-reviewed journals. Today some see her as another Rachel Carson for innovative research with significant implications for the environment. For more on her work, check out the Mother Tree Project.

-- Rick Lent


Do you have a book review suggestion? Send your ideas to Newsletter Editor Diane Rapaport.
This Newsletter is Published for Members and Friends of the
Elders Climate Action - Massachusetts Chapter
ECA Massachusetts is a chapter of the national Elders Climate Action. We are a movement of elders committed to making our voices heard... to change our nation's policies while there is still time to avoid catastrophic changes in the Earth's climate. Visit the ECA Massachusetts website, event calendar, and Facebook page to learn more about our chapter's activities and climate news. JOIN ECA MASSACHUSETTS AND STAY CONNECTED! Subscribe to our monthly newsletter, and for more active participation, sign up to receive Action Alerts and meeting announcements. Fill out our subscription form.