May 2022 Newsletter
In this Issue
  • Save the Date!
  • A Main Obstacle to Healthy Future Climate is PLASTIC!
  • ECA Mass Legislative Team Update
  • State Presents Proposed GHG Emissions Targets for 2025 and 2030
  • Whither the Biden Climate Plan
  • What We're Reading: Can I Recycle This? A Guide to Better Recycling and How to Reduce Single-Use Plastics, by Jennie Romer
A Main Obstacle to Healthy Future Climate is
A member of the ECA Mass Research Team, Charlie Flammer, and a former ECA Mass member, Maxine Lobel (now a Florida climate activist), are both working on getting out the word on the plastics problem. In two documents, they tell us why we need to get off plastics and how to do it. 
Read Charlie's comprehensive but concise review entitled "The Plastics Problem in a Nutshell and Actions You Can Take", which comes out of a year-long collaboration with other members of our Research Team. It includes “Quick Facts” about plastics pollution followed by a guide to reducing the use of plastics and lots of useful references with links to some compelling videos. It’s a great place to begin an exploration of the plastics problem.
Maxine's piece, excerpted below, is in the form of a letter to friends and family she originally entitled "What Did You Do Once You Knew?"
Maxine writes:
As you know, caring for our Earth is essential for the future of life as we know it. And it is especially critical that we are aware of how we can help safeguard the future for those we love so dearly. I know that making sure all children have the right to grow and thrive throughout their lives is a value we all share. 
One of the main obstacles to that healthy, bright future is PLASTIC! Many of you will be surprised to read this, but please read on, as I am sure that you will see the connection that Plastic has to the alarming climate danger that we, and especially today's children, face.
There are two aspects to Plastic's extreme harm to our Earth:
Downstream - We have been led to believe that if we recycle, it is fine to purchase plastic. In fact, it was the plastic industry that was behind the promotion of recycling as a way of both negating concern about buying and using plastic and placing responsibility on the consumer rather than the producer. But the fact is that only 9% of plastic is recycled.
Upstream - As the world has become more aware of the dangers of climate change, there has been a shift towards renewable energy. This means less reliance on fossil fuels, the main contributor to greenhouse gas emissions which are responsible for the climate dangers we now face. The fossil fuel industry, not wanting to lose its enormous profitability, has instead turned its attention to plastic, building an ever-increasing number of petrochemical plants. This focus on producing more and more plastic (and consequently greater and greater greenhouse gas emissions) is their Plan B. Unfortunately, Earth doesn't have a Plan B! Plastic production is expected to triple by 2040, and it is predicted that by 2050, there will be more plastic in the ocean than fish. 
Additionally, it has now been shown that plastic is profoundly contributing to serious global health issues. As ecosystems and fish are being contaminated by plastic pollution, humans also are becoming victims of the chemicals in plastic. Plastic packaging is contaminating the food we eat and that we give our children. And microplastics, which are the very small particles that result when plastic breaks down, have been found everywhere - in the air we breathe, the water we drink and the food we eat. Just in this past month, microplastics, which had previously been detected in the human colon, feces, placental tissue and human blood, have now been found in human lungs. How serious this is to human health is being studied and researched all over the world.
Many companies are advertising that they are improving their products, but beware: though some are legitimately making genuine improvements, there is also a great deal of greenwashing. 
If you now have a new awareness of the extreme danger of increased plastic production, please consider reading the thorough report, "The New Coal - Plastics and Climate Change." The foreword, written by Judith Enck, states:
Made from a combination of chemicals and fossil fuels, plastic produces greenhouse gas emissions at every stage of its life cycle. To provide context, if plastic were a country, it would be the world’s fifth largest greenhouse gas emitter, beating out all but China, the U.S., India and Russia. Yet few policy makers and even fewer businesses are addressing plastic’s impact on our rapidly warming climate, and working to limit its ballooning greenhouse gas emissions. Unlike the plastic trash choking our waterways and littering our communities, the plastic industry’s devastating impact on our climate is taking place under the radar, with little public scrutiny and even less government accountability.
As you consider how you might be able to reduce your plastic consumption and reuse the plastic you have, share this information with friends. And take action that will change the laws regarding plastic! We need systemic change to truly impact the future and safeguard the earth for the children. Please read about and support the Break Free from Plastic Pollution Act.
USEFUL RESOURCES - Large variety of household products. Their vision is a world without fossil-fuel derived plastic - Eco-friendly cleaning products without any plastic waste - Sustainable products including home, beauty and personal care (choose carefully for only those that are plastic free) - Eco-friendly toilet paper, tissues and paper towels; 50% of profits go towards building toilets where they are needed. Completely plastic free packaging. (Did you know that Charmin TP comes from trees that are causing the deforestation of the Boreal forest? Learn more here.)

And scroll down to the end of this newsletter for a review by Michael Sales of Jennie Romer's recent book, Can I Recycle This? A Guide to Better Recycling and How to Reduce Single-Use Plastics.
ECA Mass Legislative Team Update
MA Senate Passes a Climate Bill
The Massachusetts Senate passed a new $250 million climate bill, “An Act Driving Climate Policy Forward” in early April. It was introduced as an amendment to the House’s wind energy bill, deleting most of the House bill text and substituting text that covers much more than wind.
The bill includes a number of provisions aimed at accelerating the state’s effort to curb fossil fuel emissions in three areas:
  • Increased rebates for electric vehicles (EV) at the point of sale
  • $50 million for a new coordinating council to oversee installation of charging stations
  • Outreach to low income communities about EV incentives
  • Bans sale of fossil-fuel-powered cars in 2035
  • MBTA: Entire bus fleet zero emission by 2040
  • Uber and Lyft to offer option of rides in EVs

  • Ten municipalities allowed to require all-electric new construction
  • Ends Mass Save incentives for all fossil-fuel-powered equipment in 2025 except for backing up a heat pump
  • Department of Energy Resources (DOER) to develop energy and emissions performance standards for large buildings

  • $100 million for the Clean Energy Center to accelerate growth of the clean-energy industry in Massachusetts and support research into clean-energy options like geothermal and nuclear fusion
  • Changes to the House wind bill including maintaining a cap on the price of energy generated by new wind projects, eliminating an increase in charges to gas ratepayers, and dropping some workforce and investment provisions
  • DOER, instead of utilities, would select winning bids in the wind energy procurement process
  • Pro-solar provisions including more options for siting of solar panels, increase in the amount of solar energy that a homeowner can sell to a utility, and plans for a new solar incentive program
  • Eliminates incentives for biomass power
  • Provides for more public input into the future of the gas planning process

The Senate bill should now go to a conference committee to be reconciled with the House wind bill. A House climate bill (see April newsletter) which may soon be coming out of the Telecommunications, Utilities, and Energy committee will have to be rolled into the mix. We are hopeful that the legislature will ultimately arrive at a strong climate bill that the governor is willing to sign, but we may not know the outcome until July.

Our legislative team is tracking the process closely and is working with allies to advocate for some important provisions on buildings, green financing, and workforce development. Stay tuned for some upcoming action alerts as these bills move through the committee process.
State Presents Proposed GHG Emissions Targets for 2025 and 2030
Arnie Epstein, ECA Mass Leadership and Research Teams

In December of 2020, the EEA (Executive Office of Energy & Environmental Affairs) published a draft of the 2030 CECP (Clean Energy and Climate Plan). A lot has changed since then, and under the Roadmap Act, enacted March 2021, EEA must publish the final document by this July. The Roadmap Act added additional requirements to the CECP:
  • Statewide GHG emissions must be reduced by 50% relative to 1990 rather than 45% targeted in draft CECP.
  • Statewide binding GHG emissions limits must be set for both 2025 and 2030.
  • Sector GHG emissions limits must be set (e.g., transportation, building heating).

On April 14, the EEA presented their proposal for the final 2025 and 2030 CECP. Here are highlights of the proposal:
  • Most of the 50% GHG emissions reductions mandated for 2030 will occur between 2025 and 2030. Emissions had already been reduced by 25% in 2020 (relative to 1990). It is proposed that emissions be reduced by only another 7% by 2025 and by an additional 18% between 2025 and 2030.
  • Emissions from transportation will decease far more by 2030 than proposed in the draft CECP. The draft CECP had transportation emissions reduced by 26% while the proposed final CECP shows a 39% reduction. In part, this more aggressive goal projects 900,000 zero-emissions vehicles by 2030, rather than 750,000 in the draft plan, as well as 50,000 medium-duty zero-emissions vehicles.
  • Building emissions will decrease by far less in 2030 than proposed in the draft CECP. The draft CECP had building emissions reduced by 56%. while the proposed final CECP has a 40% reduction. In part, this is a result of including “hybrid” heating systems (a heating system that combines a heat pump with a back-up fossil fuel system for low temperature heating) in the target of one million electrified homes.

In addition to the passage of the Roadmap Act, which sets more aggressive statewide emissions-reductions targets than called for in the draft CECP, other developments since the publication of the draft CECP may make achieving these targets even more challenging.
  • The proposed Clean Energy Connect transmission line, which would have brought hydro power from Quebec to Massachusetts, was rejected in a referendum in Maine.
  • The Transportation Climate Initiative (TCI), a multi-state pact to reduce emissions from transportation, has been put on hold, after not being adopted by any other state in the region.

Clearly, we have our work cut out for us to achieve the critical 2030 emissions-reduction targets.
Whither the Biden Climate Plan
Seth Evans, ECA Mass Leadership Team

According to the latest report of the United Nations' Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, the world is running out of time to make decisive cuts in greenhouse gas emissions if we are to meet the goal of limiting global warming to the Paris Agreement’s 1.5°C target. Nations around the world must accelerate their efforts, but we in the US have a special obligation as the largest cumulative generator of GHGs.
President Biden has proposed a historic $550 billion investment in incentives and tax credits for the rapid development of clean-energy alternatives via a reconciliation bill – already passed in the House. But this plan has so far failed to receive firm support from Senator Joe Manchin and is unlikely to move forward, even on a party-line vote, in its current form. In fact, Manchin is now saying he prefers to pass a bipartisan bill, which would require ten Republican senators to pass. Only a highly-diluted bill with continuing support for fossil fuels as part of an “all of the above” strategy could possibly garner that support. 
With only six months to go before midterm elections could well result in Democrats losing control of Congress, now is the time to pull out all the stops to support federal climate change legislation. Please stay tuned to this space to learn more about what you can do to help make that happen.
What We're Reading
Can I Recycle This? A Guide to Better Recycling and How to Reduce Single-Use Plastics
By Jennie Romer (Penguin Books, 2021, 259 pages)
Ms. Romer is presently Deputy Assistant Administrator for Pollution Prevention at the US Environmental Protection Agency. She has more than a decade of experience as an attorney and sustainability consultant working on legislation to achieve waste reduction and the elimination of single-use plastics.
Ninety pages of this comprehensive work are devoted to answering the questions of confused, yet devoted, recyclers like myself regarding what can and what cannot be recycled. For example: Multilayer Delivery Envelopes, Candy Wrappers, Yogurt Cups, and Plastic Straws are all “No!” However, Soup Cans, Cereal Boxes, Paper Egg Cartons, and Shaving Cream cannisters (with aerosol elements fully discharged) are a “Yes!” (This latter discovery made the reading of the entire book worth it to me!)*
While many, and perhaps most, will want to keep CIRT handy as a quick reference guide, the sections describing the recycling system, the conservation steps individuals and communities can take, and the pressing need for the holistic regulation of plastic provide a contextual frame climate activists will appreciate.
In a book rich in observations and facts, several of Romer’s assessments stand out:
1. Immense production and mindless consumption are, obviously, the root causes of the waste problem, in general, and the plastic waste problem, in particular. More and/or better recycling is frequently no more than a band aid. Recycling is, significantly, a hoax perpetrated on consumers by the fossil fuel industry to make us feel okay about the incredible level of waste generated by our species, especially in advanced industrial societies.

As Larry Thomas, former head of the Society of the Plastics Industry, said
If the public thinks that recycling is working, then they’re not going to be as concerned about the environment. 
Notwithstanding the fact that plastics manufacturers and the distributors of their products pass on responsibility for dealing with these materials to consumers, much more could be done to prevent plastics from doing damage to our environment. According to the EPA, something like 35-40 billion pounds of plastic is put into the solid-waste stream by Americans alone every year! That’s on the order of 1/2lb/day/person. While the estimates vary, something like only 9% of what could be recycled from this heaping pile of waste is.
It is apparent from the never-ending stream of single use plastics being produced that this aspect of the fossil fuel industry – and by many other elements of the waste-generation system** -- doesn’t really care very much about its environmental or carbon footprint.
2.The markets for goods that can be recycled need to be dramatically expanded. If it’s cheaper to ship potentially recyclable products to a land fill than it is to sell them, that’s where they’ll end up. Used shoes, for example, presently have virtually no resale value. Therefore, creativity, incentives, and infrastructure need to be put into place to get more materials out of waste streams and into reuse.
3. Lawsuits and legislation are desperately needed to address the waste crisis, especially plastics, which are a clear and present danger to land, sea and all life. Romer discusses quite a few organizations (e.g., The Surfrider Foundation) addressing this problem, and here is a brief article describing leading organizations in this field, which includes some of those cited in CIRT. She is also a major supporter of the Break Free from Plastic Pollution Act (BFFPPA), which is supported by Democrats in the US House and Senate. Among other provisions, the act would require post-consumer content in all beverage bottles and extend producer responsibility for the costs and problems associated with plastics back on the manufacturers and companies using these substances.
Christie Young’s delightful illustrations add greatly to the explanatory value of this valuable resource. Leila Sales is editing a children’s version of this book, which will be published in 2023 by Viking Press.

*Pet Peeve: Cellophane’s position in the recycling system isn’t addressed. (I hate that stuff.)
**Romer also describes composting processes and the industries they supply in detail. According to the Washington Post, food waste contribute about 8% to greenhouse gas emissions globally, which is more than the GHGs produced by the airline industry.

-- Michael Sales
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.