September 2021 Newsletter
"The one thing we need more than hope is action.
Once we start to act, hope is everywhere."
Greta Thunberg
Code Red for Humanity...
and for Biden's Climate Plan
By Seth Evans, ECA Massachusetts Chapter,
and Nadine Young, ECA National
Last month’s IPCC report detailed the catastrophic impacts to come unless the world rapidly and dramatically cuts greenhouse gas emissions. The UN Secretary General called the report a “code red for humanity,” but those who had been paying attention to the news were not surprised by the alarm. This summer’s massive forest fires, deadly flooding, heat waves, and intense hurricanes all tell the news of a planet suffering from decades of human carbon pollution, as well as decades of inaction by corporations and governments alike.

The UN report and the summer’s crises coincide with Congressional consideration of the Biden climate plan, the main components of which are contained in the Reconciliation Bill. The $3.5 trillion bill, also called the recovery bill, contains vital “human infrastructure” funding, but it also contains a crucial climate change package that will put the U.S. on the path to reducing carbon emissions by 50% across the economy by 2030. 

This is the most ambitious climate plan ever to come before the Congress, and if it doesn’t pass this year, it is unlikely that such a bill could be passed in the next decade. As Bill McKibben says, “It doesn’t matter if you’d like something else instead (a carbon tax, say); this $3.5 trillion package is it.” 

The two most significant pieces of this package are:

The Clean Electricity Payment Program (CEPP): Modeled on clean energy standards (CES) already successful in some states, the CEPP is the most important policy in the package. It would result in the U.S. electricity grid run on 80% clean energy by 2030 an achievable but still ambitious target. The program would pay utilities to source increasing quantities of power from renewables and clean energy, and penalize utilities that underperform.

Cleaning up the electric grid would eliminate up to a quarter of the country’s greenhouse gas emissions; it would also make it easier for other sectors of the economy, like transportation, homes and businesses, to convert to powering with clean energy.

Tax incentives: Tax credits for wind and solar investment and production would be renewed, and various forms of tax credits would be extended to energy storage, hydrogen, carbon capture, electric vehicles, home heating electrification, and other key clean energy technologies.

In order to have any hope of preventing a grim future for our children and grandchildren, WE CANNOT ALLOW THIS MOMENT TO PASS WITHOUT RAISING OUR VOICES.

Join ECA and dozens of other climate change organizations for a CLEAN ENERGY DAY OF ACTION ON MONDAY, SEPTEMBER 13: Members of Congress fighting for these measures are up against fierce opposition; there is no certainty of success. Every Senator and Representative (the enlightened, the deniers, the fossil fuel defenders, all of them) must hear from constituents demanding passage of the reconciliation budget and especially the CEPP and clean energy tax credits. Yes – even our Massachusetts delegation needs to receive our support!
MEET US ON ZOOM, Monday, September 13 at 7:30 – 8:15 PM ET. We will give you all the information you need to call members of Congress.
Meeting ID: 367 938 5589
Passcode: 653979
This is the first of many actions we will be taking, with our climate allies, to push the reconciliation package over the finish line this fall. Please participate!
Also in this Issue
  • Save the Date!
  • ECA Massachusetts Updates
  • Testimony to State Legislators
  • Coming Soon - New Advocacy Tools
  • Chapter Meeting - ECA Mass Policy on Climate Solutions
  • Member Spotlight: Dawn Edell
  • What We're Reading
  • Short Circuiting Policy: Interest Groups and the Battle Over Clean Energy and Climate Policy in the American States by Leah Cardamore Stokes
  • Trees in Trouble: Wildfires, Infestations, and Climate Change by Daniel Mathews

ECA Massachusetts Updates
Legislative Advocacy and
Policy Statement on Climate Solutions
By Roger Luckmann, ECA Mass Legislative Team

The ECA Mass Legislative Team and bill managers were busy in July providing oral and written testimony on six major pieces of legislation and proposed revisions to the state’s regulations on combustion of biomass.
The bills included five of our 12 secondary priority pieces of legislation we have selected for advocacy this legislation session:
    An act relative to a just transition to clean energy
    An act promoting zero emission vehicles
    An act to promote electric vehicle fleets by 2035
    An act relative to modern grid access and customer service
    An act to reduce greenhouse gas emissions and by permitting local option all-electric buildings and homes options.

There was also one of our six top priority bills:
    An act to promote offshore wind energy and renewables

A “piece” of legislation usually includes identical House and Senate bills. The bills were referred to the Joint Committees on Labor and Workforce Development and Telecommunications, Utilities and Energy (TUE), Transportation, Environment, Natural Resources and Agriculture and some others.
Testimony on the just transition bill focused on the importance of assuring that workers displaced from fossil fuel jobs because of our state’s requirements to decarbonize be offered services and financial support to retrain as needed and find new jobs with similar wages and benefits to the jobs they lost. The focus of testimony on the zero emission vehicles (ZEV) bill supported the bill’s proposals for increased incentives and rebates for ZEV purchases especially for low and moderate income residents as well as for making vehicle charging accessible and affordable.
Our testimony to TUE on the vehicle fleet bill applauded the legislation for requiring that all state and municipal fleet vehicles be electric by 2035 and that the state departments motivate owners of private fleets to go electric as well. We made the point that this bill would make more ZEVs visible to the public, possibly motivating residents to consider ZEV purchases. Testimony on the modern grid access bill focused on how making connection to the grid faster and affordable for distributed solar power and implementing advanced electric metering could save money for residents and create jobs.
Testimony on the all-electric buildings bill included an oral statement coordinated with several ECA Mass allies and a written statement. The statements included a rationale for allowing communities to require new buildings to use only electricity for heating and other functions. The statement also pointed out that six communities have already passed home-rule petitions requesting the state give them the all-electric option. By passing this bill, legislators can avoid dealing individually with many individual home-rule petitions likely to come their way.
Oral testimony on the wind bill was provided by a panel from the New England for Offshore Wind coalition. ECA submitted supporting written testimony.
Testimony at a TUE regulatory hearing proposed changes in Department of Energy Resources (DOER) renewable portfolio standards (RPS) and biomass regulations raised concerns about the clean energy standard included in the changes as well as the need for a comprehensive interagency analysis of greenhouse gas emissions and public health impacts of biomass electric generation as required by the Roadmap bill before making any regulation changes. The statement also criticized DOER for its failure to establish any cap on biomass emissions under the RPS and for incentivizing combustion of biomass for power.
ECA Mass members preparing testimony included Paul Reisberg, David Drayton, Roger Luckmann, Glen Ayers, Michael Sales, and Arnie Epstein.

Action Network Website to Offer ECA Mass Members
Support for Contacting Legislators

Soon, when you get an ECA Action Alert involving writing to a legislator it will come with a link to an Action Network website. There you will see:

  • Some information about the issue you are being asked to address with one or more of our state or federal legislators.
  • A form to fill in with your name and address so the correct legislator/s is identified.
  • Suggested text for an email with a request to personalize the text.
When you are finished with the text, you just need to hit “Send” and the email goes off to your legislator/s. Many of you are probably already familiar with this type of tool as lots of organizations use similar websites to support emailing legislators.
In addition to making it easier for members to send emails to legislators, the website also tracks how many emails are sent. That helps ECA Mass learn about how to engage more members in advocacy. Action Network does not share your personal data with any entity that would want to contact you.
We hope this new tool encourages you to respond to our Action Alerts. Let us know if you have any comments or concerns.

At our August 10 meeting, our Research and Legislative Teams shared a draft policy statement about the climate solutions ECA Mass supports, and why we sometimes differ from the positions taken by friends and allies in the climate movement.
ECA Mass believes that we should be open to all potentially effective technological, socio-economic, and nature-based means of combating climate change. But we disagree with some other environmental organizations, which contend that certain approaches, such as carbon capture and sequestration, carbon fees, and advanced nuclear power, are “false” solutions that should be taken off the table.

We divided up into small break-out groups on Zoom to consider the ECA Mass draft policy statement, and then we all came back to the full meeting group for a lively facilitated discussion about our feedback and questions.

Watch a recording of our meeting here. And read the updated ECA Mass Policy on Climate Solutions here, or check out the featured post on the homepage of our website,
Member Spotlight - Dawn Edell
Do you love getting this newsletter every month? Well it wouldn't be in your hands now if it weren't for one of our longtime ECA Mass members, Dawn Edell, who has maintained our database of supporting and activist members since the beginning. We don't often see Dawn speaking up in front of the group and some people may not even have heard her name, but our organization would barely function without the work she contributes steadily day by day. And some of our most long-time members will remember when Dawn hosted us in her cozy Brookline home month by month for some of the best potlucks ever before our meetings. A big shout out to Dawn, for all she does for us!
What We're Reading
Short Circuiting Policy: Interest Groups and the Battle Over Clean Energy and Climate Policy in the American States
By Leah Cardamore Stokes (Oxford University Press, 2020)
Leah Stokes, a climate scientist and writer at the University of California, Santa Barbara, has contributed much to understanding the systemic barriers and oppositional forces to climate action in the US. In this book she lays out a framework of how “special interest groups, electric utilities and the fossil fuel industry have been granted a privileged position at the 'policy making table for over a century.'“ "As advocates have attempted to push clean energy policy and climate action, these companies dragged legislatures, bureaucracies, the public, the parties and the courts into a debate of climate science and the need for clean energy. And, on balance, it is a debate they have won.”

Stokes develops a three-step theory of how the battle of over policy is shaped by the winners…the vested interest groups. First, ambiguity plays a central role in policy change…what she calls “fog of enactment” - the gap between actors’ expectations and the policy’s actual outcome. Second, implementation is a key step in policy feedback. And third, she focuses on “mechanisms through which interest groups try to drive policy changes after implementation. Policy changes are contingent on interest groups’ knowledge and networks, their direct lobbying of legislators and regulators, and their use of parties, the public and the courts.”

To learn all the details of her theory you will have to read the book yourself. Stokes states that “decarbonizing the US electricity system is the first linchpin globally for mitigating climate change and achieving net zero emissions." Unfortunately, the pace of change in the electricity system across the American states is paltry. We have had some success here in Massachusetts, along with California, Hawaii, New Mexico, New York, Washington State, Colorado, Maine and Nevada, to pass laws that target 100% clean energy on necessary and feasible timelines. Illinois and New Jersey are also considering bills to get 100% carbon-free energy. Some cities have started to enact regulations as well. 

But on a national level the interest groups are continuing to win. Stokes writes that “interest group conflict is at the core of policy change in America. Conflict over policy continues after enactment….it may increase.” Interest groups also try to influence public opinion by falsely showing the costs of a policy. The legal system is also becoming an increasingly important arena for climate policy battles.

She argues that “energy advocates must take on the task of reforming institutions, most prominently public utility commissions.” Advocates must “work with the public… way to do this is to create drama around the policy.” She writes that “clean energy advocates must learn to make climate policy more interesting to the average American.” And clean energy policy must address inequity, which we know is at the center for the work on social justice in America. All of these ideas are pathways that we elders can take as we go forward with our work on climate action.

Finally, although this is an intellectually dense book, Stokes succinctly explains what we elder climate activists have experienced and know intuitively as we have spent years working on climate action. “We must change the ending of this story and hold polluters accountable. The fossil fuel era must end.”

-- Tina Grosowsky

Trees in Trouble: Wildfires, Infestations, and Climate Change
By Daniel Mathews (Counterpoint, 2020, 2021)
This book is about trees, wildfires, infestations and climate change in the forests of the Western US. I have hiked and backpacked through many of the forests mentioned in the book and wished I had known more about the magnificent trees when I was amongst them – sugar, ponderosa, lodgepole, Jeffrey, Douglas-fir and others.
Daniel Mathews visited over a dozen forests that are under siege from changes caused in part by climate change. He interviewed park rangers, firefighters and scientists who are on the front lines trying to understand the problems and possible solutions. Every forest has its unique story but there is a common theme. Heat and drought weaken the trees, bark beetles move in, blister rust further weakens the tree, all setting the stage for a lightning strike and a high intensity wildfire.
There are many bark beetles – mountain pine beetle, western pine beetle, Jeffrey pine beetle, Mexican pine beetle and dozens more. It seems that every tree has its own beetle to torment it. Beetles and trees, however, have been around for centuries. They have both developed amazing skills for attacking and defending, but the natural checks and balances are now out of whack and the beetles are out of control.
Mathews writes, “We’re creating environments beyond the limits of the evolutionary memory embedded in our trees’ DNA.” Assisted migrations to re-locate trees to different environments are being studied. For the moment, thinning and burning prescribed fires is the most effective way to reduce wildfire devastation.
I recommend this book to everyone. It is well written and, at 245 pages, is a relatively quick read. It’s sad to see the destruction but it’s important to understand what’s happening. Our world is changing forever and it’s important to understand what lies ahead.

-- Tony Lee


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.