Massachusetts’ Strategies for Combating Climate Change
The Legislature is now at the end of its formal sessions for this year. A new two-year legislative session will begin next January, when a new legislature is sworn in. Until then, the current Legislature will continue to meet in twice-weekly “informal” sessions and will continue to pass legislation. However, during “informal” sessions, since any member can stop the proceedings by simply calling for a quorum, only non-controversial bills are likely to be passed.
This is the time of year that our Committee, Global Warming and Climate Change, will be examining the issues facing us in the future and the bills we should file in January, for the next session. Some important issues are already being addressed by some of the local communities. For example, Brookline actively supports efforts to improve our aging housing stock, including services to help improve energy efficiency, such as adding insulation, replacing windows, and installing furnaces that use more efficient and cleaner fuels.
We will also be looking at public health issues, such as high asthma rates, high levels of toxics in the air and in the many products we use, as well as truck and automobile exhaust caused by inefficient vehicles and drivers sitting with their engines running.
Trash and failing to dispose of plastic bottles is also an issue. We have all noticed plastic bottles lying on the streets, in parks and even on private property around bushes and greenspace.
An updated “bottle bill” would expand our present container deposit system to include “new age” drinks including non-carbonated beverages such as water, iced tea, juice and sports drinks. It would decrease litter and increase recycling. The current law has been very successful for recycling bottles and cans. Improving the law could add approximately $15 million to state revenues via unclaimed deposits. Polling shows that updating the “bottle bill” is supported by 77% of the public.
With the virtual deadlock between Republicans and Democrats in Washington, there is a lack of national action on clean energy solutions. I will encourage relevant House Committees to show leadership on energy. In order to address fossil fuel emissions, for example, we need to require higher efficiency so that furnaces will reduce carbon emissions. We should also require better efficiency for appliances to save energy.
We have recently become very successful in increasing our solar installation and increased the amount of solar energy produced in our state from 3.5 megawatts in 2007 to 110 megawatts presently. Our wind turbine usage has also increased, but we need legislation to allow communities to undertake appropriate site selection for wind turbines to take advantage of our windy climate.
We have created over 64,000 new jobs in the clean energy sector, so that now clean energy represents 1.7 percent of our economy. We have started using anaerobic digestion instead of previous bio-mass plants. Bio-mass plants have relied upon trees that collect and hold carbon. By cutting and burning these trees we create another source of carbon emissions. Anaerobic digestion has been successful in Europe because it creates clean gas from waste products.
In 2008, we worked together with the Patrick administration and enacted major legislation to make Massachusetts No 1 in the country in clean energy solutions. Our major job in the next session is to move forward improving these laws and updating our strategies.