As legislators consider clean energy ramp-up, activists rally for ambitious commitments

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Environment Massachusetts

Boston – Activists rallied at the State House today to urge officials to accelerate the growth of clean, renewable energy like solar and wind.

The rally came as the Legislature’s Joint Committee on Telecommunications, Utilities, and Energy held a hearing on bills that would transition Massachusetts to 100% renewable energy by 2050, and source at least 50% of the state’s electricity from renewables by 2030.

“A future powered entirely by clean, renewable energy is within reach,” said Ben Hellerstein, State Director for Environment Massachusetts. “A commitment to 100% renewable energy would help protect our families and our communities from dangerous pollution, while sending a clear message that Massachusetts will lead the nation towards a healthy and sustainable future.”

“Here in Massachusetts we are blessed to have elected leaders who believe in science, and have committed our state to aggressively reducing fossil fuel pollution,” said Emily Norton, Massachusetts Chapter Director for the Sierra Club. “But this commitment must be carried out with legislation, and that is what we are calling for today: specific policies to get us to an economy and society powered by 100% renewable energy as quickly as possible.”

The 100% Renewable Energy Act (S.1849, H.3395), filed by Senator Jamie Eldridge, Representative Sean Garballey, and Representative Marjorie Decker, would set Massachusetts on a path to obtain all of the energy used for electricity, heating, and transportation from renewable resources by 2050. Scientists say that industrialized nations must achieve near-zero carbon emissions by 2050, and preferably sooner, in order to avoid the worst impacts of climate change.

Legislators also considered bills, including comprehensive energy legislation by Senator Marc Pacheco (S.1880), to accelerate the state’s Renewable Portfolio Standard (RPS), a requirement for utilities to purchase a certain amount of their energy from solar, wind, and other renewable energy resources. Currently, utilities must purchase at least 12% renewable energy, increasing by 1% per year. Activists called on state officials to increase the RPS by at least 3% per year to achieve 50% renewable electricity by 2030.

“We know that low-wage workers are the most impacted by natural disasters, the most likely to live and work near environmentally hazardous sites, and the most impacted by rising energy bills,” said Rachel Mulroy, New Bedford organizer with Coalition for Social Justice. “CSJ is all in to raise the standards for the environment and our workers because they are interconnected.”

“Increasing renewable energy standards will reduce the threat of climate disruption so our children will have clean air and clean water,” said Mary Cerulli, a member of the statewide renewables task force for Mothers Out Front. “Massachusetts has a chance to lead by supporting policy to reduce carbon pollution with a modernized transmission grid. If not now, when?”

“Dirty energy is putting our future at risk,” said Theresa Soldan, a student at Salem State University and the Campaign Co-Coordinator for the 100% Renewable Energy Campaign with MASSPIRG Students. “We can’t waste any time in repowering Massachusetts with 100% renewable energy from sources like the sun and the wind.”

Today’s rally was sponsored by Mass Power Forward, a coalition of environmental leaders, neighborhood health and safety advocates, faith leaders, and other organizations working to transition the state away from fossil fuels towards clean, renewable energy. The rally was also endorsed by the following individual organizations: Environment Massachusetts, Sierra Club, Toxics Action Center, Clean Water Action, Massachusetts Climate Action Network (MCAN), Climate Action Now, Mothers Out Front – Massachusetts, MASSPIRG Students, No Fracked Gas in Mass, Berkshire Environmental Action Team, South Coast Neighbors United, StopNED, No Canton Gas Pipeline: toward an Equitable Sustainable Future, Marion Institute-SouthCoast Energy Challenge, No Sharon Gas Pipeline/Clean Energy Now, Resist the Pipeline, Boston Clean Energy Coalition, 350 Mass, Franklin County Continuing the Political Revolution, Unitarian Universalist Mass Action Network, Cape Downwinders, and Climate Action Brookline.

Statements from other endorsing organizations:

“Cities and towns across Massachusetts want more renewables, and are making local commitments to more clean energy”, said Henrietta Davis, former Mayor of Cambridge and Massachusetts Climate Action Network board member. “Especially given what is happening at the federal level, it is time for the state to take leadership and step it up.”

“The performance of renewables in the face of extreme weather as well as their quick recovery time, as seen with Hurricane Sandy in 2012 and more recently with hurricanes Harvey and Irma, shows that solar and wind are well suited to withstand the effects of climate change as well as help lessen them. Distributed generation helps boost grid reliability in such scenarios as well, ” said Rosemary Wessel, Founder and Program Director of No Fracked Gas in Mass, a program of Berkshire Environmental Action Team. “The time to go all in with 100% renewables and grid-scale storage is now.”

“Our children and grandchildren will bear the brunt of climate change,” said Sue Stafford, a mother and grandmother with Mothers Out Front.  “We have a moral responsibility to protect the future for them.  We need to take major steps now to address the impacts of climate change. Increasing the RPS to 3% is a step we can, and should, take.”

“Accelerating our clean energy future will reinvest billions of out-of-state fossil fuel dollars into our region,” said Joel Wool, Energy Advocate with Clean Water Action. “Let’s raise the floor on clean power and grow a 21st-century green economy for Massachusetts.”

“Here in Massachusetts we believe in science, and understand we can reduce our carbon pollution in a way that will build our economy and provide good jobs,” said Adele Franks with Climate Action Now. “We call on our legislators to take decisive action to ensure a clean energy, livable future for all, and show the kind of leadership so lacking in our federal government.”

“Increasing the RPS to 3% would go a long way to ensure that we transition quickly to a safe, clean, affordable, and sustainable energy supply,” said Bri McAlevey with  No Sharon Gas Pipeline/Clean Energy Now. “We don’t need multinational companies obtaining billions of dollars from electric ratepayers to build more outdated fossil fuel infrastructure in our communities. Instead, we need local renewable energy created in Massachusetts for Massachusetts.”

“We are committed to the immediate implementation of renewable energy policy as a key and necessary step toward the creation of a sustainable energy future and green jobs based on an equitable economy,” said Jen Wexler with No Canton Gas Pipeline Toward an Equitable Sustainable Future. “We stand with all efforts to stop climate change and to end the disparate impact of environmental destruction on communities most at risk.”

“Investment in and commitment to clean energy means investing in people and our shared future,” said Laura Wagner, Director of Unitarian Universalist Mass Action Network. “We have an opportunity to protect people’s health, grow our economy and significantly reduce carbon emissions.  If we want a viable future in Massachusetts, we have no choice but to take bold action now.”