With deadline extended, civic leaders renew push for 100% renewable energy

Environment Massachusetts

Boston – The Legislature’s energy committee extended the deadline to make a decision on a bill that would power Massachusetts with 100% renewable energy.

With the end of the 2019-2020 legislative session approaching, leaders from environmental organizations, municipal governments, health care institutions and other fields thanked legislators for their careful consideration of this bill, and urged state officials not to let the clock run out without passing the Decker/Garballey 100% Renewable Energy Act (H.2836).

“The past few months have reminded us that there’s nothing more important than our health,” said Ben Hellerstein, State Director for Environment Massachusetts. “Fossil fuels are polluting our air, changing our climate in dangerous ways, and making us more susceptible to diseases like COVID-19. Thank you to Chair Tom Golden, Chair Mike Barrett, and members of the energy committee for taking a close look at the Decker/Garballey 100% Renewable Energy Act, and we hope to see you advance this essential legislation soon.”

“In these times, people are looking for real leadership from public leaders. We need to set drastic and fast-acting goals for our Commonwealth, or risk another two years with no progress removing dangerous toxins from our air and water,” said Vick Mohanka, Clean Energy Organizer for Clean Water Action. “Committing now to 100% renewable energy equitably is one part of a sustainable path forward and we need everyone and every community at the table to build it.”

Researchers at Harvard University and other institutions have found that communities with higher levels of air pollution are experiencing higher death rates due to COVID-19.

“I am thankful to Chairs Golden and Barrett for extending the 100% Renewable Energy Act, a bill that would effectively address the roots of climate change,” said State Representative Marjorie Decker (Cambridge), Chair of the Joint Committee on Mental Health, Substance Use and Recovery and one of the lead sponsors of the 100% Renewable Energy Act. “This bill is different than other bills that call for a carbon tax or that condone the use of carbon. It is an environmental justice bill that began with the work of a wide range of stakeholders at the table, including workers impacted by the clean transition and justice-involved communities. We already know that low-income communities shoulder the wreckage and trauma of climate change, which is directly linked to negative health outcomes. We need to connect the dots and stop pretending that we don’t see the connections among our environment, public health, poverty and racism. The time to act is now.”

“The Commonwealth has the opportunity to come out of this pandemic and start fresh, setting new precedents for our ways of living,” said State Representative Sean Garballey (Arlington), one of the lead sponsors of the 100% Renewable Energy Act. “There is no better time for us to commit to living in a healthy, clean environment by embracing 100% renewable energy.”

Pollution from fossil fuels is linked to a wide range of health problems, including asthma, cardiovascular disease, and dementia. When pregnant mothers are exposed to air pollution, they experience a higher risk of low birth weight, pre-term birth, and stillbirth.

“We have seen the devastating and disproportionate ways in which the COVID-19 pandemic affects vulnerable patients in our community: the elderly, minority communities, and those with pre-existing health conditions. The parallels to climate change are striking,” said Alexander Rabin, MD, a physician in the Division of Pulmonary, Critical Care and Sleep Medicine at Tufts Medical Center. “Now is the time to transition away from fossil fuels to give future generations a chance at a healthy and prosperous future.”

“The COVID-19 pandemic is calling attention to the link between exposure to long term air pollution and poor health outcomes. What we’ve learned from COVID-19 can help protect the public – especially those most vulnerable – from the health impacts of climate change and air pollution,” said Amy Collins, MD, Emergency Physician and Senior Clinical Advisor for Physician Engagement for Health Care Without Harm. “The transition to 100% clean, renewable energy can improve the health of our patients and the communities we serve while building hospital climate resilience, a critical component of health care delivery during a health crisis.”

“Passage of the Decker/Garballey 100% Renewable Energy Act is critically important for the health of our elderly, those with lung and heart problems, our children and future generations,” said Nicholas Hill, MD, Chief of the Pulmonary, Critical Care and Sleep Division at Tufts Medical Center and Professor at the Tufts University School of Medicine and former President of the American Thoracic Society. “We can’t wait any longer to take strong action to reduce reliance on fossil fuels and carbon dioxide generation.”

The 100% Renewable Energy Act (H.2836), filed by Representative Marjorie Decker and Representative Sean Garballey, will transition Massachusetts to 100% renewable electricity by 2035 and 100% renewable energy for heating and transportation by 2045.

A majority of members of the House and Senate have endorsed the 100% Renewable Energy Act or a similar bill filed by Senator Jamie Eldridge (S.1958), along with more than 50 environmental and civic organizations. The bill is also a top priority for Mass Power Forward, a statewide coalition of environmental and environmental justice organizations.

“Cities and towns in Massachusetts have known that 100% carbon-free energy is the only way to power the equitable, resilient future we’re working toward,” said Mayor Joseph Curtatone of Somerville. “In Somerville Climate Forward, our community’s climate action plan, we called for taking steps at the local and state level to get us to 100% renewable energy. For example, we’ve steadily increased the renewable electricity in Somerville’s supply through municipal aggregation. But we don’t need to—and can’t—do this one municipality at a time. It’s time for the Commonwealth to take bold steps on our climate change goals.”

“Climate justice is imperative for true social reform,” said Mayor Nicolle LaChapelle of Easthampton. “If no other time, if during no other demand for change, the Decker/Garballey 100% Renewable Energy Act is now a clear mandate.”

“New Bedford has led by example on renewable energy and addressing climate change and sea-level rise, since we have much at stake as a coastal city and the center of the East Coast’s commercial fishing industry,” said Mayor Jon Mitchell of New Bedford. “We have installed more than 16 megawatts of land-based solar and wind projects, positioned ourselves to be a leader in offshore wind energy, and pushed hard to convert our municipal fleet to electric vehicles, and it’s important that we continue to prioritize these projects to further our resilience and strengthen our environment.”

“Massachusetts has been a national leader on clean energy. Support for this legislation and achieving 100% renewable energy will add to that proud record. Not only is it necessary to avoid the worst effects of climate change, it is also doable,” said John DeVillars, former EPA New England Administrator and Secretary of the Environment for the Commonwealth of Massachusetts, and Chair of BlueWave Solar. “BlueWave Solar and the renewable energy industry in Massachusetts are working hard to make it happen.”

So far, 13 states and territories have set 100% renewable or clean electricity targets. Rhode Island Governor Gina Raimondo recently committed her state to achieve 100% renewable electricity by 2030.

The Decker/Garballey 100% Renewable Energy Act is pending before the Joint Committee on Telecommunications, Utilities, and Energy. The deadline for the committee to make a decision on the bill had been last Thursday, June 4. Committee members chose to extend the deadline to July 22, nine days before the scheduled end of the 2019–2020 legislative session.

More than 50 health professionals and 80 clean energy business leaders have delivered letters to the Legislature supporting the 100% Renewable Energy Act. Ten mayors, along with the Boston City Council, have also voiced support for a statewide transition to 100% renewable energy.


Other statements:

“This public health emergency has demonstrated just how interconnected our people and communities are. Sacrificial people and places and required when the dependency to fossil fuels is allowed to continue. This can no longer be tolerated. Commitment to a just transition to 100% clean, renewable energy is the only way we will truly protect the health, well-being and future of everyone in our Commonwealth.” – Laura Wagner, Executive Director, Unitarian Universalist Mass Action

“Our world faces so many interlocked crises right now — from Covid-19 and the climate crisis to police brutality and the threat of tyranny, all of which disproportionately impact black and brown communities. It can be easy to lose hope, but each of us must do what we can to make the world better. Right now, the energy committee in the Massachusetts State House has the opportunity to favorably report out bills that will clean up our air and water and lessen toxic pollution in communities across the Commonwealth, and prevent further destruction from climate change. Or they can do nothing and let those bills die. They should take action now. Change cannot wait.” – Craig S. Altemose, Senior Adviser, 350 Massachusetts

“The League of Women Voters of Massachusetts is a strong supporter of S.1958/H.2836 as a means of getting us to 100% renewable energy by 2045. If we don’t have a destination, we can’t determine a path for getting there. Our goals must be in line with the current science that tells us unequivocally that drastic and rapid reduction of greenhouse gas emissions is essential to our health and survival. This is the level of action and policy that government is designed for; individual action will not get the job done. We need to be in lockstep with the science, not lagging behind at this critical period in our history.” – Judy Zaunbrecher, League of Women Voters of Massachusetts Co-President

“If we have learned anything from the COVID-19 public health crisis, it’s that impacts are felt disproportionately in low income and communities of color. While we are pleased to see the legislature taking action to support those affected by the pandemic, we must also acknowledge that this won’t be the last crisis many of us face in our lifetimes. Nothing less than a commitment to 100% renewable energy (with strong environmental justice provisions) is critical to responsibly address the expected climate impacts on vulnerable communities.” – Jacob Stern, Deputy Director, Sierra Club Massachusetts

“I and our firm support Massachusetts going 100% renewable because it is the only course to steer to avoid disaster.” – Christopher Derby Kilfoyle, President, Berkshire Photovoltaic Services Inc.

“We support the Massachusetts 100% Renewable Energy Act for the great benefits it will provide to our communities. A cleaner environment, an increase of jobs in our communities, and affordable energy for all are just the tip of the iceberg.” – Casey Bolduc, Marketing Manager, ACE Solar