A GREEN NEW DEAL FOR MASSACHUSETTS

We are in the midst of a climate emergency. The science tells us that we have until 2030 to take meaningful action to curb the worst effects of climate change. Recent studies have also shown that the northeast is warming more rapidly than the rest of the United States, further increasing the urgent need to act on climate. But despite warnings from scientists, Massachusetts has failed to act with the urgency this crisis demands.

 

We cannot afford to settle for tepid half measures any longer. It’s time for Massachusetts to undertake a mass mobilization to zero out greenhouse gas emissions, prioritize environmental justice, and create a just and sustainable economy.

 

Jordan has spent years fighting for climate action and environmental justice as an activist. The 2018 U.N. climate report was one of the biggest factors in his decision to run for office, and fighting climate change will be his top priority when elected.

 

Jordan’s plan for a Green New Deal for Massachusetts includes:

100% RENEWABLE ENERGY

  1. Raise the Renewable Portfolio Standard (RPS) to reach 100% renewable electricity by 2035 or sooner.

  2. Eliminate caps on solar net metering to allow more property owners to install more solar projects. Additionally, we must raise the rates that community solar projects receive for selling back excess energy to the grid to ensure that underserved communities and residents in multi-unit buildings can also enjoy the full benefits of solar.

  3. Increase offshore wind procurement to a total of at least 6,000 megawatts by 2035, which could power 3 million homes.

  4. Impose a moratorium on new fossil fuel infrastructure. 

  5. Divest public money from fossil fuel industries, including from the state pension fund and public university endowments.

PUBLIC OWNERSHIP OF UTILITIES

It’s time for Massachusetts to follow Nebraska’s lead and ensure public ownership of public utilities. In re-imagining our energy system, the Take Back the Grid campaign offers an excellent roadmap:

  1. Democratize: Bring energy systems under public ownership and control, and ensure that utilities work for the public good, not private profit.

  2. Decarbonize: Restructure our energy systems along ecologically sustainable lines and accelerate our transition to 100% renewable energy

  3. Decommodify: Guarantee energy as a human right. No one should go without heat or electricity simply for being too poor.

  4. Decolonize: New energy systems must strive to undo the damage done to frontline communities and indigenous lands and prioritize environmental justice.

INVEST IN GREEN TRANSPORTATION

Investments in transit must be a cornerstone of a Green New Deal for Massachusetts, and should, as my transit plan lays out:

  1. Make public transit fare free.

  2. Raise new progressive revenue to fix and fund the MBTA.

  3. Transform the Commuter Rail to frequent, electric Regional Rail.

  4. Build West Station in Allston now, not 2040 as suggested by Governor Baker.

  5. Electrify the MBTA bus fleet.

  6. Invest in high speed East-West Rail across the Commonwealth.

  7. Enter into the Transportation Climate Initiative (TCI).

 

PROTECT PUBLIC LANDS

  1. Pass a Green Budget to fully fund our environmental agencies. Currently, only 0.60% of the state’s operating budget goes towards protecting our environment. We must aim higher than 1% of the budget and greatly reinvest in our environmental agencies.

  2. Create a Massachusetts Conservation Corps. A conservation corps program would provide paid service opportunities to young women and men age 18–25, and up to age 29 for military veterans. Corpsmembers take on projects in environmental protection, resource conservation, natural disaster response, and more.

 

ENVIRONMENTAL JUSTICE

In any discussion of climate change and a Green New Deal, we must center environmental and climate justice. Environmental justice is the equal protection and meaningful involvement of all people with respect to the development, implementation, and enforcement of environmental laws.

 

Massachusetts needs a comprehensive plan to codify and prioritize environmental justice, which at a minimum should include:

  1. Write environmental justice into law and codify the definition of environmental justice as “the right to be protected from environmental pollution and to live in and enjoy a clean and healthful environment regardless of race, income, national origin, or English language proficiency.”

  2. Put a cap on the expansion or siting of new industrial facilities within environmental justice communities. 

  3. Create a Supplemental Environmental Project bank to fund environmentally beneficial projects in environmental justice communities, funded by environmental violators.

  4. Guarantee solar power equity in low-income and environmental justice communities.

  5. Establish an Environmental Justice Advisory Council to provide independent advice and recommendations to the Governor and executive agencies and issue regular public reports about environmental justice in Massachusetts.

  6. Require the Executive Office of Energy and Environmental Affairs to appoint a Director of Environmental Justice.

  7. Require the Department of Environmental Protection to develop and environmental justice strategy for all of its work.

  8. Incorporate tenets of environmental justice in all projects large enough to be subject to the Massachusetts Environmental Policy Act.

  9. Ensure multi-lingual outreach and consultation when projects undergoing environmental review are proposed in environmental justice communities.

 

PUT A PRICE ON CARBON

There is wide agreement among experts that carbon pricing, while not a silver bullet solution, is one of the most cost-effective ways to achieve the deep cuts in greenhouse gas emissions we need to protect our climate. Any carbon pricing mechanism must incorporate environmental and economic justice principles and exempt low-income households. Additionally, revenues generated from carbon pricing should be used to:

  1. Fund clean energy investments in frontline communities impacted by pollution and environmental racism.

  2. Expand clean energy and energy efficiency projects to further reduce emissions.

  3. Invest in clean, electric public transportation across Massachusetts, including regional transportation authorities, which have long been underfunded.

  4. Ensure a just transition and provide financial assistance to workers affected by the transition away from fossil fuels.

 

GREEN INFRASTRUCTURE

  1. Implement a Net Zero building code. In Massachusetts, buildings account for nearly half of all carbon pollution when accounting for electricity, heating, and cooling. In some cities and towns, buildings can produce more than 70% of the carbon pollution. Massachusetts’ building energy code includes the Base Code (the minimum requirements) and a Stretch Code, which allows communities to opt into higher energy efficiency standards. It’s time for Massachusetts to update the Stretch Code to a net zero standard.

  2. Retrofit existing homes and buildings for energy efficiency. While a net zero building code will greatly reduce carbon pollution for newly constructed buildings, existing homes and commercial buildings present a larger challenge. While retrofitting older buildings would be a large undertaking and a longer-term project, doing so would create thousands of high-paying union jobs in construction and maintenance.

  3. Expand electric vehicle charging infrastructure. While investing in clean, electric public transit must be our top priority in future transportation planning, we must also make it easier for drivers to purchase electric vehicles (EVs) and expand our EV charging infrastructure statewide. 

 

TRANSPARENCY AND ACCOUNTABILITY

Public data is a powerful way of keeping the public informed and empowered and keeping our state government accountable. New York State provides a helpful model here with their Clean Energy Dashboard, which aggregates and provides information on utilities and other state government programs related to clean energy and climate goals. San Diego’s Tree Map also shows the power and potential of public data for environmental initiatives. The tree map allows users to see the quantifiable benefits of trees, including data on carbon sequestration, water retention, energy saved, and air pollutants reduced from individual trees. Massachusetts should create a performance-measurement and management tool to publish metrics and goals, track data, and ensure accountability for each quantifiable policy discussed above.

CREATE A MASSACHUSETTS CONSERVATION CORPS

Massachusetts isn’t only facing a climate crisis. In the wake of COVID-19, we will also be facing an economic crisis. Nearly 7.7 million American workers under 30 are unemployed, and 3 million have dropped out of the labor force in the last month. Massachusetts must prioritize a green recovery, and that requires us to think bigger and bolder. It’s time for us to create a Massachusetts Conservation Corps.

President Franklin Delano Roosevelt created the original Civilian Conservation Corps in 1933, designed to provide jobs to young men in forestry, recreation, and soil conservation. By 1942, the CCC had 3.4 million participants, planted more than 3 billion trees, built hundreds of parks and wildlife refuges, and completed thousands of miles of roads and trails. While the original CCC was far from perfect — they only hired men, the work camps were segregated, and some projects were ecologically harmful — it does provide a useful model for states to emulate now. Several states have developed their own Conservation Corps programs, including California, Washington, Vermont, and Montana. Other programs, such as the Student Conservation Association and AmeriCorps, have created programs in a similar vein to the CCC that provide educational and internship experience to students and young people.

The California Conservation Corps is a department within the California Natural Resources Agency and provides perhaps the best model for Massachusetts to follow. The California program provides a year of paid service to young women and men age 18–25, and up to age 29 for military veterans. Corpsmembers take on projects in environmental protection, resource conservation, and natural disaster response.

A Massachusetts Conservation Corps should be housed within the Department of Conservation and Recreation as part of a broader plan to fully fund and rebuild the agency after decades of budget cuts. MCC projects could include environmental protection and conservation, public land maintenance, habitat restoration, a statewide tree planting initiative, trail construction and maintenance, historic building renovation, climate resilience measures, and environmental justice initiatives.

PAID FOR BY THE MEEHAN COMMITTEE

PO Box 960475 | Boston, MA 02196-0475

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Jordan Meehan does not accept donations from housing developers, fossil fuel executives, law enforcement associations, or corporate PACs/lobbyists.