On August 16th, President Joe Biden signed the Inflation Reduction Act (IRA) into law, thereby enacting the largest federal investment in climate change to date in the United States. With sweeping investments in lowering energy costs, bolstering clean energy workforce development, scaling up domestic manufacturing of clean energy technology, supporting small businesses, expanding electric vehicles, providing cleaner air, lowering healthcare costs, supporting climate-smart agriculture, and investing in resilient communities, the Biden Administration promised to “combat the existential threat of climate change and build a clean energy future that creates jobs, advances environmental justice, and lowers costs for families.1” The IRA commits to reducing greenhouse gas emissions by roughly 40%, or about 1 gigaton by 2030 (also known as 1 billion metric tons), which amounts to 10X more impact on U.S. climate commitments than any other piece of legislation thus far enacted. Specific commitments and investments from the IRA include:
Lowering Energy Costs
The IRA offers greater regulatory certainty by extending tax credits for wind, solar, and energy storage through at least 2032, and encourages projects that benefit low-income communities and that provide a prevailing wage (often aligned with union wages). The IRA estimates that millions of homes will install rooftop solar and storage, alongside considerable utility- and community-scale projects for clean energy development. Specific IRA components seeking to lower energy costs include:
A Better City has been closely watching the Department of Energy Resources (DOER’s) update to the Massachusetts Stretch Energy Code and the development of the Municipal Opt-In Specialized Stretch Energy Code. Our blogpost from April 2022 summarized our comments to the codes’ straw proposal, released in February 2022. DOER received over 1,200 comments to the straw proposal and on June 24th, 2022, released draft code language that included:
Comments on the draft language were due on August 12th. Thanks to the detailed input from many members, we were able to submit robust comments that included both technical and broader concerns and recommendations.
Our technical concerns and recommendations followed the structure of the codes themselves and are summarized below:
On September 7th, 2022, A Better City (ABC) co-hosted an extreme heat virtual panel event with the Boston Green Ribbon Commission (GRC), highlighting Boston’s 2022 Heat Plan alongside case studies of businesses addressing extreme heat in partnership with local communities. The panelists included: Zoe Davis (City of Boston), Rev. Vernon Walker (Communities Responding to Extreme Weather), Dr. Megan Sandel (Boston Medical Center), Dr. Patricia Fabian (Boston University/C-HEAT project), and Bianca Bowman (GreenRoots/C-HEAT project). The event Q+A was moderated by David Sittenfeld from the Museum of Science, who led the Wicked Hot Boston initiative and the subsequent Wicked Hot Mystic initiative.
Representing the City of Boston’s Climate Ready Boston team, Climate Resilience Project Manager Zoe Davis presented some of the key findings from Heat Resilience Solutions for Boston (the Heat Plan), and spoke to how the Heat Plan continues the work of Climate Ready Boston to contribute to a more holistic approach to climate resilience in the City. We heard how heat is becoming an increasing threat to the City of Boston, with Boston projected to experience over 60 days above 90 degrees each year by 2070. We also heard how formerly redlined communities like the environmental justice case study neighborhoods featured in the Heat Plan suffer disproportionate heat threat, . . .
Today, the MBTA announced an updated plan to add supplemental shuttle service to the Chinatown area during the complete Orange Line shutdown. The MBTA’s proposal still falls short of closing the transit gap that is needed in this neighborhood for the next 30 days. The MBTA should further revise their plan so that the T provides all-day transit service, instead of a shuttle service that runs for two hours in the morning and then again in the late evening. The MBTA’s current plan represents some progress, but additional service should be added, starting this weekend. Chinatown and the surrounding areas are environmental justice communities that are highly impacted by extreme heat and the detrimental public health impacts of particulate matter. These communities should be prioritized and not neglected by the MBTA’s service plan that extends over a month. They should have access to all-day service. Anything less will exacerbate the inequities this neighborhood already faces. A Better City calls on the MBTA and the City of Boston to provide full service to the . . .
In order to better serve riders who currently use the Chinatown and Tufts Medical Center Orange Line Stations, consider the following possible extension of the proposed shuttle bus route along Columbus Avenue:
Northbound buses along Columbus Avenue are proposed to turn left at Dartmouth Street with stops at Back Bay/South End Station and Copley Square on Boylston Street, allowing passengers to connect to the Green Line at Copley. Buses are then planned to turnback at Clarendon Street to return to Columbus Avenue southbound.
Some buses could be directed to continue on Columbus Avenue to Stuart Street in Park Square. Northbound buses on Stuart Street can stop near the intersection of Washington Street on the same block as the Tufts Medical Center Orange Line Station. Shuttle buses would turn left into Washington Street with a stop near the Chinatown Orange Line Station.
From Chinatown, Shuttle buses could continue north using the Essex Street Silver Line bus lane, or continue on Washington Street to Temple Place, stopping at the Silver Line stop one block from Downtown Crossing.
Southbound shuttle buses would continue on Tremont Street to Stuart Street, Charles Street, and Park Plaza to join Columbus Avenue with stops near Back Bay/South End Station and/or Copley.
The branch route described above could also function as a loop connecting Back Bay/South End, Copley, Tufts, Chinatown, and Temple Place stops as a separate extension of the south shuttle bus route on Columbus Avenue.
As this concept is refined, it needs to be checked for turning radii, conflicts with parking, bike lanes, and loading zones to determine if adjustments would be . . .
On Thursday, August 11th, 2022, Governor Baker signed H.5060 An Act Advancing Clean Energy and Offshore Wind into law, thereby establishing the second landmark piece of climate legislation passed in Massachusetts in the 2021-2022 legislative session. Largely intended to help implement the statutory climate commitments of the Climate Act of 2021, including achieving a net zero economy by 2050, the comprehensive 2022 climate bill contains bill components to expand renewable energy, promote clean energy innovation and technology, electrify buildings and transportation, expand grid capacity and modernization upgrades, encourage grid resiliency and reliability through energy storage, bolster equitable workforce development programs within the Massachusetts Clean Energy Center, and commit to statutory mandate updates for the Department of Public Utilities that will help to better align the gas system and infrastructure upgrades with our statutory emissions limits and sublimits. With the establishment of several new funds and governing bodies, this bill helps to begin to implement the roadmap of climate commitments established in 2021, and affirms Governor Baker and the Legislature’s climate leadership legacy.
Within the building sector, H.5060 establishes the first-ever statewide reporting requirement for large existing buildings over 20,000 square feet. To maximize reporting efficiencies, utilities are now required to annually report energy usage of large buildings over 20,000SF directly, with any additional usage being reported by owners themselves. The bill language also allows Boston and Cambridge to continue to enforce BERDO 2.0 and BEUDO, respectively. This reporting requirement will help the State . . .
While we support the City of Boston's commitment to achieving our climate goals, the pursuit of a carbon-free future must not imperil the equitable growth of our regional economy. We urge Mayor Wu to prioritize engagement with stakeholders from the real estate and development community to ensure that the phase-out of fossil fuels is both technically and financially feasible in terms of building construction and operations and grid capacity and reliability, while being clear on timing and implementation. Additionally, it is imperative that this new effort aligns with the various policies underway at the city and state levels, including Boston's BERDO 2.0 and Zero Net Carbon Zoning Initiative and the state Stretch Energy Code, which are already presenting a dizzying compliance patchwork for many . . .
On July 22nd, A Better City co-hosted an event with the Boston Green Ribbon Commission, Climate Change Impacts and Projections for the Greater Boston Area, to understand the latest climate projections for the Greater Boston region. In 2016, a group of scientists known as the Boston Research Advisory Group (BRAG), led by UMASS Boston, presented the first scientific consensus on climate change impacts specifically related to the City of Boston. These projections formed the basis of the City’s Climate Ready Boston report. The BRAG was tasked with updating these projections every five years. The latest climate projections updated and expanded the analysis to investigate climate changes and threats to the entire Metropolitan Area Planning Council (MAPC) region, including the 101 cities and towns within the Greater Boston Area.
Six prominent scientists at the event discussed the climate projection findings for Greater Boston, released in the report, Climate Change Impacts and Projections for the Greater Boston Area. These scientists were: Paul Kirshen, project co-lead, who is Professor of Climate Adaptation at UMASS Boston’s School for the Environment; Ellen Douglas, project co-lead, who is Associate Dean and Professor of Hydrology at UMASS Boston’s School for the Environment; Rob DeConto, Professor and Co-Director of UMASS Amherst’s School of Earth & Sustainability; Ambarish Karmalkar, Affiliated Investigator and Research Assistant Professor at UMASS Amherst’s College of Natural Sciences; Mathew Barlow, Professor at UMASS . . .
MBTA Board of Directors, July 19, 2022, Agenda Items 3 and 8
Yesterday, the Joint Transportation Committee held the first of three hearings on safety management deficiencies at the MBTA and the recent FTA Safety Directives, and today the General Manager and MBTA staff will provide an update on the safety management inspection.
This is a good start because we need more transparency and accountability; however, direct oversight and involvement of the Governor is needed to oversee implementation of the FTA Directives and to ensure as well as to sustain a robust safety culture at the T.
In June, A Better City and its members called on the Governor to Appoint a Special Safety Directorate to Oversee MBTA and DPU Implementation of FTA’s Safety Directives, and we continue to urge the Baker Administration to take immediate action to put to in a place an oversight person.
In the same letter to the Governor, A Better City directed the MBTA to Restore Full Service by July 18th on the Blue, Orange, and Red Lines by Adding Additional Dispatch Resources. When service is reduced on the MBTA or is considered unsafe, the riding public suffers. It also exasperates underlying challenges related to equity, public health, mobility, economic growth, and climate emission goals. The system should be up at running at full service by now.
Many of the issues the MBTA is facing today were identified in 2019 Safety Review Panel Report, which the T reported were addressed or being addressed, and some are a direct consequence of misplaced priorities and policies. There is no need for another study or commission to tell the public what is obvious: this Board, the MBTA, DPU, and the Governor must act urgently to permanently rectify to safety issues, from staffing shortages to the system’s state of disrepair, at the MBTA.
We are grateful that the legislature . . .
Full shutdown of 18 days through Labor Day, 7 weekends-only shutdowns a viable approach for addressing FTA concerns and revitalizing service by resuming vital weekday rapid transit service
Today, A Better City (ABC) delivered a letter and workplan to Governor Baker, outlining an alternative option for the Orange Line shutdown that builds off the administration’s current plan. Based on concerns from riders, students, school officials, businesses large and small, and our region’s health care and academic institutions, ABC’s alternative plan prioritizes Federal Transit Administration (FTA) safety directive actions through a full shutdown for 18 days (August 19th to September 5th) and then weekend shutdowns from September 9th to October 22nd to accomplish the remainder of the work while also resuming vital weekday rapid transit service.
The MBTA’s current proposal provides 764 work hours over the 30-day period with service expected to resume on September 19th. ABC’s alternative option would provide 792 work hours, allowing for vital Orange Line weekday service to reopen on September 6th., the day after Labor Day, and require only seven weekend shutdowns – five more than the MBTA’s proposal – to complete the same amount of work. This alternative provides additional time for staging and testing, and it allows new Orange Line cars to come online by September 19th as the T proposed.
"Planning and execution of a transit disruption of this scale and duration should be undertaken in a way that maximizes repair efforts and minimizes burdens on transit riders and others," said James Aloisi, former Massachusetts Secretary of Transportation. "A Labor Day pivot to weekend shutdowns rather . . .