Massachusetts’ House of Representatives Releases Proposed FY25 Budget
April 17, 2024

Written By: Tom Ryan, Senior Advisor on Policy, Government & Community Affairs And ISabella Gambill, Assistant Director of Climate, energy and resilience


On April 10th, the Massachusetts House Committee on Ways and Means released their state budget recommendations for fiscal year 2025. This proposal from the House’s budget writing shows the full House of Representatives priorities for next year as well as the status of the State’s financial health. We were very encouraged to see that the House budget plan contains many of the ideas suggested by A Better City in recent months, and also has general alignment with Governor Healey on key transportation and climate issues. 

A few months ago, A Better City sent a letter that highlighted the need for increased state support for the MBTA, the opportunity to utilize the Fair Share surtax funding for infrastructure needs, and the challenges with decarbonization of existing buildings in the Commonwealth. In terms of transportation and support for the MBTA, the House budget certainly meets the moment. The House also strongly supports energy . . .


A Better City Celebrates the Release of Massachusetts’ First-Ever Environmental Justice Strategy
April 17, 2024

In February 2024, the Executive Office of Energy and Environmental Affairs (EEA) and the new Office of Environmental Justice & Equity (OEJE), led by Undersecretary for Environmental Justice & Equity María Belén Power, released the Commonwealth’s first-ever Environmental Justice (EJ) Strategy to provide an implementation and accountability framework for an equitable and just transition to a decarbonized economy. The EJ Strategy acts as a roadmap that will codify and embed environmental justice and equity principles, protocols, and practices into EEA and across all of its agencies. Environmental justice strategies and goals include:

  • Meaningful engagement, between EEA and its agencies and environmental justice communities, with intentional community-led processes designed with and for EJ communities.
  • Project impact analysis, in which EEA agencies will assess impacts of their projects using available state mapping and screening tools to identify impacted EJ neighborhoods.
  • Language access plans, which the secretariat will develop and adopt that comply with the Office of Administration & Finance (A&F) Bulletin #16 and Executive Order 615 ensuring meaningful access to agency services, programs, and activities for people with limited English proficiency.
  • Staff training and hiring, through which EEA and its agencies will implement an EJ training program series to educate and inspire EEA agencies to value EJ and equity, and to maintain them as core priorities of their work.
  • Metrics and tracking of current baseline and future environmental justice metrics to measure progress and impact over time.

In addition to overarching strategies and themes across EEA, the EJ Strategy also includes . . .


Massachusetts’ Commission on Clean Energy Infrastructure Permitting & Siting Releases Final Recommendations
April 16, 2024

The Commission on Energy Infrastructure Siting and Permitting (Commission) was established by Governor Healey in Executive Order 620 (EO 620) in September 2023. The Commission was formed to help reduce permitting timelines for clean energy infrastructure, to ensure that community feedback is sufficiently incorporated into siting and permitting decision making, and to ensure that the benefits of the clean energy transition are shared equitably among all Massachusetts communities and residents. As a result of EO 620, the Commission was obligated to provide recommendations to Governor Healey on administrative, regulatory, and legislative changes needed for existing permitting and siting procedures, by March 31, 2024.

The Commission includes 28 members from state agencies, municipalities, environmental justice organizations, climate, environmental, and land-use advocates, electric utilities, agricultural interests, energy siting advisory groups, clean energy industry representatives, housing and real estate, labor, and the state legislature (represented by the Chairs of the Joint Committee of Telecommunications, Utilities, and Energy (TUE), Senator Barrett and Representative Roy). Alongside Commission members, the Commission was also supported by an Interagency Task Force across 16 state agencies and a Siting Practitioner Advisory Group of 12 practicing attorneys with expertise in siting and permitting of energy infrastructure in Massachusetts.

Despite a tight timeline for working through extremely complex and technical information, the Commission also offered opportunities for public comment through written public comments and two listening sessions, offered in early 2024.

The Commission’s


Massachusetts Department of Environmental Protection Releases Cumulative Impact Analysis Regulations for Air Quality Permitting
April 16, 2024

In the 2021 Act Creating a Next Generation Roadmap for Massachusetts Climate Policy (Next Generation Roadmap Act), the Massachusetts Department of Environmental Protection (MassDEP) was directed to incorporate cumulative impact analysis into its review of applications for certain types of air permitting. Through public engagement and the proposal of draft regulations for cumulative impact analysis, with a particular focus on impacts to environmental justice communities, MassDEP was obligated to propose and implement new regulations within 18 months of the Act’s effective date in June 2021. MassDEP issued draft regulations in December 2022 and final regulations in March 2024. The cumulative impact analysis (CIA) regulations apply to comprehensive plan applications (CPAs) for facilities located in or near environmental justice (EJ) populations and will be effective for applications submitted to MassDEP on or after July 1, 2024.

The CIA regulations require enhanced public outreach to and involvement of EJ populations, comprehensive assessment of existing community conditions, as well as analyzing the potential for the project to exacerbate disproportionate impacts on EJ populations through a cumulative impact analysis.

Alongside the promulgation of final regulations in March 2024, MassDEP has also developed guidance documents and tools to help permit applicants and EJ populations better understand and comply with the new regulations requiring cumulative impact analysis in air permitting applications. Resources relevant to the cumulative impact analysis regulations include:

DOER Requests Comments on the Stretch Codes
April 12, 2024

DOER held a public listening session on March 27th to hear from users of the updated stretch energy code (that came into effect for commercial buildings in Green Communities in July 2023) and the specialized stretch energy code (that came into effect in Boston in Jan 2024). They are looking for ways to improve the stretch codes based on users’ experience.

A Better City then held a focus group with its members on March 29th to hear their experience of using the stretch codes, and to get feedback on comments to DOER. A Better City’s comments were sent to DOER on April 3rd.  In addition, we received a late comment that was sent to DOER recently recommending: To incentivize developers to pursue a cost-viable and more efficient all-electric lab building design, through an Exhaust Source Heat Pump system, the use of fossil fuel boilers as a back-up heat source should be exempt in complying as an all-electric lab building, as is the case with back-up diesel generators.

We will keep you updated as we hear any updates from DOER about improvements to the stretch codes. In the meantime, don’t hesitate to reach out to Yve Torrie with any comments or . . .


March 18, 2024

In 2022, A Better City was engaged with the Boston Planning and Development Agency (BPDA) on a Zero Net Carbon (ZNC) Zoning Initiative for new construction. Since the end of 2022, the discussion has been dormant while other building policies have been finalized, including:

  • The updated Stretch Energy Code for all Green Communities that came into effect for commercial buildings in July 2023.
  • The Specialized Stretch Energy Code, which municipalities can opt-in to, has an effective date at the discretion of the municipality adopting it. For Boston, the Specialized Code came into effect in January 2024.
  • BERDO 2.0 regulations and policies for existing buildings over 20,000sf or 15 or more residential units, were finalized in December 2023 with the first compliance period in 2025.


In early 2024, the BPDA re-started the ZNC Zoning discussion. A Better City held a meeting with its members and the BPDA on February 21, 2024, to understand what updates had been made to proposed ZNC Zoning since 2022. In this meeting, the BPDA were requesting feedback on 3 key updates under consideration:

  • The implications of requiring net zero emissions once an Article 80 building becomes a BERDO-covered building (buildings ≥ 20,000 SF and/or ≥15 units).
  • The strengthening of embodied carbon reporting within ZNC Zoning regulations.
  • The streamlining of the green building review process to minimize redundancies with citywide environmental policies, zoning, and the MA Stretch Energy Code.


As a result of the feedback received at the meeting on February 21st and comments from A Better City members that followed, A Better City submitted preliminary comments to the BPDA for consideration as they draft ZNC Zoning regulations, expected by the end of March . . .


Celebrating Advancement of the Silver Line Extension
March 15, 2024

On March 8, the MBTA and MassDOT released the final report of the Silver Line Extension Alternatives Analysis, in preparation since 2021, that recommended extending the SL3 bus route from Chelsea through Everett to Sullivan Square in Charlestown. Why is this recommendation significant? Because it advances one more segment of the Urban Ring concept beyond the 2018 opening of the SL3 “Silverline Gateway” route from the Blue Line in East Boston along a dedicated right of way in Chelsea, providing improved access for a community underserved by transit. The proposed SLX route will add even more transit access along dedicated rights of way to a growing Everett community, linking between the Blue Line and Orange Line, with potential future connections to the Green Line at Lechmere and the Red Line at Kendall Square with its major employment center.

These potential links are still under study and operations will require additions to the Silver Line fleet, but all of these segments are part of the Urban Ring concept, most recently labeled the “Northern Tier” in a 2009 Notice of Project Change, which was suspended by EOTC, MassDOT’s predecessor at that time, due to lack of funding.

The Urban Ring concept, which is now being implemented segment by segment, has its origins in the “Circumferential Transit” route first advanced by the Boston Transportation Planning Review study of 1972 (thank you Jack Wofford, Director of BTPR) as a substitute for the Inner Belt highway project.

Circumferential Transit was blessed with a shorter name when it was recast as the New Urban Ring by the Boston Society of Architects in 1993 (thank you David Lee, immediate Past President of the BSA at the time), and the concept was further advanced by the MBTA in 1996 in a Major Investment Study (thank you project manager Peter Calcaterra). The concept was carried forward over the years by a series of Citizens Advisory Committees to . . .


I-90 Allston Multimodal Project Funding Award is Massive Win for Massachusetts
March 13, 2024

We are thrilled to share that on Monday March 11th the Commonwealth of Massachusetts and City of Boston received the news that they have won $335.4 million in federal funding from the U.S. Department of Transportation Reconnecting Communities and Neighborhoods Grant Program to advance the I-90 Allston Multimodal Project! You can see the press release, as well as recent coverage in the


MBTA Safety, Service, and Staffing - Snapshot January 2024
February 21, 2024

Safe and reliable public transit service is essential to the economic vitality of the region—and to reaching our climate, equity, and mobility goals. To meet the current and future needs of our riders and our economy, the Massachusetts Bay Transportation Authority (MBTA) must address major safety, service, and staffing challenges. As the MTBA works to address these challenges, it is imperative to track key performance metrics and data trends. As such, this short report aims to provide a periodic, user-friendly snapshot of these metrics, using publicly available data. Please contact Caitlin Allen-Connelly, Senior Advisor on Transportation, with questions or feedback. Read full MORE

DPU’s Historic Ruling on the Commonwealth’s Future for Natural Gas (Docket 20-80)
February 21, 2024

Since fall 2020, the Massachusetts Department of Public Utilities (DPU) has considered arguments within Docket 20-80, otherwise known as the “Future of Natural Gas” investigation, to consider the future of the natural gas industry in Massachusetts. The investigation into Docket 20-80 was intended to encourage strategies for a clean energy future that achieves net zero emissions by 2050, while also ensuring the provision of safe, reliable, and cost-effective services to Massachusetts ratepayers. With Docket 20-80 framed as an investigation rather than adjudication, the Order is intended to be impartial and to provide forward-looking policy recommendations. The DPU released Order 20-80 on December 6th, 2023, after extensive stakeholder feedback in hearings, technical sessions, and public comment periods.

Many are calling DPU’s Order 20-80 one of the most transformative climate decisions in the agency’s history. The order will no longer allow cost recovery for gas infrastructure in Massachusetts, without proof of non-gas alternatives being considered, nor will they allow the expansion of natural gas. The new regulatory strategy signals DPU’s interest in helping the State achieve emissions reduction targets required through decarbonization, electrification, and adoption of pilot programs for new technologies—all while minimizing additional costs to ratepayers (note: the DPU will also be investigating solutions to energy burdens borne by low- and moderate-income ratepayers and environmental justice populations in a separate proceeding under DPU Docket 24-15).

Gas distribution companies are now required to file Climate Compliance Plans every 5 years, beginning in 2025, to demonstrate . . .