Friday, November 28, 2014

Boston City Council calls for fossil fuel divestment

By Eric Smalley

The fossil fuel divestment movement is making progress here in the Commonwealth. Earlier this year, the House has passed HB 4354, a bill that creates a committee to assess whether a divestment plan for the state’s pension systems is feasible. The bill is now in the Senate Ways & Means Committee. On November 17th, the Boston City Council weighed in in favor of divestment, passing a resolution urging the Massachusetts legislature to take action before year’s end to begin divesting state retirement funds. The City Council resolution, sponsored by Councilors Matt O’Malley and Michelle Wu, passed by an 11 to 1 vote.

In sharp contrast to our local and state politicians, federal officials come off rather poorly in a new report by DeSmogBlog and Republic Report about the revolving door between government -- including the Obama administration -- and the fossil fuel industry. The report exposes efforts by the fossil fuel industry to gain government support for exporting fracked natural gas. The report details the efforts of former government officials lobbying on behalf of the fossil fuel industry. The industry has repeatedly claimed that fracked natural gas is intended for the domestic market. Though the climate and the environment will suffer no matter who burns the gas, the industry has garnered support for fracking by claiming that it will lower US energy costs and reduce US reliance on foreign oil.

Sunday, November 16, 2014

Boston’s draft 2014 Climate Action Plan

By Eric Smalley

Boston Climate Action Plan 2014 logo
The City of Boston has released a draft of its 2014 Climate Action Plan (PDF), the second iteration of the city’s every-three-years master plan for combating and responding to climate change. Take a look at the plan and then submit your input. There are several ways to do so (see below).

From the city’s announcement:
The Climate Action Plan gives tangible steps and a long-term vision for making Boston greener, healthier, and more prosperous. From creating local and clean energy, to preparing for climate disasters like Superstorm Sandy, to making sure our waste gets recycled and reused...

When completed, the final 2014 Plan will include:
  • A new, more rigorous greenhouse gas measuring and modeling methodology, with a first look towards Boston’s 80 percent by 2050 emissions reduction goal.
  • More comprehensive climate preparedness strategies.
  • An emphasis on key cross-cutting themes of social equity, economic development, community engagement, and public health and safety.
  • More extensive and inclusive community engagement process.
  • A new performance measurement system to measure year-over-year progress and keep us on track to meeting Boston’s goals.
The draft is open for public comment until December 1. People can submit comments on the Greenovate website, by e-mail at or by regular mail to:
Nancy Girard, Commissioner
Environment Department, Suite 709
1 City Hall Plaza
Boston, MA 02201
You can also learn about -- and comment on -- the City’s draft climate plan in person at Mayor Walsh's Civic Academy on Monday, November 17 at 6:30 pm. Representatives from the city's Environment and Energy Department will be on hand to discuss the plan. The Civic Academy will be held at the New England Aquarium, 1 Central Wharf, Boston, MA 02110. For more information, contact the Mayor's Office of Neighborhood Services at (617) 635-3485.

Thursday, October 23, 2014

Yes on Question 2

GreeningRozzie's Pam Sinotte with Mayor Walsh.
Election day, Tuesday, November 4, is fast approaching. Please help get the word out about voting yes on Question 2, which will update the state’s long-standing and successful bottle bill to include water, sports drinks, juice and other non-carbonated beverage bottles. These types of bottles are a major source of litter.

Check out Progressive Massachusetts' webpage about all four of the ballot questions: Ballot Questions - November 4, 2014.

And download this handy scorecard.

Wednesday, September 17, 2014

Solar rooftop map gives you all the numbers

By Eric Smalley

The Boston Solar Map just got a lot more useful. The site has had a high-tech makeover and can give you a detailed estimate for installing a rooftop solar electric system for pretty much any home in the city. Give it a try here: Type in an address – or click on a rooftop on the map –  and you’ll be able to see all the numbers, including how many trees worth of carbon you’ll be saving by putting solar on your roof and how long it will take you to break even.

The estimates include carbon offset (in CO2 tons, trees, 60-Watt lightbulb days, air conditioning hours, driving miles and flying miles), cost to owner, years until payback, and a detailed breakdown of credits and revenue. The Boston Solar Map was made by Mapdwell LLC, which licensed the underlying technology from MIT. In addition to Boston, Mapdwell has solar system maps for Cambridge, Wellfleet, Washington DC and Washington County, Oregon.

The Boston Solar Map assumes an installed system cost of $5.33 per watt. The map uses a sophisticated model to determine the amount of sunlight that hits each roof. Here’s the company’s description:
The tool uses high-resolution (1- by 1-meter grid) Light Detection and Ranging (LiDAR) data to create a three-dimensional model of the sample terrain that accounts for the shape of building rooftops and structures, existing infrastructure, and tree foliage. The model is later used as the base for evaluating the amount of solar irradiation that falls on each unit of surface – for every single hour of a typical year – and determining its individual potential for solar electric generation using photovoltaic (PV) panels.
Mapdwell says that its technology has been validated to a 5 percent margin of error.

Take a look at your house on the map, then consider making it happen. Take the next step here:

Tell your neighbors!

Tuesday, September 9, 2014

Residents say no to West Roxbury pipeline

By Eric Smalley

On the eve of a primary election, more than 100 people turned out for a public meeting at the Dedham Holiday Inn last night held by the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC) to hear comments about a natural gas pipeline slated to run from Westwood through Dedham into the heart of West Roxbury. The proposed route places the pipelines adjacent to an active quarry that does blasting about three times a week and has heavy truck traffic.

The meeting was called to comment on FERC’s draft environmental impact statement for the planned expansion of Spectra Energy’s Algonquin Gas Transmission natural gas pipeline. The expansion would increase the capacity of the pipeline, which runs from New Jersey to Beverly. The project includes a new, 5-mile spur into West Roxbury.

A near universal concern was the lack of notice for the meeting and for an earlier informational session held by Spectra Energy. Many, including City Councilor Matt O’Malley, State Rep. Ed Coppinger, and representatives for Mayor Marty Walsh and City Counselor Michelle Wu, called for a second meeting. Despite the short notice and proximity to the election, more people turned out than the meeting’s organizers anticipated. Hotel staff put out an additional 30 chairs shortly after the meeting started.

Twenty-seven people spoke, two in favor of the pipeline and the rest expressing concern. Many voiced vigorous opposition. Here’s an audio recording of the hour-and-a-half comment session.

Here’s a sampling of the comments:

Several residents who live near the quarry said they were concerned about having a natural gas pipeline so close to such powerful explosions. “I live about two blocks from the quarry and when they blast in the quarry my whole house shakes like there’s been an explosion in the basement,” said Catherine Arnold, a Boston public school teacher.

Edward Doyle, a retired engineer and Dedham resident, noted that the environmental impact statement doesn’t include a list of structures that would be within 300 feet of the pipeline. “If there’s going to be a pipeline coming into Boston, it shouldn’t be through these high residential areas,” he said.

Doyle also referred to the San Bruno, California gas explosion and 1,000-foot fireball that killed eight people 4 years ago today. The pressure in that pipeline was 386 PSI. The pressure in the proposed West Roxbury pipeline would be 750 PSI.

Judy Kolligian of the Boston Climate Action Network noted that there are 4,000 gas leaks in National Grid’s distribution network in Boston and said that we should get a handle on fixing these before a new pipeline is built.

Several speakers expressed concern that the project could enable more fracking and gas export. And many speakers cited the threats to public health, the environment and the climate. “The cost estimates cited don’t include the health costs, the risk of worsening climate change, the loss of habitat and the deforestation,” said Susan Bergman, a physician from Framingham.

FERC is accepting additional comments until September 29. There are two ways to comment, either through FERC’s eFile system (follow the eFile link on the top right of the Draft Environmental Impact Statement information page) or by printing out this form and mailing it in.

Monday, September 8, 2014

West Roxbury pipeline: health, safety and climate at risk

Source: Spectra Energy

By Eric Smalley

Please take advantage of a rare chance to comment on a natural gas pipeline expansion near our neighborhood. The Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC) is holding a public comment meeting in our area about the capacity expansion of Spectra Energy’s Algonquin Gas Transmission natural gas pipeline. The expansion includes a new, 5-mile spur into West Roxbury.

The public comment period on FERC’s Draft Environmental Impact Statement (PDF) for the project ends September 29. You can comment either in person at the meeting or online using FERC’s eFile system (follow the eFile link on the top right of the Draft Environmental Impact Statement information page).

The meeting is Monday, September 8, at 6:30 PM at the Holiday Inn Dedham, 55 Ariadne Road, Dedham, MA 02026.

Here’s some background on the pipeline and its expansion:

The Algonquin Gas Transmission pipeline begins in New Jersey, where it connects to the Texas Eastern Pipeline, which brings natural gas from Texas to the northeast. The pipeline ends in Beverly, where it connects to the Maritimes & Northeast Pipeline, which runs from Nova Scotia through Maine and New Hampshire. The Beverly facility also connects to a Liquefied Natural Gas (LNG) port 10 miles offshore.

The stated purpose of the expansion, labeled Algonquin Incremental Market (AIM) Project, is to increase the pipeline’s capacity for delivering natural gas to New England, where the current pipeline capacity is blamed for higher energy costs. Much of the gas that flows through the pipeline to New England comes from fracking operations in Pennsylvania and other parts of the Marcellus Shale Region as well as the deep South.

It also looks like domestic natural gas producers, including fracking operators, could use the expanded infrastructure to export natural gas. Here’s an excerpt from an energy industry blog post:
Despite the challenges they would likely face, as many as four companies are exploring the possibility of exporting liquefied natural gas (LNG) from the Canadian Maritimes to Europe, Latin America and Asia... Now there is serious talk of reversing [Maritimes & Northeast Pipeline]. Spectra Energy, majority owner in MNP, in early February initiated an open season on the proposed Atlantic Bridge project, which would expand Spectra’s Algonquin Gas Transmission and MNP systems, and move Marcellus and other U.S.-sourced gas north on MNP into Maine.
Exports could increase the demand for fracking and contribute to the continuing increase in the world’s greenhouse gas emissions.

One of several grassroots organizations that oppose the pipeline expansion, Stop the Algonquin Pipeline Expansion (SAPE), is against the project because it threatens to “exacerbate climate change, endanger our safety and quality of life, contaminate water, air and soil, cause harm to domestic animals and wildlife, and threaten farmland and property values.”

People’s Climate March

You can also make yourself heard on a global scale. Join people from all over the country and all over the world at the People’s Climate March in New York City on Sunday, September 21. 350 Massachusetts is sending busloads of Bay Staters to the Big Apple. You can catch a bus from Jamaica Plain. Sign-up ends Wednesday, September10. For tickets and more information, contact 350 Massachusetts.

Monday, May 5, 2014

Cancer, a house on fire, and an unstoppable snowball

If you’ve been looking for that one video that conveys the urgency of climate change, places it in a very human and personal context, and offers realistic advice about what you can do, this is it. It’s a talk by University of Toronto psychology professor Dan Dolderman. Here’s an interview with Dolderman: Can an 'Unstoppable Snowball' fight climate change and change the world?

- Eric Smalley