With federal clean energy programs under attack, environmental advocates gathered today in Beverly and Greenfield today to launch a campaign calling on cities and towns in Massachusetts to commit to 100 percent clean, renewable energy.
“The bad news is that dirty energy is harming our health and altering our climate. The good news is that we have alternatives,” said Ben Hellerstein, State Director for Environment Massachusetts. “We can move quickly towards 100 percent renewable energy — and local communities across Massachusetts can lead the way.”
Leaders from Mass Power Forward, a statewide coalition, released a handbook that local activists can use to advocate for clean energy in their communities. The handbook contains fact sheets and a sample resolution that activists can use to ask local officials to commit to a long-term goal of 100 percent renewable energy. The handbook also includes a “local clean energy checklist” to help activists assess their community’s progress on clean energy and energy efficiency, and identify additional steps that their city or town can take to get closer to 100 percent renewable energy.
Activists and local leaders from Ipswich, Salem, Marblehead, Medford, and Beverly shared examples of successful local clean energy and energy efficiency projects, as well as their plans to push for additional clean energy commitments.
"For years, the City of Medford has shown that local action can make a big difference in reducing the use of fossil fuels and expanding clean energy," said Alicia Hunt, Director of Energy and Environment for the City of Medford. "We are determined to build on our past successes and move Medford closer to 100 percent renewable energy."
"What’s more important than a stable climate? Nothing! Everything we do is predicated on it. And what’s the best way to ensure a stable climate? Produce 100% of our electricity from renewable energy,” said John Livermore, the CEO of Healthy Home Healthy Planet and an activist with Sustainable Marblehead.
In March, President Donald Trump issued an executive order to begin rolling back the Clean Power Plan, the first-ever national limits on carbon pollution from power plants. President Trump has also taken steps to weaken fuel efficiency standards for automobiles, eliminate the Energy Star program for energy efficient appliances, and slash funding for climate programs at the EPA and other agencies.
According to NASA scientists, 2016 was the hottest year ever recorded. Extreme weather events linked to climate change are becoming more frequent in Massachusetts.
Last summer, as a result of an extreme drought, New England farmers lost millions of dollars worth of crops, and many rivers and streams ran dry. King tides, exacerbated by rising sea levels, flooded parts of downtown Boston.
Recent studies suggest that we can power our society with 100 percent clean, renewable energy like solar and wind. By taking advantage of new technologies, increasing energy efficiency, and harnessing our abundant clean energy resources, we can power our electric grid with renewable energy and convert our heating and transportation systems to run on clean electricity rather than fossil fuels.
“When it comes to clean energy, local communities can make a huge difference,” said Emily Kirkland, Director of Organizing for 350 Mass. “That’s why we’re calling on cities and towns across Massachusetts to lead the way to 100 percent renewable energy.”
While state leaders have taken some steps to expand clean energy, activists called on officials to do more to accelerate the transition to 100 percent renewable energy.
Caps on net metering, the state’s most important solar program, are holding back the expansion of solar energy in many parts of Massachusetts. Low-income communities often have unequal access to clean energy and energy efficiency opportunities. Additionally, Governor Charlie Baker continues to support the expansion of gas pipelines funded by the so-called “pipeline tax,” despite a study from the Attorney General showing that additional pipeline capacity is not needed.
Leaders with Mass Power Forward said that they are working to get at least 50 communities across the state to commit to a long-term goal of 100 percent renewable energy and take concrete steps towards achieving that goal. Salem recently became the first city in Massachusetts to commit to 100 percent renewable energy.
"Salem is committed to leading the way on clean energy, and that's why we recently committed to a goal of 100 percent renewable energy,” said Jeff Cohen, a member of the City of Salem’s Renewable Energy Task Force. “In Salem, local officials, business leaders, and citizens are working together to implement common-sense clean energy solutions. We hope to see other communities and state leaders follow our example."
“A goal of reaching 100% renewable energy is one of the cornerstones of an effective effort at the city or town level to reduce emissions of greenhouse gases. The other two cornerstones are an active citizens' committee that can assist town officials in moving towards the goal, and a plan laying out how the city or town can move towards the goal of 100% renewables,” said Carolyn Britt, a resident of Ipswich and activist with 350 Mass North Shore.
Mass Power Forward is a coalition of environmental leaders, community development organizations, clean energy businesses, faith groups, neighborhood health and safety advocates and Massachusetts families fighting for clean, affordable, reliable energy and a thriving economy.