Governor Deval Patrick recently announced a $50 million investment for a statewide plan to address the present and future impacts of climate change in Massachusetts. These investments will assess and address public health, transportation, energy and the Commonwealth’s built environment.
"I believe that we have a generational responsibility to address the multiple threats of climate change," said Governor Patrick. "Massachusetts needs to be ready, and our plan will make sure that we are."
The plan includes a $40 million municipal resilience grant program, to be administered by the Massachusetts Department of Energy Resources (DOER), that will enable cities and towns to harden energy services at critical sites using clean energy technology. The grants will be funded through Alternative Compliance Payments (ACP), which are paid by electric retail suppliers if they have insufficient Renewable or Alternative Energy Certificates to meet their compliance obligations under the Renewable and Alternative Portfolio Standard programs.
The Department of Public Utilities (DPU) will work with utilities to determine ways to accelerate storm hardening and deploy micro-grids and resiliency projects for transmission and distribution. In addition, the Executive Office of Energy and Environmental Affairs (EEA) will establish an inventory of generation facilities vulnerability and preparedness plans.
“Recent storms and related outages serve as a reminder that it is critical we secure our energy grid to endure more extreme weather patterns,” said Secretary of EEA Rick Sullivan. “I will work with my team, my colleagues across the Administration and stakeholders to act quickly and responsibly to harden our energy sources.”
The Governor’s plan also calls for the Massachusetts Department of Transportation (MassDOT) to conduct a statewide vulnerability assessment for all facilities and adopt Climate Adaptation Plans by 2015. MassDOT Secretary Richard A. Davey will establish an internal working group to advise on next steps and work with stakeholders. The Department of Conservation and Recreation (DCR), which also owns and operates a number of historic parkways and roadways that are particularly vulnerable to flooding and sea level rise, will conduct an assessment to determine and quantify the levels of exposure and susceptibility that DCR’s parkways and roadways face.
"The MassDOT team is committed to undertaking a thorough assessment of the Commonwealth's transportation network to identify vulnerabilities," said Secretary Davey. "Through our planning and action we will be laying the groundwork necessary to react to climate change and its impact on our rails, ports, roads and bridges."
Additionally, to decrease long-term risk, smart growth and sustainable development planning will include Massachusetts Emergency Management Agency (MEMA) planners to advise on hazards and resiliency, and MEMA will share hazard data for use in building assessments.
As a state with a long, densely populated coastline, Massachusetts is particularly vulnerable to sea level rise. The Patrick Administration is investing $10 million in critical coastal infrastructure and dam repair, including $1 million in municipal grants offered by the Office of Coastal Zone Management (CZM) to reduce or eliminate risk associated with coastal storms and sea level rise. As natural solutions have often proved to be the best defense against nature, CZM will implement a $1 million program for Green Infrastructure for Coastal Resilience pilot projects.
Evidence also suggests that public health impacts of climate change will be felt most directly and severely at the local level. To help local boards of health in preparing for the impacts of climate change, the Governor announced that the Department of Public Health (DPH) will develop additional resources at the state level to identify areas of special concern, draft model strategies to address these and enhance education and training. EEA and DPH will partner to conduct analysis on monitoring vector-borne disease in both oysters and mosquitoes. In addition, the Department of Environmental Protection (DEP) will work with communities to assess the vulnerability of infrastructure associated with potable water, which is critical to public health and safety.
"The impact of climate change on the public health is increasingly apparent," said DPH Commissioner Cheryl Bartlett, RN. "We thank Governor Patrick for his leadership on this issue and look forward to working with our state and local partners to implement strategies to reduce the health effects of climate change in many areas including mosquito-borne illness and vibrio."
The effects of climate change are already evident here in Massachusetts. Since 2010 alone, the Commonwealth has endured five major storms, including Superstorm Sandy. There has also been an increase in vector-borne diseases; in the summer of 2012, Massachusetts saw a significant rise in Eastern Equine Encephalitis (EEE) that led to aerial spraying, and in 2013 oyster beds had to be closed for the first time in Massachusetts history because of vibrio parahaemolyticus. In order to help state agencies and municipalities better understand these climate change impacts, EEA will partner with UMass Amherst’s Northeast Climate Science Center to appoint a state climatologist. To deliver useful information to residents, the Commonwealth will work to aggregate climate preparedness resources into a single online portal for easy public access.
In addition to the $40 million in ACP funds and $10 million in capital funds for coastal projects, the Governor will seek $2 million in the Fiscal Year 2015 budget to accomplish the remaining interagency efforts.
“By century’s end, researchers warn that the annual number of days with property-damaging thunderstorms on the eastern seaboard will increase as much as 42 percent,” said Senator Mike Barrett. “I applaud the Governor for his vision and leadership on this issue.”
"As a legislator who represents coastal communities I am acutely aware of the triple threat of climate change, increasing storm activity, and aging infrastructure to our quality of life," said Representative Jim Cantwell. "I can also attest to the challenges that we encounter in trying to coordinate government and utility responses to storm-related incidents. Accordingly I applaud the Governor's efforts to create a comprehensive response for the effects of climate change. I am specifically pleased to see significant emphasis on investments to lessen the loss of power during significant storms, which has been a recurring, major threat to the health and safety of residents throughout Massachusetts. Having witnessed first-hand the benefits of advance emergency planning, revitalized coastal infrastructure, and general climate adaptation strategies I also appreciate the Administration's continued partnership to address dangers associated with coastal storms and sea level rise."
“Effectively managing impacts of extreme weather will require coordinated long-term planning and investments in adaptive infrastructure at every level of government, especially in a coastal state like Massachusetts,” said Representative Carolyn Dykema. “With this initiative, Governor Patrick is drawing attention to this crucial issue and providing leadership that's crucial to protecting the welfare of our residents and the future of our Commonwealth.”
“Given the serious potential for harmful impacts to Massachusetts and its electric grid due to climate change, I applaud the Patrick Administration’s efforts to invest in more resilient and modern infrastructure,” said Representative John Keenan.
Since taking office, the Patrick Administration has been committed to mitigating the impacts of climate change by advancing renewable energy and energy efficiency in the Commonwealth. As a result, Massachusetts now has more than 525 megawatts of wind and solar installed and has established the most ambitious and effective energy efficiency plans in the nation.
The Patrick Administration’s aggressive clean energy initiatives have made Massachusetts a leader in energy efficiency, renewable energy and emissions reductions. The American Council for an Energy Efficient Economy (ACEEE) has named Massachusetts number one for three years running. This year, Governor Patrick set a new solar goal after reaching the previous goal of 250 megawatts four years early. The Commonwealth now aims to install 1,600 megawatts of solar capacity by 2020. The clean energy revolution is yielding economic benefits as well, with 11.8 percent job growth in the last year and 24 percent growth in the last two years; nearly 80,000 people are employed in the cleantech industry in Massachusetts.
Many of these investments are happening at the local level, as municipalities, businesses and individuals adopt energy efficiency and renewable energy solutions to reduce energy costs. Today, the Commonwealth is home to 123 and towns who have risen to the challenge and met five clean energy criteria – earning them the Green Communities Designation.
Last January, the Patrick Administration announced the state’s Accelerated Energy Program (AEP), which aims to reduce energy consumption by 20-25 percent over 700 state sites, creating about 4,000 clean energy jobs and saving the Commonwealth an estimated $43 million annually. AEP will significantly reduce the current annual consumption of more than 800 million kilowatt hours of electricity, 12 million gallons of heating oil, 55 million therms of natural gas, and emissions of more than 800,000 tons of greenhouse gases, which represent more than 4,000 buildings and 58 million square feet. The program will save an estimated 135,000 metric tons of greenhouse gases annually, the equivalent of removing 26,000 vehicles from the road per year.
In 2008, Governor Patrick signed the Global Warming Solutions Act, which authorized the Commonwealth to reduce greenhouse gas emissions by 25 percent below 1990 levels by 2020, and at least 80 percent below 1990 levels by 2050.