Senator Eldridge votes for bill to preserve open space, protect the environment, and strengthen climate resiliency
BOSTON – In a poll on Friday, April 20th, the Joint Committee on the Environment, Natural Resources, and Agriculture (ENRA) reported out favorably Governor Charlie Baker’s H.4318, An Act Promoting Climate Change Adaptation, Environmental and Natural Resource Protection and Investment in Recreational Assets and Opportunity. The bill includes key changes that the committee made after hearing from legislators, environmental and energy advocates, and the general public.
“I want to commend the work of ENRA Committee co-chairs, Senator Anne Gobi and Representative Smitty Pignatelli, for reporting out a comprehensive bill that will invest in key environmental programs and initiatives over the next five years. As a member of the ENRA Committee, I was proud to vote for H.4318,” said State Senator Jamie Eldridge (D-Acton).
H.4318 would allocate over $1.4 billion through state bonds for investments at the state and local levels in environmental protection, climate change adaptation, climate change prevention and mitigation, conservation, and recreation, including:
- $580 million to improve the condition and quality of parks and recreation facilities across the state including DCR parkways, multi-use trails, pedestrian bridges, and internal state park roads and recreational trails
- $151,840,000 dedicated to grant programs for land, soil, water and natural resource conservation; open space preservation; watershed remediation; coastal resource protection; recreation; environmental equity and wildlife and endangered species protection
- $93,775,000 for investment in water and air quality protection to meet the objectives of the Clean Water Act, The Rivers Protection Act, and the Massachusetts Wetlands Protection Act
- $60 million dedicated to the Clean Water Trust ensuring additional investments in water infrastructure
- $50 million for the Complete Street Program, which improves pedestrian, bicyclist, and roadway safety in communities across the Commonwealth
The bill also includes new policy initiatives on clean energy and climate adaptation.
Eldridge advocated for policy provisions to be added to the redrafted environmental bond bill. One of those provisions, The Environmental Justice Act (S.426/H.2913), would ensure that all residents have access to clean air, clean water, and a healthy natural environment regardless of their race, national origin, or personal wealth.
Historically, low-income neighborhoods, communities of color, and immigrant communities have been the sites for high-pollution industries and toxic waste disposal. Filed by Senator Eldridge and Representatives Michelle DuBois (D-Brockton) and RoseLee Vincent (D-Revere), the Environmental Justice Act would create an office of Environmental Justice within the governor’s secretariat. It would also create a fund to support environmentally beneficial projects in low-income communities using fines levied on violators of environmental laws.
Eldridge also lobbied for ENRA to add the Public Lands Preservation Act (PLPA) to the bond bill, which was filed by Rep. Ruth Balser (D-Newton) and Senator Eldridge at the beginning of the 2017-18 legislative session. The PLPA would strengthen protections for the sale of public parks and conservation areas covered under Article 97 of the Massachusetts Constitution.
“I think the bond bill was made stronger by the addition of the Environmental Justice Act and PLPA,” said Senator Eldridge, “When we’re talking about bolstering the state’s environmental and clean energy policies, it’s critical that we include our most vulnerable populations and natural resources in that discussion.”
Eldridge also successfully advocated against provisions in Governor Baker’s original bill that would have allowed the privatization of public water supply and treatment for upwards of thirty years. He also fought against creating a “Clean Peak Energy” Standard, which could have opened the door for the state to designate natural gas as a “renewable” energy source for use when electricity demand is the highest and therefore most expensive.
“I’m relieved that water privatization proposals were removed from the environmental bond bill,” said Senator Eldridge. “Private water companies are infamous for maximizing their profits at the expense of our communities and public health. We should be investing in the water infrastructure that our cities and towns need instead of making our communities more vulnerable to corporate greed and negligence,” the Senator added. “Further, pro-clean energy advocates must remain vigilant in opposing any efforts by the fossil fuel industry, to sneak in any acceptance of gas, oil, or coal to be somehow be considered ‘renewable’ or ‘bridge fuel’.”
With its changes, H.4318 is expected to go to the House Committee on Bonding, Capital Expenditures and State Assets before it continues onto the House Ways and Means Committee.