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Media Advisory for Monday, October 1st at 7 PM
Response to the Merrimack Gas Explosions Tragedy
In response to the explosions in the Merrimack Valley last evening, 350 Massachusetts put out the following statement by spokesperson Craig S. Altemose:
“Our hearts go out to everyone who was injured, killed, displaced, or otherwise affected by yesterday’s tragedy. And we thank the heroic first responders for their courageous and rapid response. We would like to do what we can to help, and are putting out a call to our network of volunteers to open their homes to those displaced by yesterday’s explosion.
“Climate advocates have been warning about the dangers of natural gas for years, and while this explosion is tragic, it was not unforeseeable. We hereby call for Governor Baker--who has previously pushed for the public to subsidize massive new gas infrastructure expansions--to immediately issue a freeze on all new natural gas construction in the state until after thorough investigations both of what happened in this situation and of the many vulnerabilities in our existing system are completed. We also call on Governor Baker to express his immediate and unconditional support for National Grid to end the lock-out of the USW Local 12003 union so that these skilled workers can return to the important task of cleaning up the tens of thousands of existing leaks in our state’s natural gas infrastructure.”
Thousands Protest Planned Eversource Substation in East Boston and Rally for Safe Jobs, Immigrant Rights, and a Livable Climate
For release September 8, 2018
BOSTON, MA— On September 8th, thousands of people mobilized in East Boston to protest a planned Eversource high-voltage electric substation, and rallied for better, safer jobs; common-sense protections for immigrants; and bold action on climate change. The mobilization was one of more than 480 around the world. In San Francisco tens of thousands of people flooded the streets demanding action from governors and business leaders at the Global Climate Action Summit, while communities across the nation came together to galvanize engagement in the midterm elections.
The action in Boston united environmental justice organizations, faith communities, labor unions, immigrant rights and climate advocacy groups from across Massachusetts in calling on policymakers to prioritize the needs of their constituents over corporate profits. The event concluded with a march from the East Boston Greenway to the Chelsea Creek and the site of Eversource’s proposed high voltage electrical substation that would be built in an area at risk of flooding and next to a 8 million gallons of stored jet-fuel. The project would be funded by Eastern Massachusetts ratepayers, and Eversource has produced no evidence that this project is necessary to meet electricity demand.
Although the local communities in Chelsea and East Boston have organized against the substation, the City of Boston and the Energy Facilities Siting Board have waived it ahead. John Walkey, an organizer with GreenRoots Chelsea, said, “While the city of Boston uses buzzwords like coastal resilience and carbon neutral, this project is at odds with those forward thinking initiatives. Given the downward trend of energy usage, there is a clear need for a re-evaluation on whether this high-voltage substation in a densely populated community is necessary.”
The connections between climate change and immigration were raised throughout the event, with East Boston being both an immigrant community and Boston’s most vulnerable neighborhood when it comes to impacts from climate change, including sea level rise and flooding. It is also home to Logan Airport and the jet fuel storage for all the planes. “Many immigrants come to the U.S. escaping the devastation from climate change and the fossil fuel industry in their home countries. In East Boston and many other communities of color in the U.S., those threats don’t disappear,” said Gillian Mason, Co-Executive Director of Jobs with Justice.
“All immigrants deserve dignity, respect, and permanent protection, and that includes a healthy and safe living environment. We won’t let Eversource dump another dangerous facility on our community,” said Dylan Lazerow, organizer with the immigrant justice group Cosecha.
“Extreme storms and flooding have pushed our families out of our homes in Puerto Rico, Haiti, the list goes on. And now they threaten to do the same in East Boston, along with ongoing threats of pollution, gentrification, and deportation. We fight against forced displacement, whether that is caused by corporate landlords, ICE, or the ravages of extreme storms and flood related to climate change. Our community is not disposable,” said Steve Meacham, Organizing Coordinator of the housing justice group City Life/Vida Urbana.
The action also highlighted the increased risks for workers caused by climate change. Airport workers at nearby Logan Airport, many immigrants themselves, have been struggling with increasingly dangerous working conditions during recent heat waves. “Climate change impacts working families in so many different ways,” said Roxana Rivera, Vice President of 32BJ SEIU, the airport workers’ union. “Like many in our society, airport workers are seeing the impact at work as airlines cut costs and turn off air conditioning in the planes, even during record heat waves. We need to stand together to protect our climate, for workers, for their families and for all of our communities”
"Climate change drives human migration, it threatens the health of workers, and the safety of the communities, especially those facing other environmental risks like East Boston. We are coming together to demand that our representatives prioritize the well being of people over the profits of powerful corporations like Eversource," said Alan Palm, Organizing Director for 350 Massachusetts for a Better Future.
“We’re rising up for a liveable climate and for safe, healthy communities. We’re rising up for permanent protection for immigrants, and family-sustaining jobs. We’re rising up because climate justice is immigration justice is worker justice. These issues are intrinsically linked, and the only way we’ll solve them is by working together to build collective people power across movements,” said Michele Brooks, an organizer for the Massachusetts Sierra Club.
Throughout the rally participants affirmed their intent to continue organizing to build a People’s movement in Massachusetts, especially heading into the midterm elections, to challenge entrenched interests and show that real leadership rises from the grassroots up.
Speaking about youth engagement in politics, Varshini Prakash, a volunteer with the Sunrise Movement said, “Our generation is fed up with a political establishment that time and again prioritizes the profits of fossil fuel CEOs over the safety and well-being of millions of people across the world. We are rising today to give voice to young people’s outrage at witnessing a lifetime of inaction on climate change into grassroots political power and making clear to our leaders: take action to stop this crisis, or we’ll do everything in our power to vote you out.”
The RISE event engaged a local coalition of over 20 labor unions, environmental justice groups, faith organizations, immigrant justice organizations, youth groups, and climate activism groups.
Additional information on the Boston mobilization, including attendance estimates, is here.
Photographs from the event will be available to download by 9pm, September 8th.
Climate Organizations & Supporters Hold Series of Vigils in State House & a “Drown-in” on State House Steps
For release July 26, 2018
On Thursday July 26, climate advocates gathered at the Massachusetts State House to hold a set of concurrent vigils to bring attention to the basic facts of climate change and the urgency of bold action by reading the National Climate Assessment and reciting personal stories of how climate change has impacted them. They followed the vigils with a “drown-in,” where advocates holding umbrellas, life preservers, and rain gear covered with emergency language were engulfed by the rain and a blue tarp representing rising sea level, calling attention to the threat of catastrophic climate change to sea coast communities and across Massachusetts.
“Climate change is an emergency. People are losing their homes and their lives. Massachusetts has the opportunity to lead the fight against climate change, and the disastrous federal policies by transitioning to 100% renewable energy,” said Alan Palm, Director of Organizing for 350 Mass and the Better Future Project. “Every day and every year that we continue to burn fossil fuels increases the risk the people of the Commonwealth, those on the front lines around the world, and to future generations.”
The advocates called on house leaders to take action to transition to 100% renewable energy as fast as possible by passing a 3% renewable portfolio standard, and protect those most vulnerable by codifying environmental justice into law through solar equity.
“Time is running out – for our planet, and for Massachusetts to lead when it comes to fighting climate change which threatens our health, our economy, and our natural environment,” said Emily Norton, Sierra Club Massachusetts Director. “As the news locally and around the world is dominated by heat waves, drought, wildfires and flash floods, we call on our leaders to not accept half measures in order to placate fossil fuel interests but rather go bold when it comes to advancing clean energy.”
They targeted members of the energy conference committee because of their role in drafting the final version of legislation that can be passed this year, as well as Speaker DeLeo and Rep. Sanchez because of their key leadership roles in the House. Bold action at the state level is all the more important because of the rollbacks on environmental regulations at the federal level.
“The Mass Power Forward Coalition has also worked tirelessly over the past two years to advocate for the basic changes needed to put the Commonwealth on the path towards 100% clean, renewable energy,” said Laura Wagner, Executive Director of Unitarian Universalist Mass Action. “The lack of action at this late stage in the legislative cycle demonstrates misaligned allegiance to short term, monetary gain and the cries of the public fall on deaf ears. The concentration of power in our legislature is alarming and a threat to our democracy.”
Anne Wright, a member of Mothers Out Front in Arlington, stressed that state leadership is needed to do what municipal and federal level action can’t. “We passed a Community Choice Aggregation electricity program in Arlington, we are going after the methane gas leaks, we are putting up solar panels on town buildings and businesses and houses. But towns can’t get us to the Renewable Portfolio Standard that the whole state needs to reach our legally-mandated emissions reductions targets, or keep the gas utilities from charging us for future unnecessary pipelines that they want to profit from, or prevent them from charging us for leaked gas. We need the state legislature to do that, and now is the time.”
Conference committee members have 5 days to pass this legislation.
The organizations and supporters represented a broad coalition of groups from the climate movement in Massachusetts, who united at this key moment to take action and call on the Massachusetts Legislature to pass bold policy. They include: 350 Mass, Sierra Club, Toxics Action Center, Clean Water Action, Boston Climate Action Network, Climate Action Now MA, Fore River Residents Against the Compressor Station, No Fracked Gas in Mass, Mothers Out Front, and the Mass Power Forward coalition.
Climate and Immigrant Justice Groups and Supporters Hold Emergency Vigil Demanding that the House Reclaim Moral Leadership
For release July 19, 2018
On Thursday, July 19, over 300 advocates for climate and immigrant justice joined forces to express their discontent over leadership of the House’s failure to protect the most vulnerable people and communities in Massachusetts. The 300 advocates visited both Chairman of the Ways and Means Committee Jeffrey Sanchez, as well as Speaker Robert DeLeo.
“We brought more than 300 people, waited over 25 minutes, and still, Rep. Sanchez’s office refuesed to send a single person out to even witness our assembly.” said constituent Claire Miller from Toxics Action Center, “Our friends from the Green Justice Coalition had a 1pm appointment, they even ceded time so that someone could come out. This rejection is outrageous.”
The advocates called on house leaders to take action to transition to 100% renewable energy as fast as possible by passing a 3% renewable portfolio standard, and protect those most vulnerable by codifying environmental justice into law, and securing the 4 Key Safe Communities Protections that passed in the Senate version of the State budget.
“We need elected officials who are willing to be leaders. Who will take action to prevent immigrant parents from being taken from their children, right here in Massachusetts. We need leaders who are able to recognize the urgency of the climate crisis and to do what’s right for our communities,” said Laura Wagner of Unitarian Universalist Mass Action. “The time for timid inaction is over. Lead, or get out of the way and let others lead.”
"By refusing to adopt even the most basic legal protections for immigrants, the Legislature abdicated its moral leadership and failed thousands of its constituents,” said Eva A. Millona of Massachusetts Immigrant and Refugee Advocacy Coalition. “But it's not too late to right this wrong. Vulnerable families can't afford to wait another year.”
Rep. Sanchez and Speaker De Leo have twelve days before the conference committee ends.
"In the age of Trumpism, Massachusetts should be a shining beacon of hope and leadership. Instead, the Massachusetts House of Representatives has instead offered weak action on climate change and environmental justice and a complete absence of leadership on immigration justice." said Craig Altemose of 350 Massachusetts. "This is unacceptable. The House needs to act now to protect our undocumented neighbors from harassment by the Trump administration and to take strong action -- such as quickening renewable energy growth by 3% per year and providing basic protections to vulnerable communities -- on the threat of climate change, which not only threatens Commonwealth communities, but is also predicted to be the strongest driver of migration in the 21st century."
“The people of Massachusetts clearly want action on climate change,” said Emily Norton, Chapter Director of the Massachusetts Sierra Club. “From storm surges to heat waves to drought, the impacts of climate are already being felt here at home. All we are asking for is our elected representatives to actually represent us and lead when it comes to climate change. More clean energy means jobs, improved public health, keeping energy dollars here at home, and a livable planet, especially for our most vulnerable residents.”
The organizations and supporters represented a broad coalition of groups from the climate movement and the Safe Communities Coalition who united at this key moment to take action and call on the House to reclaim its moral leadership. They include: 350 Mass, Sierra Club, Toxic Actions Center, Clean Water Action, Boston Climate Action Network, Climate Action Now MA, Fore River Residents Against the Compressor Station, No Fracked Gas in Mass, Mothers Out Front, and the Mass Power Forward coalition, as well as Safe Communities Coalition members MIRA Coalition, Unitarian Universalist Mass Action, Pioneer Valley Workers Center, Essex County Community Organization, Agencia ALPHA, Progressive Mass, JALSA, and American Friends Service Committee.
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Environmental Political Orgs Deliver Letter at 11th Hour, call on Rep. Sanchez for Bold & Prompt Action on Climate Justice
For release July 11, 2018
On the 11th hour of the 11th day in the last month of the legislative term, senior staff representing six of the most prominent and active climate advocacy organizations along with constituents delivered a joint letter to House Ways and Means Chairman Jeff Sanchez asking him to move forward clean energy legislation, particularly H.4575 and H.2913, which would increase the rate of renewable energy required by utilities to produce (also known as the Renewable Portfolio Standard, or RPS) and codify environmental justice into law, respectively.
The organizations present included the Massachusetts Sierra Club, 350 Mass Action, Clean Water Action, Toxics Action Center Campaigns, Environment Massachusetts, and ELM Action Fund. Tomorrow, Rep. Sanchez will face his constituents in Jamaica Plain at a Town Hall on Climate, and like these organizations’ leaders, they will be looking forward to hearing reports of concrete action from Chairman Sanchez.
The environmental justice bill would codify into law protections for environmental justice communities that have so far existed only in executive orders. Notably, this bill has also been favorably recommended by two separate committees - the Committee on the Environment, Agriculture, and Natural Resources as well as the Bonding Committee.
The letter references the public health harms of fossil fuels as well as study citing the job creation and economic activity this legislation would create -- all without increasing electricity bills. The groups are advocating that Sanchez not just favorably release the RPS bill from his committee, but increase the rate of growth to 3%/year rather than the current 2%/year that the bill contains. A 3%/year increase would match a companion bill in the Senate and would set the state to achieve 50% renewable energy by 2030, the same targets set by other climate-leading states like California, New York, and Hawaii.
For the legislation to advance, Chairman Sanchez must release the bill from his committee in time to for the full House of Representatives to vote on the bill in time for the formation of a conference committee by July 17, 2018.
Quotes from organizational leaders:
“Releasing a bill with a 3% increase/year of renewable would put us on par with states like California, New York, and Hawaii that are paving the way with clean energy leadership, while ensuring low-income communities and communities of color are not unduly burdened with pollution is just human decency,” explained Craig Altemose, Executive Director of 350 Mass Action. “Failing to act at this moment would be to sacrifice our climate leadership at the exact time that federal inaction requires us to step up.”
“As a climate justice advocate, I know that time is of the essence. Our communities can’t wait till next session. Heat waves, floods and storms are happening now,” said Claire Miller of Toxics Action Center. “As a constituent of Rep. Sanchez I’m also just shocked. Renewable energy and environmental justice should be a no brainer. I look forward to seeing him take action this week.”
“When it comes to clean energy, we can’t afford any delay,” said Ben Hellerstein, State Director for Environment Massachusetts. “Every day we continue using fossil fuels is another day our kids are exposed to unhealthy air pollution, and another day we increase the risk of dangerous heat waves and rising sea levels. Let’s join together to protect our health and climate before July 31.”
Emily Norton, Massachusetts Director for Sierra Club, said: “Mere months ago Boston experienced unprecedented storm surges, sending a dumpster floating down a street in the Seaport. We just had 100+ degree temperatures in June. What more evidence are we waiting for? Climate change is a public health crisis. New York, California, New Jersey, even Rhode Island have stronger renewable energy mandates than Massachusetts. We must act as if our lives depend on it, because they do.”
"We need the legislature to act today to help move Massachusetts onto the same playing field as the rest of the world,” said Elizabeth Saunders, Massachusetts Director of Clean Water Action. “By not acting ambitiously, our state is ceding public health, justice, and opportunities to create a green economy."