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A dozen people rally for climate legislation at Park Square.

Environmentalists Push for Climate Legislation

By Brittany PolitoiBerkshires Staff
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PITTSFIELD, Mass. — Local environmentalists joined statewide rallies for climate legislation on Tuesday, pushing the passage of four bills for cleaner air and energy.

A dozen people gathered in Park Square holding signs with pleas such as “Let our grandchildren have a future” and “We need clean air.”  The Berkshire Environmental Action Team urged attendees to advocate for S.2135 for a gas moratorium, HD.2474/ SD.1180 and HD.2474/ SD.1108 for clean air, and HD.4024/ SD.505 for just energy citing.

“The whole point of this is Mass legislative sessions last for two years. For the last three sessions, bills have always stalled out until the very last minute,” said Rosemary Wessel, program director for No Fracked Gas in Mass.

“Some of you may remember two years ago we were here 11 days before the session because they were saying ‘Meh, we might not pass an energy bill, things aren't working out for us,’ So we want to make sure that they're on the ball earlier this year.”

Executive Director Jane Winn emphasized that No Fracked Gas in Mass, BEAT, the 350 MA Berkshire Node, and Mass Power Forward joined ten simultaneous rallies for climate legislation with this event.

“This is happening all across the state,” she said.

It is now 60 days until the end of the session and Wessel said there are many bills that need to be resolved, reconciled, or put into an omnibus energy bill.  She pointed to a spat between chairs of the state Telecommunications, Utilities, and Energy Committee earlier this year that divided the panel for separate hearings and resulted in less communication.

“They've resolved their differences but things still aren't going through that fast and we're now 93% of the way through this legislative session,” she said.

“They have good legislation in front of them. They need to get working on it now because when these bills get left to the last minute, that's time for the utility companies to get to them, it’s time for the lobbyists to get to them to tinker with the wording.”

Wessel reported that Sen. Paul Mark, who is on the committee, and State Rep. Tricia Farley Bouvier have championed the legislation.

“When we brought up concerns to (Mark,) he actually relayed them to the committee heads as well,” she added. “So he's been helping push them forward as much as there has been movement forward.”

Deputy Director Brittany Ebeling explained that these bills are “no brainers” and to meet the state's decarbonization goals, will support the state in moving forward equitably and with justice toward decarbonizing.

The gas moratorium bill asks for legislation to establish a moratorium on new gas system expansion.  It is currently before the Senate Committee on Ways and Means.

“This bill is pointing to the fact that we need to transition away from fossil fuels, we need to curb our state's emissions, and by doing so, invest in clean energy infrastructure,” she said.

“We shouldn't be pouring money into building new gas infrastructure and we should be building clean energy in a way that uplifts our communities in an equitable fashion.”

Bill HD.2474/ SD.1180, now S.1382, asks for legislation to improve outdoor and indoor air quality for communities burdened by transportation pollution.

“We know that even in Pittsfield between different neighborhoods in this community, there is a 12-year life expectancy difference between certain neighborhoods that have been formerly redlined that are facing a lot of the effects of environmental injustice and neighboring areas that are not experiencing those effects,” Ebeling explained.

“A lot of that has to do with air pollution and so this act is supporting the idea that we know breathing clean air is a matter of life and health and it requires monitoring and it requires monitoring and taking action when there are instances of unclean air that burden the most already affected community members.”

This requires monitoring and taking action where there are instances of unclean air that burden already affected community members.

The other clean air bill, now H.3232, asks for legislation to establish a zero-carbon renovation fund for the costs associated with energy-efficiency renovations of certain existing buildings.

Ebeling explained that this will invest in an equitable energy transition that uplifts the most affected community members while meeting the state decarbonization targets.

The energy siting bill, now H.3187, is an act relative to energy facilities siting improvements to address environmental justice, climate, and public health.

“We know that environmental justice communities are already bearing the brunt of environmental injustice and have been historically excluded from decision-making when the question arises, ‘Where should we site this energy facility? Should it go in this neighborhood? What will the environmental effects be for people breathing this air, living next to this water?’” Ebeling explained.

“And so we're pushing for the inclusion of all community members in the decision-making process who will be most affected by the siting of these facilities and asking for their voices to be heard before decisions are made so that we can share in the benefits of a clean energy future together.”

Wessel explained that they are particularly interested in reaching the chairs of the Telecommunications, Utilities, and Energy Committee, Sen. Michael Barrett and Rep. Jeffrey Roy, with the advocacy. 

They would also like to get the attention of the House speaker and Senate president, "Because they have all been in part of the process of stalling progress on clean energy legislation and environmental justice legislation. They're the ones who are dragging their feet and they're the ones who can move things forward more quickly.”


Tags: environment,   legislation,   

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Letter: Berkshire State Delegation Needed to Pass Ban on Puppy Mills

Letter to the Editor

To the Editor:

The public may be aware that I spear-headed local legislation in Pittsfield and Lenox banning the sale of puppies from puppy mills at pet stores. Berkshire Voters for Animals and the Massachusetts Humane Society were strong advocates and helped immensely.

I have received an email from Berkshire Voters for Animals stating, "There is still one of our bills in its original committee that needs to be released by June 14th or it will not have a chance to be passed this session. Time is running out for Massachusetts lawmakers to advance legislation that will prevent commercial dog breeders (puppy mills) from trucking cruelly bred puppies into pet shops. New York, Maryland and California have successfully passed similar laws. Massachusetts should be next!"

The appeal was that "We need you to contact your rep to ask them to contact the House Chair of the Environment Committee to release the bill."

It is my hope that the bill makes it out of committee and not die there, as too many good pieces of proposed legislation often does. I cannot stress how popular these initiatives were. In Pittsfield, I have had ordinances pass that took literally as much as one-half a decade to get passed. No so with this. Dozens upon dozens showed up in support for the ordinance. The Pittsfield City Council passed it immediately, with no debate.

Lenox has an open town meeting where any town resident can show up and vote, and of the dozens upon dozens of people that attended (it may have been over 100, but I am not a good judge of audience size), not a single one voted against the legislation when put to a final vote. In fact, that vote was almost instantaneous.

According to the letter, Sen. Paul Mark and he has spoken with the Senate chair. I respectfully request Rep. Tricia Farley-Bouvier, Rep. John Barrett, and Rep. Smitty Pignatelli, excellent legislators of the Berkshire Delegation of whom I am fond of, to help pass S.550/H. 826/S. 549, "An Act banning the retail sale of cats and dogs in pet shops" before the 2024 legislative session ends. This salutary law is enjoys widespread and practically unanimous support from the public.

Rinaldo Del Gallo
Pittsfield, Mass.




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