ZeroCarbonMA applauds the Massachusetts State Legislature, in particular Senator Mike Barrett and Representative Jeff Roy, for including a clause allowing 10 municipalities to enact so-called gas bans that forbid the installation of new fossil fuel infrastructure in new buildings and significant renovations. The clause will be included in the state legislature’s upcoming climate bill.
The gas ban provision was tethered to a need that municipalities achieve any of many affordable housing standards, such as meeting the 10% affordable housing level provided by Chapter 40B, in order to enact a gas ban. This condition was a result of a last-minute compromise.
It is the required decision. According to Jesse Gray, the author of Brookline’s 2019 gas ban, this progress is desperately needed in light of the developing federal deadlock, which includes a Supreme Court that has started to undermine the EPA and a United States Senate controlled by fossil fuel interests.
It is the just decision. According to Wendy Stahl, a doctor and member of the Brooklines Zero Emissions Advisory Board, low- and middle-income neighborhoods are more exposed to health-harming air pollution and experience more health effects as a result than other communities. Both indoor and outdoor hazardous vapors are released by gas-burning appliances. For instance, gas appliances continue to release harmful chemicals even when they are not in use, and gas cooking is linked to a 42 percent rise in the prevalence of asthma in children. With all-electric building, these undesirable effects can be minimized.
It is the prudent financial decision. According to architect Lisa Cunningham, a co-founder of ZeroCarbonMA, all-electric buildings have construction costs that are comparable to or lower than gas and significantly lower than other fossil fuel sources. These buildings also have lower life cycle costs, lower operational costs, and lower emissions, and they produce significantly better indoor and outdoor air quality as well as better health outcomes. It makes no sense to develop new fossil fuel infrastructure that we will have to pay for twice to install and then to tear out at a considerably greater cost than building it right the first time, but we must move quickly to decarbonize and electrify our current buildings.
It is a wise decision. According to David Mendels, a co-founder of ZeroCarbonMA, this clause emphasizes the expanding number of communities taking action to outlaw fossil fuel infrastructure, most recently Washington, DC. It marks the beginning of a new period in the history of the climate, one in which real climate action is accelerating rapidly in cities and towns, putting pressure on states to meaningfully solve our climate catastrophe.
Representative Tommy Vitolo, who represents Brookline, stated that advocates, technical experts, and lawmakers collaborated to create legislation that gives towns more resources to combat climate change. The supply for the ten towns is a great illustration of what we can accomplish when we work together to find practical answers to pressing issues.
When the original clause was put out a few months earlier, local bans had been enacted in five Massachusetts communities. However, five more communities have passed them in the months thereafter. Acton, Aquinnah, Arlington, Brookline, Concord, Cambridge, Lexington, Lincoln, Newton, and West Tisbury are the 10 Massachusetts towns that have so far passed bans. Seven of these localities seem to satisfy the compromise language’s need for affordable housing.
Although many additional towns are working to pass similar restrictions, this new clause will only allow ten to do so. This law is crucial because Attorney General and front-runner for governor Maura Healey has stated that she will not permit such municipal bans without the Commonwealth’s approval.
To start approaching meeting our MA and Federal objectives of 50% reduction by 2030 and net-zero by 2050, we must begin weaning ourselves off of polluting and unhealthy gas, oil, and other fossil fuels. Banning fossil fuels in new construction is a crucial first step in this process.
The world is currently experiencing an apocalyptic heat wave, which is disproportionately harming those who are most vulnerable, such as LMI communities and BIPOC. ZeroCarbonMA commends the State Legislature and the leadership of Senator Mike Barrett and Representative Jeff Roy for coming to an agreement to take this modest but crucial first step toward enabling at least some municipalities to begin enacting sensible legislation that enjoys broad public support. Now that this legislation has received strong support not just in these towns but across the Commonwealth, we implore Governor Baker to sign it. We will continue to work with the State Legislature to develop more effective laws, but we must act with far greater urgency to confront our climate issue. Our future is in jeopardy.
Thanks to AA1
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