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Latest Net Zero/Natural Gas Bans Update for New England and New York

23 January 2020

Here is an update on Net Zero/Gas Ban Events around New England and New York. Is Northeast HPBA missing anything? Is there anything we don't know about that is happening in your area that we need to know? Contact us!

Massachusetts:

There are 240 towns out of 311 towns in MA considering this stretch code. 

The Board of Building Regulations and Standards (BBRS): 

  • Held a public hearing in October, prior to their vote to pass a state-wide Net Zero Stretch Code. 
  • NEHBA got the heads up about this public hearing through a building official in Sutton who is on the BBRS board.
  • NEHPBA Executive Director and President represented with talking points at that public hearing. 
  • There were over 100 people there in support of a Net-Zero Stretch code, including selectman from cities and towns across MA, along with organized protestors.
  • There were 11 board members in-total and 9 were in favor of the NZ stretch code. 
  • NEHPBA succeeded in converting 5 members of the BBRS to our side. 
  • They did NOT vote, and they have PUT OFF the vote indefinitely as a result of our talking points at the public hearing and the letter writing campaign NEHPBA implemented (over 300 letters sent to the board chair). 

Brookline, MA:

  • Selectmen held a Special Town Meeting in November to make the Net Zero code a law in Brookline. (The problem with a special town meeting is that they are not on the regular schedule and no one knows about them, can’t plan for them, which is how these agendas get passed).
  • There were 231 votes in favor and 11 opposed, only 242 people showed up to vote in the ENTIRE CITY OF BROOKLINE. Population 59,000 (one of largest Cities in MA.)
  • Brookline Net-Zero “law” is still at MA Attorney General’s office being reviewed for constitutionality.

Cambridge, MA:

  • Passed a Net-Zero Stretch Code. 
  • That hearing was much more bipartisan in its audience, 50/50 pro vs con regarding the stretch code. 
  • The council had their minds made up before the comments session even started. NEHPBA ED and President were present with talking points at this hearing.
  • Mayor of Cambridge was outgoing, he wanted a legacy. The stretch code passed in Cambridge 5 to 1.
  • Cambridge is expected to formally vote at their next City Council meeting on 1/27.

Somerville, MA:

  • NEHPBA found out on 12/12/19 that the vote was happening on 12/12/19 and that the public comments session was on 12/11. 
  • Somerville held their meeting in the evening on a weeknight and passed a natural gas ban. 

Governor Baker, State of the Commonwealth Address:

  • 1/21/20 State of the Commonwealth Address: Gov Baker committed to net-zero emissions goal by 2050 for Massachusetts.
  • Transportation and Climate Initiative is a cap-and-trade program that could increase gas prices (tax) up to $0.17/gallon to pay for NetZero.  

Senator Ed Markey Green New Deal Town Hall In Acton, MA:

  • Markey (Author of Green New Deal with AOC which was introduced LESS THAN 1 YEAR AGO in US Senate) wants MA to be a solely “Solar Economy.”
  • Over 800 people were present for this event, all in favor. NEHPBA ED, President and 1 dealer member were present.
  • MA Senate will be taking up a “Bold Climate Change Bill” Markey wants it to be “the boldest in the Country.” Wants the rest of the country to model and follow MA.
  • Markey is Pro Net-Zero building codes.
  • “We will bury the fossil fuel industry in the next 10 years” got a huge round of applause.
  • Markey wants “wind, solar and storage so we can say goodbye to Natural Gas.”

Other MA Towns/Communities:

  • NEHPBA is aware of discussions in the following MA towns/cities: Arlington, Ashland, Concord, Lexington, Newton and Wellesley. 
  • The mayors of Worcester, Somerville, New Bedford, and Easthampton have organized a coalition calling on state policymakers to transition MA to meet its heating, transportation, and electricity needs entirely through renewable energy, the group plans to extend invitations into other cities.

Rhode Island:

  • Governor Raimondo signed executive order Executive Order 19-06 in July 2019 to reduce carbon emissions from Heating Sector by April 2020.
  • 1/20/20 Raimondo set 2030 as goal for Rhode Island to be 100% renewable energy.
  • National Grid (electric utility in RI) believes it may be possible that she is pushing renewable generation (solar, wind, storage) and not addressing gas heating and other uses at this time with this order. (She did refer to that Executive Order on 1/20/20).

Vermont:

  • Mayor Miro Weinberger wants Burlington to become a Net Zero Energy city by 2030.
  • Wants to reduce and eventually eliminate fossil fuel use in the “heating and ground transportation sectors, the two largest greenhouse gas emissions contributors in Burlington and in the state of Vermont.”
  • VT is actually passing legislation to allow their state to be sued if they don’t meet their mandates. 

Connecticut:

  • Gov. Ned Lamont’s signed executive order to reduce carbon emissions and sets the goal for a 100% carbon-free energy market in the state by 2040.

New York:

  • July, the state of New York (state Senate) passed the Climate Leadership and Community Protection Act, Carbon-free electricity by 2040 and a net-zero carbon economy by 2050.
  • Last month, NEHPBA member lost a 350 unit apartment community deal in upstate New York. Each home was to have a gas fireplace. The builder cancelled for fear that they would not be able to pipe in Natural Gas by the time construction began. 

Maine:

  • June 2019, Governor Mills Signs Major Renewable Energy and Climate Change Bills Into Law. Signed legislation to achieve goals of 80% renewable energy by 2030 and emissions reductions of 80% by 2050.

New Hampshire:

  • March 2019, Town of Derry, NH. Mission: To explore and achieve cost effective solutions for reduced energy use and sustainable energy development on town-controlled property, municipal buildings, vehicles, schools, while developing a comprehensive plan to achieve the goal of "Net Zero" compliance by all key Stakeholders by 2025. Additionally, to promote energy conservation, energy efficiency, and explore other ways to reduce carbon emissions among the Town's residents and businesses.  Lastly, to reduce water usage where feasible. 

What is NEHPBA doing?

    Right now NEHPBA is Networking with: Plumbers Union, VP of Government Affairs and VP of Communications with National Grid, Community Relations Specialist at Eversource, Director at Eversource, President of the Union for Eversource, New England Gas Workers Alliance, PROGANE (Propane Gas of New England), Regional AGA affiliate, Massachusetts Chimney Sweeps, BBRS, numerous building inspectors in MA, NAIOP, National Grid in RI. 

    If there are any introductions you can make in your area, no matter how big or small, please introduce me via email or phone. Contact NEHPBA with any questions. Like our Facebook page to stay up-to-date!

    Image: Sen Markey Green New Deal Town Hall 


    Brookline, MA bylaw Would Prohibit Natural Gas in Future Construction

    17 September 2019

    Fossil fuel infrastructure could soon become ancient history in Brookline construction.

    A newly-proposed bylaw would prohibit installation of new gas or oil piping in major construction, defined as new developments and significant building rehabilitations or additions. This would prevent developers from installing appliances reliant on fossil fuels, including certain boilers, furnaces and cooktops.

    “When we make a new investment in gas heat, gas hot water and other gas appliances, we are lighting fires that burn on and off for decades,” said Town Meeting Member Jesse Gray, who is petitioning the warrant article.

    Speaking at a community feedback session Aug. 22, he cited the town’s goal to be emissions-free by 2050: “In Brookline, we’ve said that these fires have to be put out by 2050. So if we continue to put in new fossil fuel infrastructure in Brookline, our goal would require it to be ripped out, potentially prior to its useful end-of-life.”

    Retrofitting could be more expensive and more of a hassle than just installing electric appliances to begin with, he said.

    He called the proposed bylaw an “essential step” in achieving zero emissions in Brookline’s building sector.

    “If we assume that half a percent of our building stock is built or rehabilitated every year, then this bylaw alone could result in 15 percent of our buildings operating climate-neutral by 2050,” Gray said.

    Even with those goals, the warrant article has a ways to go before it becomes Brookline law. The proposed bylaw will be filed with the town by Aug. 29, when the warrant for the November special Town Meeting closes. TM members will then debate and vote on whether to amend the town’s General By-Laws.

    In two community feedback sessions, one on Aug. 20 and one on Aug. 22, developers, property owners, building trade professionals and members of the public were invited to ask questions and make suggestions. Many questions focused on how the bylaw would be implemented, and what technology could be used in the process.

    Some attendees also raised concerns about how the ban on new fossil fuel infrastructure would impact restaurants reliant on gas cooktops and stoves.

    “A lot of people who are skeptical about cooking without gas haven’t tried induction cooking,” Gray said, adding, “It’s essentially superior to gas cooking and it’s been embraced by a lot of famous chefs in the area, including Ming Tsai and Barbara Lynch.”

    Not only is induction cooking safer for kitchen staff, he said, it also keeps kitchens cooler and heats water faster.

    Meanwhile, Chestnut Hill Realty’s Marc Levin expressed concerns about the bylaw’s impact on property owners and leasing companies.

    “In the end, I think that a sophisticated cost-benefit analysis should be done, that this feels ... as though there hasn’t been a significant analysis of what the costs would be, what the economics would be and what the other heavy consequences may be,” he said.

    Zoe Lynn, Brookline’s sustainability program administrator, acknowledged it is still early on in the process. “We’re early on in our climate planning, but we’re also early on in the warrant article,” she said.

    Still at hand is the matter of exemptions — whether to allow certain projects to go around the bylaw, and which buildings to exempt.

    According to Lynn, some analysis have made it clear that the bylaw may need to exempt large units that require a lot of hot water heating, such as homes or commercial buildings. The technology, she explained, isn’t cost effective. This would exempt, for example, Chestnut Hill Realty’s upcoming mixed-use Waldo-Durgin development, she said.

    This is being put to vote on 11/19/19, November Special Town Meeting Begins!

    Do you know of an issue in your town that we need to know about? Let us know so we can help fight!

    brookline.wickedlocal.com


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