Tuesday, July 08, 2014

The Sierra Club Mourns the passing of former State Rep. Doug Petersen

The Massachusetts Sierra Club mourns the loss of former State Rep. Doug Petersen, (D-Marblehead). Doug was a tireless advocate for the environment, a sponsor of the bottle bill update as well as many other environmental bills, and a good friend of the Sierra Club. He was always available to help us an others. The Sierra Club offers our sincerest condolences to his family.


Wednesday, July 02, 2014

Updated Bottle Bill Heads to November Ballot

Press Release 

Legislature misses deadline to act

Today, a large group gathered on the steps of the Secretary of State’s office to announce completion of an initiative petition signature drive to update the state’s bottle bill. Proponents delivered over 19,000 signatures Wednesday to Secretary Galvin’s office. Once the signatures are validated by Secretary Galvin, the measure is certified to appear before the voters on November 4. If passed, the ballot question would extend the current nickel deposit on soda and beer to other single serving containers like water, juices, and sports drinks.

“This is common sense policy that updates a tremendously effective law,” said Rep. Jon Hecht, (D-Watertown) the lead sponsor, along with Sen. Cynthia Creem (D-Newton), of the measure in the Legislature.

“The people of Massachusetts have spoken loud and clear, over a number of years, that they want less litter and more recycling; they want the Updated Bottle Bill. In the World Cup of legislation, our elected officials let this goal go right through their legs. We did our best to work through Beacon Hill, now it’s up to the voters, “said Janet Domenitz, Executive Director of MASSPIRG.

An update to the bottle bill has been pending in the state legislature for over 12 years; the original version passed in 1983, before the popularity of bottled water and tea. Although enough legislators support the update to make it law, it has never been brought to a vote in the House, despite passing the Senate during the last two legislative sessions. Opponents to the bill have largely been big business interests include bottlers, supermarkets.

Diverse groups across the state have gathered the needed signatures to put the measure before the voters -- over 130,000 signatures in September, nearly double the number needed, and more than the other proposed ballot measures. Signatures came from every one of the 351 cities and towns in Massachusetts, and hundreds of volunteers participated. In May, of this year, supporters gathered 27,000 more signatures.

  Among the organizations collecting signatures were MASSPIRG, the League of Women Voters of Massachusetts, the Emerald Necklace Conservancy, the Milton Garden Club, the Environmental League of Massachusetts, and the Massachusetts Sierra Club.

Advocates are bracing for a tough ballot question campaign. Under state law, bottlers and supermarkets can pour unlimited corporate funds into opposing the ballot initiative.

“We’d rather see the bottlers and supermarkets do more to promote recycling, but if they decide to spend millions to defeat this recycling initiative, our volunteers are ready to get the word out to voters,” said Phil Sego of the Massachusetts Sierra Club.

Over 100 organizations, 209 cities and towns, the past two Republican and Democratic Governors, and 400 small businesses have endorsed updating the bottle bill.

“Most single serving beverages are consumed on the go, out of the reach of curbside programs. This explains why deposit soda is recycled at 80%, almost quadruple the 23% recycling rate of water bottles,” said Susan Collins, President of the Container Recycling Institute. “Updating the bottle bill is a smart idea.”

"Expanding the bottle bill will go a long way toward cleaning up our streets and parks, and will help keep the costs of municipal trash collection down by removing beverage containers from the waste stream," said Anne Borg, co-president, League of Women Voters of Massachusetts.

“Despite strong public support, big business will invest millions of dollars in this campaign to avoid responsibility for the trash they create,” said George Bachrach, President of the Environmental League of Massachusetts. “This will be an uphill ‘David v. Goliath’ fight -- Mass citizens v. Corporate America.”

If the bottle bill wins in November, Massachusetts would catch up with Maine, Connecticut, New York, Hawaii, California, and Oregon, all of which have added more types of containers to their deposit laws over the past several years.

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Tuesday, June 24, 2014

New $2,500 Rebate for Buying or Leasing an Electric Car in Massachusetts

Thinking about buying or leasing a plug-in electric vehicle (EV)? The state of Massachusetts just launched a new program that will make you eligible for a rebate of $1,500 to $2,500 if you purchase or lease an EV. In addition to much lower fueling costs (electricity vs gasoline) and the federal tax credit of up to $7,500 for the purchase of an EV, this new incentive will make EVs even more cost-competitive in the Commonwealth.  Visit the MOR-EV web site for information on eligibility and how to apply.

Obviously, walking, biking, and using transit are the cleanest ways to get around. But if you’re an environmentalist with a car, then you probably know that oil extraction, transport, refining, and use constitute more than 40% of US carbon emissions. We consume most of that oil for our cars and trucks, and we need to find ways to slash our oil consumption.

But what about the emissions from the electricity used to charge electric vehicles? According to a range of studies, the charging of an electric car leads to significantly less carbon dioxide pollution than that from a conventional car. Here in New England, a full battery electric car emits more than 70% less CO2 than the best-selling gasoline-powered vehicle when you do a ‘well to wheels’ comparison. And that's today. As we retire more coal plants and bring cleaner sources of power online, EVs become even cleaner over time.

PhotoThis new Massachusetts EV rebate program announced recently by the governor, along with other EV programs in the state, was one of the top recommendations of a MA EV Taskforce in which I’ve had the pleasure to participate.  As a Taskforce member and a Massachusetts plug-in hybrid driver myself, I’m thrilled to see state policymakers take much needed action on this issue, and I hope there is much more to come.
There are more than a dozen plug-in vehicles currently on the market. For more information on EVs, visit the Sierra Club’s interactive online EV Guide. Let us know if you take advantage of the new Massachusetts EV rebate program and what you think of your new cleaner car.

-- Gina Coplon-Newfield, Sierra Club's Director of Green Fleets & Electric Vehicles Initiative

Friday, May 23, 2014

State Senate Passes Bottle Bill Update

State Senate Passes Bottle Bill Update

House action uncertain, ballot effort continues

Press Release
May 22, 2014

After favorable words from both a Democratic and a Republican Senator, the State Senate yesterday approved a measure that would update the state’s nickel deposit, known as the bottle bill,  to include non-carbonated beverages like water and sports drinks. The law currently covers only soda and beer.  The update was passed as an amendment to the state budget late last night.

An update to the bottle bill has been pending in the state legislature for over 12 years. Over the past two years, the state senate has repeatedly voted in favor of an update, but the House has blocked the measure, preventing the bill from being brought up for a vote. With over half of state legislators having gone on record to pass the update, advocates are confident that it would pass the House as easily as it passed the Senate, if a vote was taken.

“Every poll shows that over three-quarters of the public support updating the bottle bill,” said Janet Domenitz, Executive Director of MASSPIRG.  “I think our coalition has demonstrated that the only thing more popular with Massachusetts voters than the Updated Bottle Bill is motherhood and apple pie.”

After lobbying for a decade on Beacon Hill, advocates for updating the deposit system  have been gathering signatures to place the measure on the 2014 ballot. In September, they gathered over 130,000 signatures, nearly double the number needed, and more than the other proposed ballot measures.They are now gathering 20,000 more, as the last hurdle in placing the measure on the November ballot. Among the scores of groups and organizations collecting signatures are the League of Women Voters of Massachusetts, the Garden Club Federation of Massachusetts, the Emerald Necklace Conservancy, the Arborway Coalition, the West Boylston Solid Waste Action Team, the Environmental League of MA, the Massachusetts Sierra Club, and MASSPIRG.

“Public support for an update to the bottle bill is huge, and has been building every year,” said Anne Borg, co-president of the League of Women Voters of Massachusetts. “People are truly tired of the waste and the litter.”

If the House also passes the amendment, and it’s signed into law, Massachusetts would catch up with Maine, Connecticut, and New York, all of which added more  types of containers to their deposit laws over the past several years. Governor Deval Patrick, Mayor Marty Walsh, and the Mass. Municipal Association are among the longtime supporters of this measure. Advocates have pointed to the benefits of an updated bill, such as increased recycling, less litter, and an increase in “green” jobs. Soda bottles are recycled at nearly four times the rate of water bottles, and water bottles are nine times more likely to end up as litter.

“It’s high time to update the Bottle Bill,” said Phil Sego of the Sierra Club. “We’ve been pushing for this update for a long time, but the bottlers and big business lobbyists have been pushing back. We hope that the House will adopt this amendment. But if not, it will be on the November ballot.”

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Saturday, March 29, 2014

Lots More Electric Vehicles Coming Soon To Massachusetts

MARCH 28, 2014



Though there are no leaves on the trees yet, my home state of Massachusetts became a greener place to live this week. Governor Deval Patrick announced Thursday a rebate program that will provide state residents who purchase or lease an electric vehicle (EV) a rebate of up to $2,500 - an incentive that we in the Massachusetts Electric Vehicles Taskforce enthusiastically recommended.

In the past, I've blogged about Massachusetts lagging behind other states, like Oregon and Georgia, in EV incentives and sales. The new rebate program, expected to go into effect early this summer, will allow for catch-up and help clear the air from Cape Cod to the Berkshires.

On Thursday, the governor also celebrated the launch of six new fully electric public transit buses in Worcester, MA. "This is wicked cool," said Governor Patrick (that means "really, really great" for you non-New Englanders). State transportation officials said each of the new buses is expected to eliminate 130 tons of carbon dioxide emissions per year compared to diesel buses and will cut operating costs by nearly $3 million over 12 years. The buses are manufactured by Proterra, headquartered in Greenville, SC. The growing company has e-bus contracts with transit agencies in a number of other cities, including Nashville, San Antonio, and Tallahassee.

The governor was on a roll because he also announced nearly $600,000 in Massachusetts Electric Vehicle Incentive Program (MassEVIP) grants for 16 municipalities, two universities, and one state agency to install EV charging stations and acquire about 200 EVs for their fleets. This is the second round of grant awards through MassEVIP since its launch last year.

As a parent whose children take the school bus every day, I'm also excited to learn that, working in partnership with the Clinton Global Initiative, the Massachusetts Department of Energy Resources will provide $1.8 million in grants for eight electric school buses. These e-buses will have vehicle-to-grid capability to serve as back-up energy resources during natural disasters. It would be exciting if my daughters could ride on one of these clean driving technological marvels in our home city of Cambridge.

Massachusetts, which has signed an eight-state agreement to significantly ramp up EV programs and sales, has a long way to go to reach its commitment of getting 300,000+ plug-in vehicles on the road in Massachusetts alone by 2025. But this week, there was a jolt of real progress.

-- Gina Coplon-Newfield, Director of the Sierra Club Future Fleet & Electric Vehicles InitiativePhotos by XhaoZhi Lim of the Massachusetts Department of Energy Resources.

Kudos to John Lewis

Kudos to John Lewis