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The 2009-2010 Legislative Session:
Gambling on the Environment

While the previous legislation session saw many victories, this session will not be known as one that focused on the environment. Regardless of how the casino debate is ultimately resolved, the end result of this was that many good bills were brushed aside. For many of our legislative priorities - all with overwhelming public support -the clock simply ran out as lawmakers squabbled for months over expanded gambling. The Casino bill itself contains dangerous provisions that threaten the status of protected parklands and reserves.

We applaud those legislators who worked to pass these important environmental bills.


Incineration Moratorium: DEP preempted legislative action by putting the moratorium in their Solid Waste Master Plan, renewing our commitment to clean air. But the incineration companies are trying to find ways around it, and we will continue to oppose incineration no matter what name is used to describe it.

Biomass: The Sierra Club supported legislation to regulate biomass in order to prevent massive deforestation in the commonwealth and significant CO2 emissions from this emerging energy sector. Although the legislation itself did not pass, intensive lobbying of the administration led to a regulatory policy directive to remove incentives and subsidies for biomass power plants.

ATV Bill: Places use and age restrictions on ATV use, as well as requires monitoring and enforcement of ATV's that will improve public safety, protect the environment, and encourage responsible use.

PACE: Property Assessed Clean Energy allows homeowners to borrow money at low interest to make efficiency improvements to their homes. This helps protect the environment by making homes more energy efficient and also creates thousands of green energy jobs.

National Popular Vote: The Sierra Club’s mission is to protect the planet though grassroots participation in politics and government. Regrettably, our electoral system has become one in which presidential candidates focus their efforts and resources only in battleground states and two-thirds of the states receive little to no attention in a competitive presidential election. The Sierra Club supports supports election of the President of the United States by direct popular vote. The adoption in Massachusetts of a National Popular Vote is a great day for democracy and grassroots activism in America.

Public Postings When Making Changes to Parks: With our pressure to limit logging on public lands, the DCR has made 60% of all lands off limits to logging. But that didn't address new buildings, enlarging parking lots and roadways, which can be done without any public input or process. This bill would have required public notification and input. But despite the non-passage of the public postings bill, the commonwealth, at the urging of Sierra Club and citizens groups, initiated a nearly year long Forests Futures Visioning Process. The recommendations to be adopted by the administration include not only a significant increase - from 20% to 60% - in the amount of public lands off-limits from logging, but also a more robust public notification process and opportunities for the public to comment on management of our state forests and parklands.

Still Pending

While the formal legislative sessions ended on July 31, some bills that were near completion can still be passed. While few bills are passed in the post-deadline months, there is widespread optimism that these may be among them:

Wind Siting Bill: Cape Wind taught us that our regulatory process for new alternative energy sites must properly address environmental concerns. A method for reducing the redundant and unnecessary red tape will encourage more wind to be built. This bill tries to do just that. Both the Senate and House were ready to pass this landmark legislation, but passage was halted due to a procedural objection.

Not Passed

Despite these landmark victories, it is common for many bills to languish in the legislature, or fail to pass due to corporate lobby interests. With 6000 bills filed every year, the legislature may take two cycles (4 years) or more to become fully acquainted with a bill, and be ready to enact it. Many of these bills are meant to maintain pressure and counter the misinformation that's being spread by big business.

Bottle Bill Update: Most notably this session, big business was once gain successful in defeating the Updated Bottle Bill which would have increased recycling and controlled litter - without costing the state a penny. Although legislators reported overwhelming public support, the bottlers and supermarkets fiercely opposed any change.

Producer Take-Back for Electronics ("Ewaste"): The clock also ran out on the broadly supported E-Waste bill which would have placed the responsibility of recycling and disposal of all types of electronics on the manufacturers and importers. Although this bill was just inches away from the finish line - for the second session in a row - time ran out. The legislature needs to place this on the top of their agenda and not wait till the very last minute.

Plastic Bag Ban: Responsible for 1 billion animal deaths per year, plastic bags last for 100+ years in the environment. But the supermarkets came up with scheme that - after 3 years - has resulted in an inadequate reduction. This was the first time this bill had been heard, and we are hoping that we will see its passage next session

No Increase in Coal Burning: Would have banned the new construction of coal-burning facilities or coal-gas conversion facilities. Remember... there's no such thing as "clean coal" despite the hype that the coal industry wants you to believe. The Sierra Club will continue to expose the myth of clean coal, and pressure our lawmakers to make sure that our energy future is not coal dependant.

Public Lands Preservation Act ("Article 97/No Net Loss"): Would have protected our parks and public lands, requiring that replacements be created when lands are taken.

Establish Old Growth Forest Reserve: Only a few small areas - about 2500 acres - have escaped the clearcutting of the past. They need to be protected by placing them in permanent forest reserves.

Local Control of Personal Watercraft ("Jet Skis"): This would have allowed municipalities to control Personal Watercraft use in their local lakes, ponds and rivers.

Unburden the MBTA's Debt Load: During the Big Dig construction, the T was forced to accept nearly $3 billion of the project's debt load. It's widely believed that the MBTA will require assistance in the coming year; this would have avoided the impending crisis. 

Preserve the North South Rail Link (NSRL) Right-of-way: If we allow new skyscrapers to be placed in the NSRL's path, the NSRL cannot be built, perpetuating a century old mistake that lead to the only one mile gap in the entire northeast regional rail system. Construction of the NSRL would eliminate 585 tons of CO2 daily by getting thousands of cars off the road. This bill would have studied and protected the best corridor for the link.

And many bills that would protect us from toxins: Study Particulates Effect on Health, Healthy Breathing Act, Reducing Human Exposure To Particulate Matter Pollution, and Off-road Diesel Equipment, and the Safer Alternatives Bill.


See Also

The Chapter works to pass important environmental bills and the state and local level. To get involved in our legislative program, please contact us. See the contacts page for more information.

Click here for a list of bills that we worked on


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