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
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.
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
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
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.