By Grey Lee, Executive Director

Our collaborative Environmental Advocacy Roundtable convened Thursday morning at the BSA Space. Each quarter, the USGBC MA Advocacy Committee and the Boston Society of Architects Government Affairs Committee put together an agenda and host relevant stakeholders. The group synergizes expertise in building science and policy with champions of environmental advocacy. If we can get the buildings to be done the right way, we can respond to a lot of environmental and social challenges.

About 15 leaders at the intersection of green building and sustainability advocacy attended. Represented were: 

  • BSA Committee on the Environment (COTE)
  • BSA Government Affairs Committee (GAC)
  • AIA Massachusetts
  • Sierra Club
  • The Nature Conservancy
  • Metropolitan Area Planning Council
  • Climate Action Business Association
  • Green Realtors
  • Northeast Energy Efficiency Partnership

As a roundtable, the group shared the various priorities each organization is focused on for advocacy. This was quite a list – and great to know the breadth of work and how much overlap there is. These overlapping priorities are not really duplication of efforts, as each group is coming from a different angle, but help us to see where we could collaborate more.

Major areas for integrating our advocacy work include:

  • Carbon pricing

Legislation will be introduced on Beacon Hill to continue to advance this notion, starting with a low $10/ton price for carbon. Michael Green of CABA explained the situation. The revenue would be redistributed to taxpayers, though exactly how needs to be determined. Some advocate for larger transportation projects, others to return it at the municipal level. It is important to ensure social equity is balanced in the logistics of a carbon price, both morally and for the practical reason of assembling the political will from a wide variety of affected stakeholders. CABA models indicate it is somewhere between $70-$120M – thus not a huge sum to really fight over, nor to really consider for infrastructure projects. We discussed how environmental policy will shift focus to states and cities as the national arena becomes a no-fly zone for advancing sustainability.

  • Net zero policies and codes and zoning

While net zero legislation similar to last session's S.1771 will probably be introduced, it will also probably go nowhere. Kate Bubriski of the USGBC MA explained how our committee is pushing for municipal-level effort similar to Cambridge. Already, cities and towns like Newton, Lexington, Northampton and Concord have expressed an interest in developing a long-range net zero energy plan. How local efforts bump heads with the single statewide building code will be a problem. AIA MA is exploring “optional” components being added to the code which may help move sustainability improvements closer to requirement, but avoid knee-jerk opposition from the dominant trade groups and safety-focused entities which are the majority on the Board of Building Regulations & Standards. Roundtable members are concerned that this is a very slow process and want to work with municipalities to approach the net zero goal using incentives and zoning. Even micro-zoning.  

  • Climate Adaptation and Mitigation Planning (CAMP) – legislation vs executive order

While the CAMP legislation championed by Senator Pacheco did not make it through Beacon Hill this past session, it did result in the Executive Order 569 “Establishing an Integrated Climate Change Strategy for the Commonwealth.” Sam Milton of USGBC MA described the E.O. as a compromise in the spring during the energy omnibus bill negotiations. Pacheco will be re-introducing and continuing to push forward. The E.O. only applies to state agencies; it can't require any other party to do anything, nor does it authorize any new spending. It also would end whenever the Governor leaves office. We will continue to monitor this – supplying agencies with feedback as the E.O. asks, and to make way for the legislation.

  • Global Warming Solutions Act implementation and regulation promulgation

We analyzed how there are two major areas for advocacy – legislative and regulatory. The Chapter has generally focused on legislation, but AIA MA noted it can be easier to adjust things at the regulatory level. For the landmark Global Warming Solutions legislation, the SJC ruled the Commonwealth would have to get going with implementing regulations to attain the 80% redx of GHGs by 2050 (as per GWSA). The Implementation Advisory Council has formed to support the promulgation of new regs. Steve Long of the Nature Conservancy described how they will be arranging informal info sessions to help concerned parties learn about strategies to reduce GHGs such as natural carbon absorption (forestry and pasture management), resilience, and adaptation. The draft release of the regs, to take public comment, starts 12/16/16 – stay tuned!

Other areas explored included home energy assessments and scoring – perhaps creating a voluntary score registry to avoid the opposition of Mass. Association of Realtors, which feels requiring an assessment would compromise deal flow in the residential market. We discussed the alternative portfolio standard which requires utilities to source energy into the grid from a variety of types of generation, and this may be a way to advantage co-generation from biomass, facilitating renewable thermal energy solutions through the electricity grid. We heard about wood construction and how that could be a good thing for sustainability and conservation, but that it is a wood industry battle to fight against fire safety priorities, rather than the design community. As the technology and applications grow, we will see more reason to monitor this issue.

As we parted, after a fast two hours, we realized MAPC will be following C-PACE to ensure resilience gets into the picture, and CABA is following through on net metering. Sierra Club will continue to promote energy efficiency. AIA MA, among other things noted above, is also looking at zoning reform. You can review the USGBC MA's priorities here

I hope you will join our Advocacy Committee – our meetings are the third Thursday of each month at our headquarters in Boston.

Subscribe To Our Newsletter

Subscribe To Our Newsletter

Join our mailing list to receive the latest news and updates from our team.

You have Successfully Subscribed!