Tag: Environment

Road Construction on Main St. Begins Dec. 10

Replacing Cambridge's old sewer system has been a decades-long task.

Replacing Cambridge’s old sewer system has been a decades-long task. When the Longfellow Bridge was built in the early 1900s, Cambridge’s sewers were already more than forty years old. Image via Wikipedia.

Drivers and cyclists planning to use the Longfellow Bridge this winter should be aware of a new phase of Cambridge’s ongoing sewer separation project. Beginning Monday, December 10, construction will take place on Main St. between Third St. and the Longfellow Bridge. Crews will work from 7am-4pm every weekday (weather permitting), and this phase of the project is scheduled to be completed in January 2013.

Construction will shut down all but one westbound lane of Main St. between the Longfellow and Kendall Square. The affected section of Main St. will also be designated a no parking zone while the crews are at work.

The sewer separation project has been going on for the last eighty years. That sounds like a long time, and it is, but the system being replaced is more than 150 years old! Cambridge’s original sewer system was designed before anyone even thought about separating sewage from rain water, when we all thought we could just dump waste into the Charles with impunity.

Our old sewers have served the City well, but they need to be replaced with a smarter, greener system. Separated sewers allow wastewater to be treated at Deer Island rather than simply dumped in the Charles, and that’s well-worth a couple weeks’ inconvenience. If you have any questions or concerns about sewer construction along Main St., please contact my office or the City of Cambridge’s Brian McLane at bmclane@cambridgema.gov.

DCR Matching Funds Program Now Accepting Applications

The Department of Conservation and Recreation has announced its Partnership Matching Funds program for 2013. These grants are a great way to leverage local enthusiasm for a particular environmental project, and I encourage anyone with a passion for the environment to come up with a project and apply. To be eligible, projects must improve existing DCR-owned land and applications must be received by December 7, 2012.

No project is too small, as the DCR’s program allows projects under $25,000 to be matched at up to a 2:1 ratio. Past projects have included purchasing bike racks for a community boathouse in Boston, redesigning pedestrian crossings near Jamaica Pond, and installing new lights on a footbridge crossing the Charles in Cambridge.

This program is particularly well-suited to local businesses that want to put on a day of service. The Partnership Matching Funds do not cover in-kind contributions, so if your business is already planning to give back, this is a great way to get the most bang for your buck.

DCR’s crews worked around the clock in the wake of Hurricane Sandy. Let’s show them how much our parks and green spaces mean to all of us.

Charles River Skatepark Designs Unveiled

Artist's rendering of new Charles River Skatepark

An artist’s rendering of the new Charles River Skatepark. When completed, the park will be the largest in New England. Photo courtesy of ASD/Santec and Charles River Conservancy.

As reported by the Beacon Hill Times, the latest plans for the largest skatepark in New England were recently unveiled. The new, 40,000-square-foot Charles River Skatepark  represents a group effort by the Charles River Conservancy, the Department of Conservation and Recreation, and Action Sports Design/Santec, a California-based company that specializes in the construction of skateparks.

This project has been a longtime coming, and it’s part of our plan to reclaim and beautify the Charles River and connect the Cambridge waterfront with Charlestown. I’m thrilled that yet another milestone has been passed.

Have you been to the new North Point Park yet? If not, get out and enjoy this amazing fall weather!

A Cleaner Charles River Coming

Efforts to clean up the Charles will be accelerated under a new settlement.

A renewed commitment to cleaning up the Charles River will preserve our community’s natural beauty for generations to come.

The Boston Water and Sewage Commission has reached an important agreement with the Environmental Protection Agency, the U.S. Department of Justice, and the Conversvation Law Foundation. As the Boston Globe reported earlier this week, the settlement represents the next step in the ongoing effort to clean up the Charles River and Boston Harbor.

Under the settlement, the Boston Water and Sewer Commission must locate the sources of pollution running into the Charles and clean them up on an aggressive schedule. The settlement also provides for “green makeovers” for three Boston neighborhoods along with a renewed attack on illegal sewer connections, which mix waste water with storm runoff. Some of the illegal connections are decades old and in poor condition, and the Boston Water and Sewage Commission has already identified at least 25 trouble spots to remove and replace.

I am thrilled that the Boston Water and Sewage Commission has renewed its commitment to cleaning up the Charles, and I’m proud of the way community groups such as the Charles River Watershed Association worked with the government to fix this problem in a smart way. A cleaner Charles River means a healthier, more beautiful community for all of us, and I will work with our neighbors and the Boston Water and Sewage Commission to complete this phase of the Charles River cleanup as smoothly and swiftly as possible.

Household Hazardous Waste Collection in Cambridge this Saturday

This Saturday, July 21st, is your next opportunity to safely and legally dispose of your household hazardous waste. Household hazardous waste refers to certain items that should not be put out for normal trash collection, such as car batteries, chemical cleaners, insecticides, weed-killers, and motor oil. Proper disposal of these items helps protect public health and the environment. For a complete list of what is and is not accepted, please visit the Department of Public works webpage.

Collection will occur on Saturday between the hours of 9 a.m and 1 p.m at the Field Street Parking Lot at Danehy Park, on Field St at Fern St. The event is free to Cambridge residents. Proof of residency will be required. The next household hazardous waste collection will happen on October 20, so plan accordingly.

Green Energy Bill to be Debated by House

This morning, the House of Representatives gave initial approval to An Act Relative to Competitively Priced Electricity, a bill that aims to increase the amount of electricity that is produced through renewable means in Massachusetts.

One of the ways in which this piece of legislation would accomplish this goal is by encouraging more homeowners and businesses in the Commonwealth to generate their own electricity through solar, wind, or other renewable means. In order to create a greater incentive for home and business owners to start producing their own green electricity, this bill will raise the cap on the number of “net-metering” facilities that can be connected to the grid.

Net-metering is a system in which the owners of solar panels, wind turbines, or other intermittent generation facilities are connected to the grid and provide power to the grid when they use less electricity than they generate. With wind and solar, there are times when the customer will also draw from the grid to power their home or business. At the end of the month, the electricity produced and the electricity consumed are totaled and the net-consumption is what is billed by the utility. In cases where production exceeds consumption, the customer is considered a “net-exporter” of electricity and will be billed for 0 kW hours of electricity and receive a credit to their account.

Once the statewide cap on net-metering facilities is reached, net-metering credits will no longer be available and customers with their own electric production facilities will be required to pay for all of the energy that they use in the course of a month, regardless of how much they are able to put back into the grid. Once the cap is reached, the incentive for those considering purchasing renewable generators is severely diminished. Without net-metering, it will take someone who buys solar panels or a wind turbine for their home or business much longer to see a return on their investment.

And now, Massachusetts is dangerously close to the cap on net-metering. The cap is set for private customers at 1% of the electric grid’s historical peak output. That translates to about 51.3 megawatts. According to National Grid, the total capacity of all private net-metering facilities in Massachusetts is at 43.6 MW as of June 12.

While there is a cushion of more than seven megawatts of capacity before the cap is reached, the total capacity of all of the systems that are in the application process for connection to the grid under this cap is more than 300 MW. Competition for the last space under the cap makes renewable energy a risky investment for homeowners and businesses at a time when we should be encouraging it the most.

The bill that was released by the House Ways and Means Committee this morning takes a proactive step to correct this problem. It completely removes the net-metering cap on private customers that use their generators to offset the amount of load their property adds to the grid. This means that if a business or homeowner is considering adding solar or wind power equipment to their property, their risk is lowered and their opportunity for a return on their investment is substantially increased. This preserves net-metering as the financial incentive that it is meant to be.

This bill will also increase caps on net-metering for publicly-owned generation facilities and facilities that do not offset on-site load (solar and wind farms). The primary goal of these changes is to maximize the use of clean methods of producing electricity and minimize the use of oil and natural gas. The secondary goal is to create a sustainable industry that provides good jobs to workers in Massachusetts. Our state is uniquely positioned to become a global player in the fields of solar and wind power, and net-metering not only supports that industry financially, but generates interest and support for it among the general public.

I will be casting my vote in favor of this bill when it is considered by the full House of Representatives later this week. The impact of climate change will be one of the biggest challenges that we will face as Americans in this century. Updating our net-metering laws might be a small step forward for renewable energy, but it is a step in the right direction.

 

 

Green Line Extension Maintenance Facility – Option L is best for Brickbottom and Somerville

For more detail see:
Cambridge Chronicle article 12/21/09 “Proposed Green Line garage has some worried”
Somerville News Blog 12/23/09 Residents air views on Yard 8 alternatives

Over the last year one thing has become clear: of the three options currently under study by the MBTA to expand the Green Line and site a maintenance facility, Option L is the best long-term solution for Somerville.

About 18 months ago, the EOT released a study describing around a dozen alternatives for the maintenance facility in Somerville. None of the original options were acceptable, so we asked EOT to go back to the table. As the result of pressure from state and local leaders and active community members, we have been presented with the best option yet: Option L.

The extension of the Green Line has the potential to turn the Inner Belt and Washington Street into a focal point for economic vibrancy and community development in Somerville. My goal has been, and continues to be, bringing transportation officials together with economic development leaders to ensure that the siting of the maintenance facility does not have a detrimental impact on the existing neighborhood or the potential for future mixed use development.

The current preferred alternative from MassDOT, Yard 8, could actually have a negative impact on the economic development of the inner belt region. The long-term cost to the city, in lost economic development opportunities, of building at Yard 8 is likely to be greater than the short-term additional cost of Option L (see below).

MassDOT (formerly EOT) recently released a document called the Draft Environmental Impact Report (DEIR) to discuss the project and the current alternatives for a maintenance facility.

*full pdf here, options diagram on page 27

All the options, in a nutshell:

Option #1: Yard 8
Although this has been labeled the ‘preferred alternative’ by the MBTA, I believe it is the worst of the options. Put simply, it is too close to a large residential building that houses hundreds of people. The land would be better served as part of accessible mixed-use development that would serve the new riders of the T and the current residents. Locating the maintenance facility at Yard 8 would have substantial negative consequences for both the abutters (primarily the residents of Brickbottom) and the future development of the area.

Option #2: Mirror Scheme H
Initially a promising site, further examination revealed some unexpected difficulties. Mirror Scheme H has potential to become entangled in jurisdictional issues. Although the vast majority of the site is in Somerville, it is on the line between Cambridge and Somerville. This introduces a slew of zoning and regulatory concerns that threaten to complicate the discussion, increase costs, and significantly slow progress.

Option #3: Option L
Option L would place the facility adjacent to the existing Boston Engine Terminal, farther from residents and commercial property and with a similar terminal. This would be more compatible with Somerville’s vision for revitalization of the Inner Belt area. The problem here is the price: current estimates place this at about $50 million more expensive than Yard 8. I think it is more important to do this the right way and incur the extra expense now to build on the optimal site. This site factors in the long-term development and renewal plans of East Somerville and lessens the impact on the residents in the neighborhood.

The Somerville legislative delegation has voiced its opposition to Yard 8 and support for Option L. I have made my position clear to Secretary Bowles at the Executive Office of Energy and Environmental Affairs, to the Governor’s office, and to MassDOT.

Thank you to all the residents who have come forward privately and at public events to share your opinion. Please do not hesitate to contact my office if you have any questions or comments about the maintenance facility or the Green Line Extension project.

We are still in the public comment listening period of the project, so I would encourage everyone who feels strongly on the issue to submit comments on the DEIR by January 8th. If you would like to contact Secretary Bowles’ office directly on this issue, please mail:

Secretary Ian Bowles
Executive Office of Energy and Environmental
Affairs
MEPA Office
Attn: Holly Johnson, MEPA Analyst
EEA #13886
100 Cambridge Street, Suite 900
Boston, MA 02114

CAFEH Study To Help Analyze I-93 Area Air Quality

Somerville News – “Comprehensive air quality testing for one years begins soon”
Somerville Journal – “Tufts to test Somerville air, residents, for air pollution toxins”

East Somerville – Residents of East Somerville may be visited soon by a group of volunteers and scientists looking to conduct a study of the air quality in the neighborhood. We have heard for years about the potential environmental impact of living so close to the I-93 freeway, but this will be the first study that works to find the direct link between the health and the direct pollution and air particulate levels coming from the highway.

The Community Assessment of Freeway Exposure and Health (CAFEH), a study funded by a 2.5 million dollar grant to Tufts, is partnering up with The Somerville Transportation Equity Partnership among others to study the health effects for Somerville residents of living near a freeway. CAFEH is working to figure out not only how much pollution people near freeways are exposed to, but what the effects of this pollution are, and what can be done to lessen the pollution.

This will be an extremely valuable study for the future of Somerville and for the future of any urban community dealing with the effects of living next to a major highway.

Earlier this month, CAFEH held an informational presentation and breakfast at the Mt. Vernon restaurant on Broadway Ave in Somerville. Visitors were encouraged to spread the word about the study, check out the actual air quality monitoring van and equipment, and enjoy a sampling of the food at Mt. Vernon Restaurant. Representatives, engineers, volunteers, and other community groups showed up to support the effort and offer suggestions on how to make it work for the neighborhood.

My hope is that this knowledge will be used to help the state and federal governements realize the absolute necessity of mitigating the effects of and avoiding potential environmental hazards. In the same way that federal environmental standards have led to the legal obligation to fund the construction of Green Line through Somerville, there may be additional health concerns associated with freeways through communities that would require federal mandates for financial assistance. It will also be important research for future developments that will hopefully lead to a greener, more healthy planning process for roads and traffic engineering.

If you have any questions please contact Doug Brugge, PhD, MS, at:
Tufts University School of Medicine
Department of Public Health and Family Medicine
Phone: 617.636.0326

For more information follow these links
CAFEH:
http://www.tufts.edu/med/phfm/CAFEH/CAFEH.html
Pollution Near Highways Factsheet:
http://www.tufts.edu/med/phfm/CAFEH/pdfs/FactSheetsimp4[1].pdf

SPRING CLEANING PART I: DONATE

Cambridge /Somerville

Spring is here and that means its time for Spring Cleaning. This year in particular keep in mind the many options that you have instead of sending your old treasures to the trash heap. As you sort through your closets, attics and storage bins please realize that many of these items would be welcomed donations at a variety of local charities. The Cambridge Public Works website has a list of local charities that would be happy to accept a variety of donations. Just give your local non profit a call and see if one of your items could enjoy a second life in a new home. Being part of a community means that we all do our part in the times we are facing

For a list of Charities accepting donations please visit
http://www.cambridgema.gov/TheWorks/departments/recycle/donaterecycle.html

Statewide Bills

Bond Bills:


Transportation Bond Bills:
Both the three-year $3.5 billion bond bill to finance and increase efficiency in long term projects for the state such as the Green Line Extension through Cambridge and Somerville, and the $1.5 billion bond bill to fund projects on municipal transportation projects will serve to help Massachusetts to meet the increasing demands of our state’s aging transportation infrastructure.
Chapter 86 of the Acts of 2008
Chapter 172 of the Acts of 2008

Housing Bond Bill:
This $1.3 billion bond bill was passed to create and encourage long term development of capital improvements and affordable housing resources, helping to make homeownership a more attainable goal to families across the state
Chapter 119 of the Acts of 2008

Bridge Repair Bond Bill:
This $3 billion bridge repair bond bill provides for the preservation of existing transportation infrastructure, and the assurance of safety on our state’s bridges.
Chapter 233 of the Acts of 2008

Higher Education Bond Bill:
This $2.2 billion bond bill will help the Commonwealth to control costs of higher education for Massachusetts families.
Chapter 258 of the Acts of 2008

Children and Families:

Booster Seat Bill:
This crucial public safety initiative is an important step in protecting child passengers on the road, and requires children up to the age of 8 or the height of 4’9” (whichever comes first) to be secured by child passenger safety devices. The proper use of booster seats has been proven to significantly decrease child fatalities in motor vehicle accidents.
Chapter 79 of the Acts of 2008

Child Abuse and Neglect Legislation:
This bill created a brand new cabinet level secretary responsible solely for child welfare, establishes minimum education requirements for social workers and toughens penalties for child abuse and neglect.
Chapter 176 of the Acts of 2008

Child Protection Legislation (Jessica’s Law):
Aiming to further protect children from sexual predators, this important legislation increased penalties for sex offenders, and enhanced online tracking of online sexual predators.
Chapter 205 of the Laws of 2008

Education:

Reorganization of the Commonwealth’s Education Governance Structure:
This reorganization has taken important steps to streamline, simplify and improve communication and coordination between every education sector of the Commonwealth. Most importantly, it created a cabinet level secretary to oversee the state’s education system and its reorganization.
Chapter 27 of the Acts of 2008

Reorganization of Early Education Quality & Care System:
As an extension of the overall education reorganization, this initiative works toward improving access to and the quality of early childhood education for all children in the Commonwealth, creating the new Department of Early Education and Care.
Chapter 215 of the Acts of 2008

Environment:

Global Warming Solutions Act:
With this bill, Massachusetts put in place a long term plan to curb greenhouse gas emissions. This is an important step forward in the fight to save our environment from the dangerous effects of harmful emissions produced by humans.
Chapter 298 of the Acts of 2008

Green Communities Act:
This broad reaching energy reform package establishes bold new clean, renewable energy goals for the Commonwealth, providing incentives to municipalities, businesses and individuals to invest in progressive energy saving technologies to meet the new benchmarks.
Chapter 169 of the Acts of 2008

Green Jobs Bill:
Unanimously supported by both braches of the legislature, this innovative initiative will encourage green start-up companies to expand in Massachusetts, and provide residents of all experience levels with exciting new and sustainable careers.
Chapter 307 of the Acts of 2008

Ocean Management Bill:
This bill clarifies existing ocean management laws to allow for clean energy development in areas that had previously been zoned only for traditional energy generation.
Chapter 114 of the Acts of 2008

Health Care:

Electronic Health Records for Health and Human Services:
Moving to further improve Massachusetts health care system, this bill modernizes and standardizes the state’s health care records for those enrolled in states programs. It will help to simplify record keeping and decrease costs to taxpayers over the next several years.
Chapter 130 of the Acts of 2007

Protecting Patient Confidentiality:
This common-sense legislation provides clients of mental health counselors with the same right to privacy and confidentiality as clients of psychiatrists and psychologists.
Chapter 142 of the Acts of 2007

Public Service:

Commonwealth Corps:
This bill established the Commonwealth Corps, a statewide volunteer service organization that works in partnership with the Massachusetts Service Alliance. The mission of the Commonwealth Corps is to engage Massachusetts residents of all ages and backgrounds in direct service to rebuild communities and address unmet community needs. The Corps will provide opportunities for skill building, leadership development and will encourage and enhance a lifelong civic vocation for Corps members.
Chapter 192 of the Acts of 2007

Increased Benefits to Families of Police and Firefighters:
Helping cities and towns to show gratitude to the loved ones of those killed in the line of duty for their thankless public service, this bill allows municipalities to raise funeral expense reimbursements to families of police officers and firefighters killed while on the job from $5,000 to $15,000
Chapter 110 of the Acts of 2007


Tax/Fiscal Policy
:

Sales Tax Holiday:
For the fifth year in a row, the members of the legislature overwhelmingly voted to suspend the state sales tax for one weekend in August, providing consumers with an incentive to stimulate the local retail economy.
Chapter 211 of the Acts of 2008

Corporate Tax Reform:
This bill closed several so-called corporate tax loopholes that were being abused by larger companies at the expense of small businesses and individual taxpayers, increasing tax fairness in the Commonwealth.
Chapter 173 of the Acts of 2008

Investment in Life Sciences:
This 10-year, $1 billion bill invests in our state’s ever-growing life sciences sector, helping to draw new life science companies to the region and keep current ones here. This will have a significant impact growing the number of quality jobs and the state’s reputation as a world leader in life sciences.
Chapter 130 of the Acts of 2008

Mortgage Foreclosure Relief:
In response to the unprecedented spike in the number of home foreclosures, this legislation encourages banks to help borrowers, providing a three month window to cure defaults. It also mandates tough new licensing standards for mortgage loan originators.
Chapter 224 of the Acts of 2007

LIHEAP Fuel-Assistance Appropriation:
Passed in anticipation of a difficult winter season, this bill provided emergency funding to help more than 100,000 elderly residents and low income families pay to heat their homes over the coldest months.
Chapter 174 of the Acts of 2007


*Note: This list only reflects a sampling of some of the more important legislation passed by the House and Senate and signed into law by the Governor. If you have any additional questions about any legislation, whether it is on this list or not, please feel free to contact my State House staff at 617-722-2692.

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Read more about the 2007-2008 Formal Legislative Session: