Category: Environment

Legislative Update: Supplemental Budget

Legislative Update

H.3505 – An Act making appropriations for the fiscal year 2019 to provide for supplementing certain existing appropriations and for certain other activities and projects

On Wednesday, February 28th 2019, the Massachusetts State House of Representatives passed H.3505, a $135 Million supplemental budget. I joined my colleagues in voting affirmatively to pass the measure. The supplemental budget addresses multiple areas including heating assistance, enhanced support for victims of sexual assault, and programs to help those experiencing homelessness. Below are some highlights of what the bill included.


Increased funding for Low Income Heating Energy Assistance (LIHEAP)

Amount: $30 million (+$19 million from Governor’s proposal)

Details: This program ensures that all families in the Commonwealth can afford to keep their heating on through the winter. The additional funding makes up for the Federal funding shortfall.


Increased funding for Emergency Shelter Assistance for people and families experiencing homelessness

Amount: $10,046,612 (level with the Governor’s proposal)

Details: This program helps individuals and families that are experiencing homelessness by increasing the amount of shelter beds to help accommodate the needs of the State.


Increased funding for sexual assault evidence testing kits

Amount: $8,000,000

Details: This program will aid in addressing the backlog of sexual assault kits in the State and ensure that we are on the right path towards bringing justice for victims of sexual violence.


Increased funding for the costs associated with an independent statewide examination of the safety of gas distribution infrastructure

Amount: $1,482,694

Details: These funds will go toward addressing the safety hazard of poorly maintained pipelines. After the disaster that took place in the Merrimack Valley in September, the State is incentivized to take a good look at what can be done to prevent another emergency.


Authorization of Collective Bargaining Agreements

Amount: n/a

Details: The Supplemental Budget included authorization for collective bargaining agreements previously made between employers and trade unions for the following organizations/departments:

  • Massachusetts Department of Transportation and DOT Unit A – National Association of Government Employees, Clerical and Administrative Workers
  • University of Massachusetts and the New England Police Benevolent Protection Organization, Amherst Campus, Unit A07
  • University of Massachusetts and the Maintenance and Trades Unit/MTA/NEA, Lowell Campus, Unit L93
  • University of Massachusetts and Classified and Technical Union, Lowell Campus, Unit L92
  • Sheriff of Bristol County and the National Association of Government Employees, Maintenance Workers, Unit C
  • Sheriff of Worcester county and the New England Police Benevolent Association, Local 550, Unit SW6
  • Sheriff of Hampden County and the National Correctional Employees Union Mental Health Staff Unit, Local 131, Unit SH1

Cambridgeport Update: BU Bridge and Safety

Cambridgeport Update: BU Bridge and Safety

Last week, I attended the Cambridgeport Neighborhood Association meeting, where MassDOT gave us an update on the state of the BU Bridge and how we should address traffic issues moving forward. For those who could not attend, Joe Barr from Cambridge, Jeff Parenti from DCR, and Neil Boudreau from MassDOT came and provided updates.

This is the third meeting regarding traffic issues related to the BU bridge that arose shortly after changes completed on that bridge as well as on Granite Street.  The streets impacted are under the jurisdictions of the three entities.  Granite Street and Brookline Street are under the jurisdiction of Cambridge, the circle and Memorial Drive are DCR’s, and the BU Bridge is MassDOT’s responsibility.  Once you arrive at the lights on the bridge at Commonwealth Ave in Boston, it is Boston’s responsibility to operate them.  Although no one from Boston came, both Neil Boudreau and I had been in touch with Boston officials, who have been very cooperative to find out what was happening and trying to fix it.

First, for Granite Street, Joe Barr announced that Cambridge was finished experimenting with parking and had decided to permanently remove parking on one side of Granite between Rockingham and Brookline Streets.  This will allow two lanes of cars on Granite so that people can make a left on Brookline Street even if those making a right on Brookline are stuck in traffic.  There were several suggestions regarding improving signage on Granite, Waverly, and Rockingham Streets.  Joe agreed to evaluate the suggestions and make appropriate changes.

Second, Jeff Parenti from DCR spoke about his work.  He spoke about long-term and short-term improvements.  For the short-term improvements to the circle, he had his initial thoughts, which are in the attached document.  He is going to come back to CNA’s next meeting on January 17, 2019 and have a more specific discussion on what people think.  DCR will make improvements through adding paint to the circle and signage.  The changes can be made as soon as it is warm enough for paint to dry, probably next March.  In addition, DCR just hired a consultant to start a public process on infrastructure changes as part of Phase III of the improvements to Memorial Drive.  (Phase I was from the Charles River Dam Road to the Longfellow Bridge and Phase II was from the Longfellow Bridge to the BU Boathouse.)  He is looking forward to redesigning the circle as part of this project.  He said that people should think of the circle as a “blank slate” as they imagine what could be there.  If you have comments on the short-term fix, you can email him directly at jeffrey.parenti@mass.gov. Below is his initial thoughts on short-term changes that could be made.

BU_Rotary_Bike_Lane_Concept

Finally, Neil Boudreau from MassDOT spoke about what he had found looking into the lights on Commonwealth Ave.  The lights are designed to adjust to minimize traffic.  This clearly was not occurring at all.  Between the first and second meeting, he said that the problem was that the system was damaged during construction and had only recently become operational.  In the last six weeks, Boston and MassDOT worked to make sure the lights were working as designed.  It turned out there was a communications issue where the lights were reverted to mid-day settings at rush hour.  This meant that there was approximately 15% less green time for those driving from Cambridge to Boston than there should have been.  This has been fixed.  In addition, the signals were adjusted to add a little more green time for the Cambridge to Boston movement.  The combination means that there should be 25% more green time consistently during rush hour than was the case during the worst problem times.  That should help.  Neil said he was continuing to work with Boston to determine if more improvements could be made.  The handout that Neil distributed is below.

BU Bridge Traffic Count Comparisons_Dec 2018

This is obviously an issue that remains to be worked out completely, but I’d like to thank everyone involved who helped us come closer to reaching a resolution. I’m always impressed with the activist nature of Cambridgeport and it’s a great joy of my job to work with the neighborhood to fix issues like these. More updates are forthcoming, but I thought that ahead of the holidays, the people of Cambridgeport deserved some peace of mind that this issue is being worked out.

 

Esplanade Association Board says ‘Thank You’ to Rep Livingstone

November 9, 2018

By 

The board of the Esplanade Association hosted a reception to thank State Rep. Jay Livingstone for his contributions to the Charles River Esplanade, and to the neighborhoods of Back Bay and Beacon Hill on Thursday, Oct. 25, at the home of T.K. and Lianne Ankner.

At this intimate gathering, Livingstone met with EA supporters and spoke of some of his proudest moments while in the Legislature. He was acknowledged for his contributions to public access to the Charles River Esplanade, including advocacy for the completion of the Fanny Appleton Footbridge, inclusion of Commissioner’s Landing for funding in the Governor’s 2018 Environmental Bond Bill and his active role in planning for the future of the former Lee Pool site.

“As a Friends group to a state park, it is invaluable to have allies in the State House to help secure funding for major improvements to the park or advocate for the removal of impediments to public access,” said Michael Nichols, executive director of the Esplanade Association. “Rep. Livingstone understands the role the Esplanade plays in improving the quality of life for the people in his District and beyond and he has been a strong supporter of the park throughout his years in office. We were thankful for this opportunity to express our gratitude.”

Shaw 54th Regiment Memorial to be Restored through Unique Partnership

Mayor Martin J. Walsh joined representatives from National Park Service, Friends of the Public Garden and the Museum of African American History on the Boston Common Friday to sign a Memorandum of Understanding committing to jointly restore the Shaw 54th Regiment Memorial.

Situated inside the Common on the corner of Beacon and Park streets, the bas-relief memorial created by venerable American sculptor Augustus Saint-Gaudens will undergo a $2.8 million restoration in 2019, including a complete rehabilitation of its bronze sculpture. Portions of the park will be cordoned off and closed to the public during the five- to six-month construction period, officials said.

The memorial was installed in 1897 to commemorate Robert Gould Shaw and the 54th – the first regiment of black troops recruited from the North to fight for their freedom in the Civil War.  On May 28, 1863, the 54th Massachusetts infantry made its way for Beaufort, S.C., where it became part of the X Corps commanded by Major General David Hunter. Afterwards, the 54th took part in operations in Charleston, S.C. including the Battle of Grimball’s Landing on July 16, 1863 and the Second Battle of Fort Wagner on July 18, 1863.

 

During the latter battle, the 54th and other Union regiments waged a frontal assault against Fort Wager, which resulted in the death of Shaw and 20 other members of the infantry while 125 were injured and another 102 reported missing (and presumed dead). And upon returning home, members of the 54th faced racial intolerance despite having served their country so valiantly.

Marita Rivero, the museum’s executive director, recalled how Harriet Tubman, a leading abolitionist who escaped slavery to become the most celebrated “conductor” of the Underground Railroad, met troops from the 54th when their steamship landed in South Carolina and served them breakfast.

Michael Creasey, NPS superintendent, said the Shaw Monument is widely regarded as not only one of Saint-Gauden’s masterpieces, but also as one of the most important monuments in the U.S.

Mayor Martin J. Walsh, who has announced plans to devise a new Master Plan for the Common, juxtaposed the State House, located directly behind the monument, where he began his political career as a state representative as the son of immigrants in 1997, with the infantryman represented in the monument marching down Beacon Street, whom he credits for paving his eventual path to City Hall.

Besides restoring this monument, Walsh announced plans for memorials to Martin Luther King Jr. and his wife Coretta Scott on the Common and in Roxbury, a memorial to victims of the slave trade in Faneuil Hall and monuments honoring African-American culture in Dorchester and Roxbury.

Other elected officials on hand for the document signing included State Reps. Jay Livingstone, Byron Rushing and Chynah Tyler, as well as City Councilors Ed Flynn and Josh Zakim.

Meanwhile, Liz Vizza, executive director of the Friends, said the group plans to use the monument restoration to launch programming and a community dialogue and programming surrounding race relations in the city set to launch this fall.

“The project is an opportunity to engage the community through programming that will explore race, freedom and justice,” Vizza said, “and it couldn’t come at a more tumultuous time in our country’s history.”

190th Session Wrap Up: Energy

190th Session Wrap Up: Energy Conference Report

As we wrap up yet another legislative session, my office has worked to provide recaps on the vast array of subject areas that I have worked on and voted on in the Chamber. Below is an overview of the energy legislation conference report which worked out the differences between the house’s energy legislation and the senate’s energy legislation

H.4857 – An Act to advance clean energy

  • Establishes the requirement of utilities and municipal aggregates to jointly prepare an “energy efficiency investment plan.” [similar to House legislation]
  • Creates an annual increase of 2% for the Renewable Portfolio Standard by January 2020.
  • Establishes a Clean Peak Standard to incentivize electricity generation at times when the grid is at its highest demand and therefore most vulnerable to reliability issues. It is designed to incentivize installation of renewable resources in conjunction with storage systems to ensure that the Commonwealth will not only be increasing its overall usage of renewable sources of electricity through the RPS program, but that those resources can be utilized to provide energy at periods of high-demand to resuce reliance on natural gas and other non-renewable resources that typically get deployed during high-demand periods.
  • Requires DPU to develop regulations requiring gas companies to annually report how much gas is lost and where those leaks are.
  • Establishes an energy storage target of 1000 Megawatt hours by December 31, 2025; includes a feasibility study for a mobile emergency battery storage system for emergency response to extreme weather events or outages.
  • Creates a study of necessity, cost, and benefits of requiring electricity distribution companies to procure 1,600 MW of additional offshore wind capacity, beyond the 2016 requirements, by 2035.

RPS – I worked with my colleagues in the Progressive Caucus to organize behind Representative Kay Khan’s amendment #29 to increase the RPS increases to 3% year. I was disappointed that the amendment was not adopted.

Gas Pipelines – I was proud to co-sponsor a number of amendments filed by my colleagues to address the issue of pervasive and environmentally destructive pipelines in Massachusetts. Representative Kulik filed Amendments 11, 12, & 13 to address these issues by prohibiting a pipeline tax on electric ratepayers, establishing standards for approval of gas capacity contracts, and guaranteeing public intervention rights at the Department of Public Utilities. I was disappointed that these were not included in the final version.

Environmental Justice I was pleased that Representative Vincent filed the environmental justice amendment, Amendment 24, similar to a piece of legislation that I co-sponsored. This would establish an Environmental Justice advisory council to provide recommendations to the Baker administration. Again, I wish that the measure was included in the final bill.

Gas Leaks – I was happy to co-sponsor Amendment 15 by Representative Barber. This amendment instructs DPU to establish uniform standards for gas companies to identify and measure lost and unaccounted for gas by location, quality, and source. It also allows DPU to grant regulatory waivers to allow gas companies to develop innovative projects to reduce lost and unaccounted for gas. I am pleased to report that the amendment was adopted as written.

 

To read the full text of the conference report, click here.