December 2022

      • Democratic Sweep of Constitutional Offices;

         Healey-Driscoll Transition Team Announces Full Policy Committees

        November’s general election saw Attorney General Maura Healey and Salem Mayor Kim Driscoll lead a Democratic tsunami as each statewide Democratic candidate beat their Republican rival by double digits. Former Boston City Councilor Andrea Campbell (Attorney General), former State Senator Diana DiZoglio (State Auditor), current Treasurer Deb Goldberg (re-election) and current Secretary of State Bill Galvin (re-election) easily swept into office during a year that saw surprisingly higher than predicted turnout. In the battle for the State House, Democrats saw their supermajority in the House (133D-27R) grow while Republicans fell short in a couple of close Senate (37D-3R) battles. The Massachusetts legislature will see its recent streak of new members continue to grow as over 25 individuals will assume new positions under the golden dome.

        With their election now in hand, Massachusetts Governor-elect Healey and Lieutenant Governor-elect Driscoll announced the membership of their six transition policy committees. Each committee is composed of a diverse group of community members, advocates, subject matter experts, and business and nonprofit leaders. Each committee, which is led by 2-4 co-chairs, has been tasked with applying an “equity and affordability lens to their work, always considering the ways in which historically marginalized communities may be impacted and how to alleviate economic burdens for Massachusetts residents.”.

        Of particular note to UCANE members, the infrastructure committee “How we get around: How we make sure our public transportation infrastructure is safe, reliable, affordable and connects our entire state” is chaired by former Massport leader Tom Glynn and Monica Tibbits-Nutt, who is the Executive Director of the 128 Council. Members include, but are not limited to: John Pourbaix, Executive Director of Construction Industries of Massachusetts (CIM); Andrew Bagley, Vice President, Massachusetts Taxpayers Foundation; Tom Cahir, Administrator, Cape Cod Regional Transit Authority; State Senator Eric Lesser; former Braintree Mayor Joe Sullivan; and former MassHighway Commissioner Tom Tinlin. 

        A related transition committee of interest is the “Climate readiness, resiliency and adaptation: How we tackle the climate crisis head on while also creating good-paying jobs, protecting our communities and addressing climate injustices,” which is chaired by former United States Environmental Protection Agency Administrator Gina McCarthy and Lizzi Weyant, Deputy Executive Director for Public Affairs and Advocacy, Metropolitan Area Planning Council (MAPC). Members include, but are not limited to: Lou Antonellis, Business Manager, IBEW 103; Alicia Barton, Chief Executive Officer, FirstLight Power; Former State Senator Ben Downing, Vice President Public Affairs, The Engine; Dan McWilliams, Business Agent, Local 7 Iron Workers; Elizabeth Turnbull Henry, President, Environmental League of Massachusetts and former State Senator Daniel Wolf, Founder and Board Chair, Cape Air.

        The Healey-Driscoll Administration will begin announcing key personnel and policy objectives throughout December into January. As the Baker-Polito Administration hands the reins over to the newly elected Democrats, it brings to mind that Democrats last held control of the Governor’s Office, the Senate and House of Representatives eight years ago.

        For more information about the Healey-Driscoll transition committees, please visit: www.HealeyDriscollTransition.com

        City of Fall River to Remove All Lead Service Lines from City’s Drinking Water System

        According to a press release issued by the Massachusetts Department of Environmental Protection (MassDEP), the City of Fall River will take stronger steps to remove lead service lines throughout the city following a lead action level exceedance (ALE) during water quality testing conducted in 2021. Under a recently announced agreement, the MassDEP will suspend a $25,300 penalty as long as the municipality fully complies with the requirements outlined in a consent order signed by the parties. The settlement will result in the replacement of all lead service lines in the city water distribution system.

        In 2021, more than 10 percent of Fall River’s test samples found elevated levels of lead in its drinking water, resulting in an ALE – the city’s first lead exceedance since 2005. Under Massachusetts’ Drinking Water Regulations and the federal Lead and Copper Rule, when lead concentrations exceed an action level of 15 parts per billion (ppb) in more than 10 percent of water samples, the system must undertake several additional actions to control corrosion, reduce exposure, and educate the public about the adverse health effects of lead in drinking water. In Fall River’s case, such actions include submitting biweekly water quality data from the entry point to its distribution system and submitting to DEP a Lead Service Line Replacement (LSLR) plan.

        Fall River reported to MassDEP that, as of June 2022, it had approximately 3,700 known partial or full LSLs in its distribution system. The LSLR plan requires the city to replace at least 400 to 600 of those connections until all service lines are replaced, including all lines on city property as well as LSL connections on private property – at no cost to the property owner. The settlement also requires the city to regularly report to DEP on its progress of replacing LSLs, and to submit an annual report outlining where LSLs were replaced during the previous year and where additional LSLs will be addressed moving forward. The city is expected to utilize local, state, and federal funding sources to implement the replacement plan.

        To the City of Fall River’s credit, the DEP acknowledged that the city’s leadership and water quality personnel responded quickly and proactively once the original results came back. The situation in Fall River is similar to what many municipalities are struggling with – identifying lead service lines and replacing them once discovered. Throughout the Commonwealth, new initiatives are being developed to provide funding to address both of these challenges.

        For more information about the Clean Water Trust’s and DEP’s lead service line efforts, please visit: https://www.mass.gov/info-details/lead-service-line-planning-program.

        MWRA Releases North and South Studies Focused on Expanding Water Service 

        During its board meeting in November, the Massachusetts Water Resources Authority’s (MWRA) Board of Directors reviewed the results of two studies on the feasibility of adding additional communities to the north and south of the agency’s water system. Both studies conceptually identify that the MWRA could provide the full water demands to both study areas. Importantly, in order to fully supply both study areas, large diameter pipelines would have to be built extending from the MWRA’s existing metropolitan tunnel system. Partial supplies to supplement existing community sources could also be provided through the extension of MWRA’s existing distribution system. The northern study focused on communities that currently draw water from the long-stressed Ipswich River Basin, which includes Beverly, Danvers, Hamilton, Ipswich, Middleton, Lynn, Lynnfield Center Water District, Peabody, Salem, Topsfield, Wenham, and Wilmington. Additionally, the South Shore study focused on the communities of Abington, Avon, Brockton, Cohasset, Hanover, Hingham, Norwell, Scituate, Rockland, Weymouth, and the former Naval Air Station.

        According to a press release from the MWRA, the agency’s vast reservoir system means that it can safely provide up to 300 million gallons per day (MGD) of high-quality drinking water. Since its creation in 1985, MWRA and its customers have reduced usage from nearly 350 MGD to an average 200 MGD in 2022, leaving room for expansion. In addition to the north and south study areas, the MWRA is also exploring the possibility of expanding the water system to a number of MetroWest communities, including Acton, Bedford, Chelmsford, Concord, Groton, Holliston, Hopkinton, Lincoln, Littleton, Maynard, Natick, Sudbury, Wayland, Wellesley, and Weston. 

        While the water demands for all three study areas at one time would exceed MWRA’s available water, MWRA could supply water to a significant portion of these communities if there is interest. As reported in a previous legislative update in Construction Outlook, the MWRA and its Advisory Board recently voted to waive the entrance fee for new communities joining the system for a period of five years in order to encourage new communities to join, citing the challenges communities face, such as stressed river basins requiring water restrictions, rising concerns about per- and polyfluoroalkyl substances (PFAS), and constrained economic development. The benefit to existing member communities would be a reduction in their assessments each time a new community joins the system.

        To review the MWRA’s recent studies, please visit: https://www.mwra.com/02org/html/expansion.html.

        Governor’s Commission on Clean Heat Issues Final Report

        At the end of November, the Commission on Clean Heat, established by Governor Baker through Executive Order 596 in September 2021, issued its final recommendations and report. The recommendations include the adoption of core principles and practices focused on ensuring an equitable approach to decarbonization of both existing and new buildings, including appropriate resourcing, institutional coordination and alignment; the development and implementation of a Clean Heat Standard, joint natural gas and electric system planning, and analyses of the potential impact of other associated regulatory changes; the reorganization of existing energy efficiency and clean energy transition programs to be more user friendly for residents, businesses, and contractors; and investments in innovation, workforce development, consumer education, and market development to help accelerate the building decarbonization transition.

        On September 20, 2021, Governor Baker signed the Executive Order to establish the Commission on Clean Heat to provide recommendations on the strategies and policies to achieve emissions reductions from the use of heating fuels in the Commonwealth. The Commission on Clean Heat’s report aligns with the Baker-Polito Administration’s 2050 Roadmap report and the 2025/2030 Clean Energy and Climate Plan by providing policy directions that seek to accelerate the deployment of energy efficiency programs and clean heating systems in new and existing buildings, and transition current distribution systems to clean energy. 

        Recommendations contained within the commission’s report include, but are not limited to:

        -       Implementation of a clean heat standard as a regulatory approach to meet the sublimits for the building sector, focusing on electrification and energy efficiency measures.

        -       Coordinated joint energy system planning across Massachusetts’ gas and electric utilities and municipal gas and electric companies, and in conjunction with key stakeholders and     communities, to ease the transition from gas to electric heating by identifying geographic priorities for investment in and/or strategic retirement of energy infrastructure.

        -       Establishing climate finance mechanisms through a climate bank to de-risk and mobilize private sector investments for buildings pursuing deep decarbonization measures.

        -       Evaluation of opportunities for addressing operating cost barriers to the adoption of clean heating technologies, including programs or credits to help defray costs from electrification, as well as evaluation of cost-reflective rate structures to encourage conservation and reduce operating costs of electric heating systems.

          For more information regarding the Governor’s Commission on Clean Heat, its members, and the final report, please visit: www.mass.gov/orgs/commission-on-clean-heat.

          South Coast Towns Receive $195K in Water Quality Grants

          According to a late November press release from the Executive Office of Energy and Environmental Affairs (EEA), the Baker-Polito Administration awarded $195,000 in federally funded grant awards for projects that will protect drinking water supplies, preserve important habitat, and address pollution from stormwater runoff in the Buzzards Bay watershed. The towns of Fairhaven, Mattapoisett, Rochester, and Westport are receiving grant funding, which is being matched by over $132,000 in private contributions and in-kind services, by the Buzzards Bay National Estuary Program (NEP) through the EEA’s Office of Coastal Zone Management (CZM), with funding from the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) Southeast New England Program. Specifically, the following grants were awarded to the municipalities in the south coast region:

        • The Town of Rochester will receive $70,000 to work with the Towns of Mattapoisett, Fairhaven, Marion, and Acushnet, along with the Buzzards Bay Coalition, to purchase and permanently protect 240 acres of land important to protect the Mattapoisett River Valley aquifer. The newly purchased land will protect a multi-town public drinking water supply resource, as well as wetlands, fields, forests, and habitat for fish and wildlife.
        • The Town of Mattapoisett will receive $35,000 to establish a strategic master plan for stormwater management in the Shipyard Lane area, which lies east of Mattapoisett Village and is a town priority for stormwater remediation.
        • The Town of Mattapoisett will also receive $35,000 to work with the Mattapoisett Land Trust to purchase and permanently protect two parcels of undeveloped land totaling 14 acres in the Brandt Island Cove area of Mattapoisett. The Mattapoisett Land Trust intends to create a trail system, which will connect to a larger network of trails, as well as a small parking area on the property to allow for public access.
        • The Town of Westport will receive $30,000 to work with the Buzzards Bay Coalition to purchase and permanently protect 25 acres of land associated with the headwaters of Snell Creek, a tributary of the East Branch of the Westport River.
        • The Town of Fairhaven will receive $25,000 to work with the Buzzards Bay Coalition to permanently protect 9 acres of land that provide a key upland buffer to wetlands and that protect important wildlife habitats, including state-designated habitat. Once acquired, the land will be open to the public for passive recreational purposes and will provide coastal public access to outer New Bedford Harbor.

        The Office of Coastal Zone Management is EEA’s lead policy and planning agency on coastal and ocean issues. Created in 1985, the Buzzards Bay National Estuary Program provides grants and technical assistance to Buzzards Bay watershed communities to protect and restore water quality and natural resources in Buzzards Bay and its surrounding watershed and is one of 28 similar programs designated by the EPA. To find more information about the wide variety of programs offered by the CZM, visit: https://www.mass.gov/info-details/czm-programs.

        News in Brief

        Massachusetts Unemployment Rate Ticks Up, But Still Better Than National Average. According to the Executive Office of Labor and Workforce Development, the state’s October total unemployment rate was 3.5 percent, up one-tenth of a percentage point over-the-month prior. The United States Bureau of Labor Statistics’ preliminary job estimates indicate Massachusetts gained 9,800 jobs in October. This follows last month’s revised gain of 22,900 jobs. The largest over the month private sector job gains were in Financial Activities, Professional and Business Services, and Government. Employment now stands at 3,710,600. Since the employment decline in April 2020, Massachusetts gained 659,600 jobs. From October 2021 to October 2022, BLS estimates Massachusetts gained 141,300 jobs. The largest over the year gains occurred in Professional and Business Services, Leisure and Hospitality, and Education and Health Services. While Construction lost 200 jobs over the month, over the year, 11,400 were added. The October unemployment rate of 3.5 percent was two-tenths of a percentage point below the national rate of 3.7 percent. Detailed labor market information is available at www.mass.gov/economicresearch

        EEA Holds Public Listening Session for Draft Environmental Justice Strategy. The Executive Office of Energy and Environmental Affairs (EEA) has developed a secretariat-wide document with input from the agency’s Environmental Justice Task Force, which originally convened in September 2020. EEA is now seeking public input and comments on this Draft Environmental Justice Strategy. There will be four public comment listening sessions hosted during the public comment period running from November 9, 2022, to January 27, 2023. This schedule includes two virtual sessions and two in-person sessions. Written comments will be accepted until 5:00 pm on January 27, 2023. To review a copy of the draft strategy and for information on submitting comments, please visit: https://www.mass.gov/info-details/eeas-draft-environmental-justice-ej-strategy#draft-eea-ej-strategy-.

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