Senate Environmental Bond Bill Highlights

Senate Environmental Bond Bill Highlights

Senator Hinds secures $28.875M in capital spending authorizations to maintain key environmental infrastructure, protect natural resources and promote outdoor recreation in western Mass.

BOSTON – State Senator Adam G. Hinds (D- Pittsfield) announces that on Thursday the Massachusetts Senate unanimously passed H. 4613, An Act promoting climate change adaptation, environmental and natural resource protection and investment in recreational assets and opportunity, often referred to as the “environmental bond bill” by a vote of 38-0.
“The Senate’s environmental bond bill provides necessary resources to preserve the Commonwealth’s natural resources and promote economic growth,” said Hinds. “My goal was to secure capital support to maintain and repair local culverts and dams, protect the region’s lakes, ponds and natural resources, and continue our efforts to promote western Mass. as a major destination for outdoor recreation activities by investing in projects like the Greylock Glen and multi-use trail development across the District.”
The legislation authorizes the issuance of more than $2 billion in bonds to implement climate change adaptation programs and to improve existing climate resilient infrastructure. It is a 5-year bond bill; the spending authorizations will expire on June 30, 2023.
Massachusetts has continually demonstrated leadership in the fight against global climate change, and the investments authorized in bond bill ensure that cities and towns across the Commonwealth are protected and that public spaces and infrastructure are improved and maintained for the public good.
Local Projects Authorized to Receive Capital Funding Support
During yesterday’s debate, Hinds secured almost $30 million in new capital spending authorizations and reauthorizations of existing spending authorizations from the 2014 environmental bond bill to maintain key environmental infrastructure, protect natural resources and promote outdoor recreation in the Berkshires and western Massachusetts, including:
  • $10M for a Lakes & Ponds Grant Program to assist lake associations statewide with technical assistance, studies, preservation, and environmental improvements, including the removal of aquatic invasive plants. This is something the Lakes & Ponds Association of Western Mass (LAPA-West) has been seeking for some time, and the subject of a meeting between the Berkshire Legislative Delegation, LAPA-West and state Energy & Environmental Affairs Secretary Matt Beaton earlier this year.
  • $8.775M reauthorization for the Hoosic River Revival project in North Adams. This capital spending authorization was authorized in the 2014 environmental bond bill; it has been extended until June 30, 2023 by the Senate’s bill.
  • $6.55M in new and reauthorized capital funds to support the construction of the Outdoor Center, campgrounds and trail system at the Greylock Glen in Adams. Hinds secured a new $2.3M spending authorization for this project, as well as the reauthorization of $4.25M in existing spending authorizations from the 2014 environmental bond in the Senate bill.
  • $800K to identify, map, market, develop, and construct western Mass mountain biking trails in Berkshire, Hampshire, Franklin & Hampden Counties.
  • $800K for repairs to the Dan Casey Memorial Drive culverts over Onota Lake in Pittsfield.
  • $500K for design and construction of infrastructure to link existing sections of the Highlands Footpath route, which extends throughout southern Berkshire County into the Pioneer Valley, from Lee to Goshen.
  • $500K for repairs and reconstruction of the Ashfield Lake Dam.
  • $500K for engineering and design of the proposed Adventure Trail from North Adams to Williamstown.
  • $200K for repairs to the glacial pothole overlook and visitors deck in Shelburne.
  • $120K for repairs to the East Street/West Street culvert in Mount Washington.
  • $100K for repairs to the Wild Acres Dam in Pittsfield.
  • $30K for a feasibility study on the eradication of zebra mussels from Laurel Lake in Lee and Lenox.
Bond bills are different from budget bills, in that a capital spending authorization is not an earmark and does not guarantee funding will be received. However, a legislative spending authorization for a project in a bond bill is important, as it signifies the project is a priority and is eligible to receive funding from the state’s annual capital spending plan. However, unlike the state budget, the capital plan is entirely developed and managed by the Administration, and not every bond bill spending authorization will be programmed into the capital plan during the life of the bond bill.
Key Policy Changes Secured
Hinds co-sponsored a number of policy amendments which were adopted by the Senate during yesterday’s debate to protect Article 97 land, promote agriculture and reduce pollution, including:
  • Public Lands Preservation Act – “No Net Loss” of Article 97 Land – this amendment clarifies and standardizes the process by which state and local governments can remove the protected status of public lands in order for them to be used for other purposes. It ensures “no net loss” of protected lands in the Commonwealth.
  • Farming and Fishing Innovation Funds – This amendment creates the Agricultural Innovation Fund with a purpose of awarding grants to agricultural and cranberry producers for: an outreach program to identify and foster new, innovative ideas and approaches to adding value to the commonwealth’s agricultural and cranberry economy; solicit requests from the agricultural and cranberry industry for funding and technical assistance in reclamation and revitalization of cranberry bogs; training, marketing, distribution, applied research, agri-tourism, aquaculture, forestry, processing, fiber and agricultural resource management research, development, poultry and red meat processing and construction of energy efficient agricultural buildings and structures, research, development and construction of energy efficient agricultural equipment.
  • It also creates the Fishing Innovation Fund with a purpose of awarding grants for the design, construction and modification of commercial fishing vessels; including but not limited to: research, development and construction of innovative fishing vessels with attributes including but not limited to-increased fuel efficiency, reduced carbon emissions, improved stability, the capability of supporting sustainable fishing practices through harvesting and on-board storage and processing methods, research, development, acquisition and deployment of advanced and/or innovative technologies including but not limited to sonar, radar, radio communications, satellite and global position and other locating and tracking devices, the research and development, acquisition and deployment of safety equipment, landing or processing fish, and/or maintaining permits or licenses to do so without preference to any particular geographic location or region of the state, grants shall be distributed in a manner developed by an advisory committee.
  • Raw Milk Delivery – This amendment directs the state Departments of Agricultural Resources (MDAR) and Public Health (DPH) to adopt regulations regarding the delivery of raw milk and authorizes licensed raw milk farmers to deliver raw milk directly to the consumer with a direct contractual relationship or through a Community Supported Agriculture (CSA) delivery system.
  • Plastic Bag Reduction - This amendment creates a uniform standard for single use bags by banning plastic bags across the state and represents a compromise from years of work and negotiations with stakeholders in the public and private sectors.
The Senate environmental bond also ensures that climate change prevention programs are sufficiently funded and authorizes capitalization of the Global Warming Solutions Trust Fund, which is to be used to fund costs associated with implementation of the Global Warming Solutions Act, the Commonwealth’s Clean Energy and Climate Plan, and state and local strategies for climate change adaptation.
Additionally, the bill requires the Executive Office of Energy and Environmental Affairs and the Executive Office of Public Safety and Security to: (i) coordinate to strengthen resilience and prepare for the impacts of climate change; (ii) publish, every five years, an integrated state climate adaptation and hazard mitigation plan; (iii) establish frameworks for state agency and municipal vulnerability assessments that will be incorporated into the state plan; and (iv) implement the state plan and incorporate information learned from implementing the state plan in plan updates.
The House of Representatives previously passed an environmental bond bill on June 13th, under the leadership of Berkshire State Representative Smitty Pignatelli (D- Lenox), who serves as the House Chairman of the Joint Committee on the Environment, Natural Resources & Agriculture. It is expected that a conference committee will be appointed by House and Senate Leadership to negotiate differences between the two bills and develop a final environmental bond to be forwarded to the Governor.