Legislators Approve $2.2 Billion Environmental Bond Bill
The largest in state history.
BOSTON | July 31, 2014
Today the Massachusetts Legislature is poised to approve the largest environmental bond in state history. Over the next four years, this law authorizes $2.2 billion for environmental and energy programs and initiatives throughout the Commonwealth.
The environmental bond authorizes funding for state agencies, municipalities and nongovernmental partners to conserve natural resources, improve energy efficiency, support local farmers and fisheries, protect wildlife, maintain water quality and coastal infrastructure, manage solid waste, and promote smart planning and development, among other critical environmental and public health initiatives.
The Commonwealth Conservation Council represents over 400,000 families supporting the protection and conservation of Massachusetts’ natural resources, is grateful to legislators and their dedicated staff, for everyone’s hard work and support for this important environmental bond.
“I am proud of the Joint Committee on Environment, Natural Resources and Agriculture’s work to put forward a bill that improves the air we breathe, the water we drink, and the land on which we live and rely for food, and I thank the leadership in the Legislature for their support,” said Senator Marc R. Pacheco (D-Taunton), Senate Chair of the Committee. “Among its many important investments, this legislation will bolster our parks system, protect natural resources and boost tourism, and it will support resiliency initiatives across the Commonwealth to defend our built and natural infrastructure from climate change.”
“Investments in our environment are important to maintain the quality of life that we have and have enhanced our cultural and recreational opportunities,” said Representative Anne Gobi (D-Spencer), House Chair of the Committee. “They are a major driver of our tourism industry, protect prime agricultural and timber lands and help us better manage solid waste, saving our communities money and creating jobs.”
The bond bill plays a key role in advancing the Commonwealth’s land conservation efforts. “Between 2005 and 2013, Massachusetts protected 41 acres a day of open space and developed 13. This is a reversal from eight years prior and is largely due to the environmental bond which serves as the cornerstone for land conservation in the commonwealth,” said Jack Clarke, Director of Public Policy and Government Relations for Mass Audubon.
Helping prepare Massachusetts for a changing climate is another important way the bond serves the Commonwealth. By utilizing natural infrastructure such as floodplains and barrier beaches, we can take advantage of cost-effective, sustainable buffering to reduce damage caused by storms and flooding.
“The funding in the environmental bond will enable our next governor to take bold steps on land protection, aquatic restoration and climate change resiliency. The Conservancy looks forward to continued collaboration on bond-funded projects with our partners in state agencies, land trusts and watershed groups and businesses,” said Wayne Klockner, State Director for The Nature Conservancy in Massachusetts.
“The Environmental League is pleased to see a robust environmental bond bill that makes investments that contribute to the public health, environmental integrity, and economic growth of the Commonwealth,” said Environmental League Legislative Director Erica Mattison.
The Commonwealth’s investments in our natural assets are critical to protect our water and air, thriving farms, fisheries, forestry, and healthy communities - both for today and for future generations. Importantly, capital spending on the environment also benefits Massachusetts citizens and visitors by providing a significant return on investment. A recent report by The Trust for Public Land shows that for every $1 the state invests in land and water, $4 in natural goods and services are returned to our economy. www.tpl.org/massachusetts
“The Trust for Public Land's report shows that state investments in land and water conservation support local jobs and a strong economy while leveraging local, state and federal dollars in parks, natural areas and working farms and forests, ” said Kevin Essington, The Trust for Public Land's Massachusetts State Director. “We are grateful to the Legislature for making a thoughtful investing in our natural assets putting Massachusetts in a win-win position, by growing our economy while improving our quality of life.”
Highlights from the Environmental Bond include:
- Over $350 million for land conservation programs, including $111 million for a new urban park program to serve neighborhoods currently underserved with parks, matching grants for cities and towns, and opportunities for nonprofit partners to leverage local, federal and private investments to protect critical natural resources.
- $120 million for coastal infrastructure
- $117 million to improve coastal and inland waterways, and $75 million to assess and monitor waterways.
- $62 million to improve the energy efficiency of state-owned buildings to reduce carbon emissions – a program that pays for itself.
- $49 million for the Dam Loan Fund, for emergency repair or removal of at-risk dams to protect public safety and improve stream flow and fish passage.
- $25 million for a UMass Center for Urban Sustainability to research and advance urban agriculture, as well as $8 million to support urban farms statewide to create jobs, stimulate local economies, and provide fresh local produce where it is needed most.
- $20 million to protect and support working farms to protect farms under threat of development and stimulate the Commonwealth’s agricultural industry.
- $10 million for waste reduction and recycling to improve solid waste management.
- New programs to support comprehensive climate change adaptation management planning, to help communities identify vulnerabilities associated with climate change and develop adaptation plans.
The CCC includes: American Farmland Trust; Appalachian Mountain Club; Environmental League of Massachusetts; Gun Owners Action League, Mass. Association of Conservation Commissions, Mass Audubon; Mass. Forest Alliance; Mass. Land Trust Coalition; Mass League of Environmental Voters; Mass Rivers Alliance; Sierra Club; The Nature Conservancy; The Trust for Public Land; and The Trustees of Reservations.
The Nature Conservancy is a leading conservation organization working around the world to conserve the lands and waters on which all life depends. The Conservancy and its more than 1 million members have protected nearly 120 million acres worldwide. Visit The Nature Conservancy on the Web at www.nature.org