Re-imagining Salem: From Fossil Fuels to a Green Future

November 18, 2019. Salem, MA.
SAFE, Re-Imagining Salem: From Fossil Fuels to a Green Future. Speakers from left: Marjorie Kelly, Mayor Kim Driscoll, Jenna Ide, Sonia Hamel, Cindy Luppi, and Moderator Cindy Keegan
© 2019 Marilyn Humphries

 On Monday, November 18, over 100 residents from Salem and surrounding communities gathered at Salem’s Community Life Center to imagine responses to the climate emergency that could not only keep our city the vibrant place we all love—but make it better.

The forum, hosted by SAFE, along with the Salem Sustainability, Energy, and Resiliency Committee, Clean Energy Future Massachusetts, Citizen’s Climate Lobby, and 350 MA Northshore, took off from the premise that, if the state legislature passes a carbon pricing bill, state funds will be available to communities like ours to invest in a sustainable future. So what would we like to see?

Mayor Kim Driscoll and Director of Capital Projects Jenna Ide kicked off the evening with an inspiring presentation of what the city has accomplished thus far—from bike lanes to electric vehicle sharing to solar arrays and moving emergency infrastructure out of harm’s way.

Mayor Kim Driscoll kicked off the night.

Sonia Hamel showcasing ideas from around the world.

Presentations from Cindy Luppi of Clean Water Action; Marjorie Kelly, a SAFE board member and expert on what communities are doing to build economies that work for everyone not just the wealthy few; and Sonia Hamel of Hamel Environmental Consulting pointed to real world examples of building resilient and livable communities. From scaling renewable energy to reducing reliance on gas and oil infrastructure for heating our homes to literally buying out the fossil fuel companies to wind them down —an idea Marjorie Kelly called “quantitative easing for the planet”– the presenters challenged the audience to think big.

Following the presentations, audience members engaged in discussions at their tables, talking with each other about:

1) What’s special in Salem, and what will we lose if we don’t address the climate crisis?
Answers: Our beaches, walkability, historic buildings

2) What ideas did we find most exciting or most urgent?
Answers: protecting our coastline, geothermal microgrids, off-shore wind energy, green transportation, a zero-waste city.

3) How do we integrate the principles of a democratic economy—building community, encouraging broad-based ownership, valuing the place where we live—into change going forward?
Answers: Consider environmental justice at each step along the way as we build toward a sustainable future. Consider working with Salem’s anchor institutions—the university, hospital, and museum—to strengthen our local economy, create more jobs, and reduce commuting.

These are only a few of the many ideas generated. A second meeting, January 27, will dive deeper into the proposed solutions, and what commitments we can all make to building Salem’s green future.

All photos by Marilyn Humphries, (c) 2019.

Re-Imagining Salem: From Fossil Fuels to a Green Future

Come and be inspired. Share your ideas and inspire others. Pose your questions. Let’s tackle the climate crisis as an opportunity. Reserve a spot: http://bit.ly/2qiM6A0

SAFE- Reimagining Salem v3 jpeg (1)

SAFE Organizes Second Annual “Great Pumpkin Drop”

181104Pumpk024.jpgDead Horse Beach, November 3, Noon to 3 pm. Try your hand at the Great Pumpkin Toss!

You don’t need to do the math to know that untold tons of pumpkin waste from Salem and surrounding communities is going to be off to the incinerators next month. We at SAFE believe that these noble squashes deserve better than to feed a process that emits greenhouse gases and other toxic emissions. So we’re organizing the 2nd annual “Great Pumpkin Drop” to take place in the Dead Horse Beach parking lot on Sunday, November 3, from 12 to 3 pm.

If you’re a Salem resident who’s been thinking about composting, give it a try! SAFE will be offering 50% reimbursement for a year’s worth of weekly composting pickup to the first 10 Salem households who aren’t already current subscribers of Black Earth Compost, which serves our community.

Allow yourself to experience how good it feels when you’ve lightened your garbage output and sent your leftovers to meet the sweeter fate of decomposing organically and enjoying a second life enriching the soil and absorbing carbon from the atmosphere. It’s easy and it makes a difference.

A special thanks to our co-sponsors, SalemRecycles and Black Earth Compost.

See you on November 3rd!

Lawrence–Gas System Failure–AGAIN

It’s with sadness and frustration that SAFE, a member of the Gas Leaks Allies, a broad coalition of more than 20 organizations and researchers, heard the news this morning about the gas leak and resulting evacuation in the Lawrence.

Based on our recent report, Rolling the Dice, along with the finding of uncapped distribution pipes in areas where gas pipes were replaced last year and the NTSB final report on the Merrimack Valley disaster, we find this latest incident all too predictable.

The gas distribution system is not safe. It’s based on faulty assumptions that:

  • There are materials that can contain gas for long periods underground.
  • A centralized design won’t lead to single-point failures leading to outages for thousands of customers.
  • Gas combustion can be controlled.

None of these assumptions holds true. The leak in Lawrence occurred in an area where the pipes had all been replaced with supposedly safer plastic.

We welcome your help to implement the report’s recommendations for triaging the worst leaks while transitioning to a safer, cleaner system now.

Please read through Rolling The Dice and note the 50 recommendations for how SAFE and the City of Salem should be pushing National Grid to fix the gas leaks in our city and help us move to renewable energy.

Rep. Paul Tucker Supports Carbon Pricing

Kudos to Rep. Paul Tucker for taking a bold stand on carbon pricing. In an age where we are looking for leadership to help us solve the problems of the climate crisis, groups like SAFE increasingly turn to our local and state elected officials. Rep. Tucker has not failed us on environmental issues and so much more.

 Putting a price on carbon benefits all

Rep. Paul Tucker (D-Salem)

August 12, 2019 Salem News

Before taking on the job of state representative, I spent 32 years as a member of the Salem police force. I know that preventing something bad from happening is better than responding after harm has already occurred.

That is one of the reasons I am a proud cosponsor of H2810, “An Act to Reduce Greenhouse Gas Emissions and Promote Green Infrastructure.” Scientists everywhere are telling us the time to act on the climate crisis is now. Change is never easy, but it will be harder if we wait and allow people to suffer.

Introduced by state Rep. Jennifer Benson, D-Lunenberg, H2810 creates a carbon fee on all fossil fuels sold in the state. It returns 70% of revenues from the carbon fee to Massachusetts households and vulnerable businesses. And it invests the remaining 30% in renewable energy, energy efficiency, clean transportation and resilience. H2810 is the perfect prevention part of the equation to accompany state Rep. Thomas Golden’s bill H3997 that, if passed, would address the impacts of the growing climatecrisis. A carbon fee is a charge on gas, oil and coal distributors for every ton of carbon dioxide their products release when burned. It requires polluters to pay for the cost of polluting the atmosphere and contributing to the global warming that is creating the climate crisis. The fee starts low and increases slowly over time, giving all of us an incentive to shift from dirty fuels to cleaner options.

Nobody wants to pay more for energy — and many people, especially low and middle income households, don’t have the ability to pay even a little bit more. That is why most of the revenues from thecarbon fee go right back to consumers. On average, low and middle income households — and all households that conserve energy— will get rebates that are the same as, or slightly

larger than, any increase in energy costs.

The remaining revenue from the carbon fee — a projected $400 to $600 million per year — will be available to cities and towns for initiatives that address the warming climate. That means the carbon fee will be paying for the infrastructure we need to move to a cleaner economy. The fee could provide money for new transit lines, community solar, renewable energy installations, and financial programs to enable tenants and homeowners to invest in housing upgrades.

H.2810 requires that 40% of investments be used for projects that benefit low and middle-income households. This is crucial, because lower income people are least able to make the transition to clean energy and are most vulnerable to the potential impacts of the climate crisis.

In addition, $16-28 million of the funds raised each year will be added to the state’s fuel assistance program. Plus, the bill provides protections for workers and loans for small businesses.

Addressing our climate crisis is a huge task. The United Nations is urging all governments to “put a price on carbon” and economists believe that carbon pricing is one of the best things we can do to lower greenhouse gas emissions.

H2810 uses a “polluter pays” model to raise hundreds of millions of dollars each year for the new energy and transportation infrastructure our state needs. I am proud to support this bill and look forward to working with my fellow legislators to get it passed this session.

Mayor Driscoll: Put a Price on Carbon

“We know that the federal government will not act.  It is up to our state leaders to show bold leadership, for our state and region, and for the country.” –Kim Driscoll and Alex Morse

 

 

Salem’s Mayor Kim Driscoll and Holyoke’s Mayor Alex Morse published a compelling op-ed in Commonwealth Magazine citing the ravages of the climate crisis on their cities. The horrors range from battered and destroyed sea walls to flooded neighborhoods to damaged infrastructure to, in Holyoke, new residents who are climate refugees who need and receive help from a caring community.

Salem and Holyoke both former  industrial  cities hosting coal-fired power plants are over 100 miles apart. One a coastal city and the other a  mid-state municipality.  The climate crisis is real for both communities.

Read what they have to say about supporting Rep. Jen Benson’s H2810 An Act to Promote Green Infrastructure and Reduce Carbon Emissions:

Mayors of Salem, Holyoke Call for Carbon Fee

WE ARE THE MAYORS of Salem and Holyoke, two medium-sized Gateway Cities. Our communities are more than 100 miles apart, but both are feeling the impacts of climate change. We are experiencing severe storms, unpredictable flooding, drought, and damage to homes, businesses, roads, and infrastructure.  Climate change is disrupting city operations and straining budgets.

In Salem, a coastal city, extreme heat, extreme precipitation, sea level rise, and storm surges present the biggest challenges.  Flooding during winter storms in January 2018 was among the worst Salem has seen in over 50 years.  Ocean waters and rain-filled city streets stranded motorists and brought down power lines.  Salem’s sea level is expected to rise four feet by 2050, and the community’s critical infrastructure – its emergency power, wastewater treatment, roadways, and even its evacuation routes – is all located within flood zones.

Meanwhile, Holyoke is challenged by changing weather patterns near and far.  Holyoke has more Puerto Rican residents per capita than any American city outside of Puerto Rico.  When Hurricane Maria devastated the island in 2018, 2,200 displaced families came to Holyoke and 247 children enrolled in the city’s schools.  The number of oppressively hot days continues to rise in Holyoke, as it has across the state, stressing the health of low-income and elderly residents, particularly if they cannot afford cooling.

Salem and Holyoke are fully committed to reducing our cities’ greenhouse gas emissions, but we cannot solve climate change on our own.  We need bold, state leadership.

The Massachusetts Legislature needs to act, this session, to pass H2810, An Act to Reduce Greenhouse Gas Emissions and Promote Green Infrastructure.  Sponsored by Rep. Jennifer Benson of Lunenburg, the bill establishes a fee on the carbon in fossil fuels and returns most of the revenues from that fee to Massachusetts households and businesses.  It invests the remainder in local renewable energy, energy efficiency, clean transportation, and resilience.

A carbon fee is a charge on gas, oil, and coal. The fee is based on the amount of carbon dioxide these fuels emit when burned.  As this fee slowly rises over time, dirty energy becomes more expensive, and customers are encouraged to reduce their use of fossil fuels and move to cleaner energy options.

Many people, understandably, are concerned that this approach will cause the prices of gas and heating fuels to rise. However, unlike most governmental fees that disappear forever into government coffers, 70 percent of the revenues from the carbon fee will be given back to Massachusetts residents and businesses in the form of rebates. Every household will get two rebate checks a year.  People who use less energy – including the vast majority of low- and moderate-income households – will get back more in rebates than they pay in any increased fuel costs.

Every person will receive a basic rebate, then low- and moderate-income residents will get an additional amount, to protect them from increased costs. Rural households will also get an additional rebate to compensate them for the extra distances they often have to drive.

The remaining revenue from the carbon fee – an estimated $400 million in the first year and $600 million by the fifth year – will be invested in local projects that help people transition away from fossil fuels and prepare for the unavoidable impacts of climate change.  The Massachusetts Clean Energy Center will administer some of the funds, and municipalities can apply to develop local projects, such as community solar installations, new public transit, energy upgrades at local schools, community cooling centers, and flood control measures.

To make sure that everyone benefits, the proposed legislation requires that 40 percent of investment funds be directed to low- and middle-income households and communities with lower median incomes.  In addition, $16 million to $28 million of each year’s revenues will be added to the state’s fuel assistance program, and additional funds will be used to help workers retrain for new clean energy jobs.

We know that the federal government will not act.  It is up to our state leaders to show bold leadership, for our state and region, and for the country.

SAFE Wins Historic Salem Inc. Award

IMG_0724

Presented by Rep. Paul Tucker

“As part of SAFE’s (Salem Alliance for the Environment’s) work to protect the health and efficient use of resources in Salem they have been advocating, researching and pushing for understanding, accurate reporting, and repair of natural gas leaks throughout Salem.  While preservation often focuses on the visible – and what is “pretty” it is an honor to recognize the equally important efforts to maintain and repair the unseen aspects of our historic city.  With infrastructure of all kinds surpassing 100 years of service there continues to be a need for information gathering, decision-making and prioritization of funds and efforts to ensure our current resources remain serviceable.  This principle is applicable to preservation at any level.

SAFE’s work is motivated by environmental concerns, with life and health concerns the driving force.  A lesson to all preservationists that we would all be well served to consider how sustainability, functionality and resource management are connected to the care and viability of our historic cities.

We thank Salem Alliance for the Environment and Pat Gozemba who is here to accept the award.”

Bob Ackley, president of Gas Safety Inc., the man who in 2016 did so much work for Salem and for SAFE in detecting the 232 gas/methane leaks in Salem as compared with the 62 leaks acknowledged by National Grid.

59517120_2274931999446666_1185248383414042624_n

Bob Ackley of Gas Safety Inc., Pat Gozemba, Co-Chair of SAFE, and Rep. Paul Tucker.