Action Alerts from Farms, Forests & Food Systems Group

Subsidies for Solar — Comment Period — Open until 2/2/24

Mass. DOER (Dept. of Energy Resources) has opened a public comment period regarding the solar subsidy program, SMART and is requesting responses to questions on this document.

Because we know that most large-scale solar developments in forests, on agricultural land, or threatening the environment receive a SMART subsidy, our voices need to be heard if we hope to change the SMART regs . A large response rate might make them pay attention. If nothing else, our recommendations will be documented. 

Thank you to Michael DeChiara for offering these guidelines and attachments to help make this simpler for us to respond.  The following are attached.

  1. Selected questions and possible responses (talking points). Choose what makes sense to you. You can add other thoughts they don’t ask about for question #14.
  2. Michael’s responses, in case this is helpful
  3. Sections of the SMART regs that he thinks are most relevant to comment on
  4. Blank Word file with the questions that DOER’s consultants are asking 

The deadline for submitting written comments on the questions for the SMART review is Friday, February 2, 2024 by 5pm.

Instructions to submit:

Send your edited document via email to:   

Climate-Oriented Forest Management Guidelines — Public responses due — 1/24/24

Today, Jan. 3, 2024, the “Healey-Driscoll Administration released the report of the Climate Forestry Committee:  Recommendations for Climate Oriented Forest Management Guidelines.” and related materials

Here is the link: https://www.mass.gov/info-details/forests-as-climate-solutions#overview-

Here is their “invitation” to respond:

“We invite public comment on this report to inform the state’s implementation of the recommendations. To provide written comment on this report, please do so via the following form: share comments. Comments submitted by January 24th at 5pm will facilitate consideration. If you are limited by length or wish to share attachments, please send materials to guidelines@mass.gov.”

Forest Protection Bills — October 11, 1:00-5:00 pm

The Massachusetts legislature’s Joint Committee on Environment and Natural Resources will hear testimony on several forest protection bills endorsed by Climate Action Now, Western MA on Wednesday, October 11th from 1:00 p.m. to 5:00 p.m.  https://malegislature.gov/Committees/Detail/J21/Committees  

Please attend the hearing in person or on-line and provide testimony either in-person or virtually!

To testify you must pre-register by completing this form

The registration deadline for testifying is 12:00 p.m. on Monday October 9thOne day prior to the hearing those testifying virtually will receive emailed instruction on how to join the hearing.

Testimony is strictly limited to 3 minutes per person, no matter how many bills you are supporting.

Submit written testimony to the Joint Committee on Environment and Natural Resources by email to JointCommittee.Environment@malegislature.gov

For those not testifying, the hearing will be broadcast live: 

https://malegislature.gov/

Bills endorsed by Climate Action Now, Western MA include:

H.894   An Act relative to forest management and practices guidelines.  Sponsored byRepresentativesLindsay N. Sabadosa and Aaron L. Saunders

This bill includes a call for the creation of an independent Advisory Council to oversee an evaluation of Massachusetts publicly owned forest lands with goals that include:

  • reducing climate change impacts for all Massachusetts residents.
  • safeguarding biodiversity.
  • enhancing public health benefits provided by forests, and
  • mitigating the effects of climate change on our forests.

H.904 An Act relative to increased protection of wildlife management areas. Sponsored byRepresentativeDanillo A. Sena 

This bill calls for 30% of Wildlife Management Areas to become permanent reserves by 2030, similar to the existing protection for National Parks. 

H.895   An Act to require separate carbon accounting for working lands and natural lands and to eliminate from Massachusetts net-zero carbon emissions goal any carbon offsets sold to entities outside of the Commonwealth Massachusetts   Sponsored by Representative Lindsay N. Sabadosa

This bill would modify the Global Warming Solutions Act (Chapter 21N) as amended by the climate roadmap bill signed into law by Gov. Baker (Chapter 8 of the Acts of 2021: An act creating a next-generation roadmap for Massachusetts climate policy) by clarifying some carbon accounting issues in the existing law.

H.869/S.452 An Act establishing the municipal reforestation program Sponsored by Representatives Steven Owens and Jennifer Balinsky Armini, Sen. Cynthia Stone Creem

This bill would establish an advisory urban forestry council that would provide funding and technical assistance to participating municipalities to plant, replace and maintain trees in their communities.

S.448 An act investing in natural and working lands    Sponsored by Senator Jo Comerford

This bill would give the Commonwealth the mission to preserve our forests and farmland by ensuring that state agencies work to prevent development of such land and value them for the totality of services they provide, while allowing for economic development and respecting local land use and planning authority.

http://climateactionnowma.org/2023-priority-legislation-endorsements/

Climate-Oriented Forest Management Guidelines — Public Input Session — September 12, 6:00 pm

An important opportunity to share your perspectives and input on the importance of intact healthy forests in this age of Climate derangement.
Remote Meeting, September 12th, 2023 from 6:00 to 8:30 PM: The Executive Office of Energy and Environmental Affairs will be holding a public meeting about a comprehensive effort to conserve and manage forest land in the Commonwealth known as the  Forests as Climate Solutions Initiative.

The meeting will be held to seek public input to inform the development of forest management guidelines based on the latest climate science.  The guidelines will be applied to forest management on state lands, inform other forest landowners, and serve as the basis for state incentives for adoption of climate-oriented forest management practices.

This meeting is intended to obtain general input on the approach and content of the Guidelines.  A second public meeting will be held in November to seek feedback on specific issues related to draft Guidelines.

Written feedback is also welcome. Please send suggestions and ideas to: guidelines@mass.gov 

Western Massachusetts Solar Forum — Tuesdays at noon — September 2023

A free, virtual community event

You are cordially invited to attend the Western Massachusetts Solar Forum, which will be held virtually on Tuesdays at noon in September 2023.  UMass Clean Energy Extension is currently working with members of the Western Massachusetts state delegation (State Senator Jo Comerford and State Representative Mindy Domb), as well as a planning committee of solar photovoltaic (PV) stakeholders and experts, to plan the Forum.   Please join us for a series of online public discussions and information-sharing sessions regarding the opportunities and challenges associated with solar PV development and installation in western Massachusetts.

https://www.amherstindy.org/2023/08/18/western-massachusetts-solar-forum-in-september/

June 2023–Remove Biomass options from state bills

The NoToxicBiomass Campaign’s two priority bills will be heard at hearings on Wednesday, June 28th. The Telecommunications, Utilities and Energy (TUE) Committees have scheduled a 10:00 am hearing (House) and a 1:00 pm hearing  (Senate) that will include:

  • S.2136/H.3210 closes the loophole that counts biomass as “non-carbon emitting” energy in the new Municipal Light Plants greenhouse gas emissions standard
  • S.2137/H.3211 ends subsidies for commercial-scale wood heating systems through Massachusetts’ alternative portfolio standard (APS)

To speak at the hearings, the deadlines to sign up are: June 26th at 5:00 pm for the 10am hearing; June 28th at 11:00am. for the 1:00 pm hearing.  

Last year our campaign succeeded in stopping subsidies for wood-burning power plants in Massachusetts’ renewable energy portfolio standard (RPS). Now it’s time to finish the job and stop subsidizing burning wood for energy in Massachusetts’ other clean energy programs!

Please sign up to testify and/or submit written comments in support of these bills. You can testify in person or virtually, and/or submit written comments. Submit testimony separately to the House and the Senate TUE committees.

The deadline for written comments is Friday June 30th at 5:00pm.  Click here for talking points on the bills.

  • Other actions you can take are:
    • Ask your state reps to cosponsor the bills
    • Sign on to a group letter to TUE supporting the bills (organizations only)

For more information and for talking points, please visit the NoToxicBiomass website

June 2023 — Put Solar in the right places, where installations make sense

Alert from RF3 Coordinating Committee and SmartSolar WMass

WHAT YOU CAN DO NOW:

Write and call your legislators and ask them to support bills H.3230/ S.2164 which would establish a municipality’s right to reasonably regulate solar power locations and prevent exploitative and massively destructive solar development practices.

Testify at the hearings of these bills, online or if possible, in person, by completing the quick online request form and preparing a 3-minute testimony :

The procedure is different this session because the Joint committee on Telecommunications, Utilities and Energy (TUE) is holding separate hearings:

  • House members of TUE will hear testimony on solar regulation bills H.3230 and S.2164 on Tues June 20 from 10:00am to 1:00pmDetails
    • Register here by Friday June 16th at 5pm to provide a 3 minute testimony for the House members on Tuesday 
  • Senate members of TUE will hear testimony on solar regulation bills  H.3230 and S.2164 on Wed June 21 from 9:30 am – 1:00 pmDetails
    • Register here by Tuesday June 20th at 5pm to provide a 3 minute testimony for the Senate members on Wednesday

Send written testimony by Friday June 23rd, 5pm. Send it as an attachment to House members and Senators separately. See a sample template HERE

If you want to watch the hearing but not testify you can view the live stream under the Hearings & Events section here malegislature.gov/events 

Visit these websites to learn more:

Attend SmartSolarShutesbury’s June 26th online forum and other events to educate the public

Note: Other solar siting bills with similar goals, S.1319/H. 2082, were referred to the Joint Committee on Municipalities and Regional Government and we will notify you of that hearing as soon as we hear when it’s scheduled for. 

MORE:

Please consider offering oral and/or written testimony for H.3225 / S.2150  An Act to Encourage Solar Development on Buildings and Disturbed Land. Here is a fact sheet as well as talking points you can use, but also feel free to incorporate your own experiences and ideas.

There are other bills related to solar and solar siting. Please see this list to see if there are others that you are interested in commenting on. 

In addition to priority bills, please consider also supporting two other bills that are aligned with our priority:

  • H3229S.2163 An Act prohibiting public and ratepayer funding of clearcutting forests and woodlands
  • H.3144 / S.2089An Act promoting solar energy canopies on large parking lots

The NoToxicBiomass Campaign’s two priority bills will be heard at hearings on Wednesday, June 28th. The Telecommunications, Utilities and Energy (TUE) Committees have scheduled a 10:00 am hearing (House) and a 1:00 pm hearing  (Senate) that will include:

  • S.2136/H.3210 closes the loophole that counts biomass as “non-carbon emitting” energy in the new Municipal Light Plants greenhouse gas emissions standard
  • S.2137/H.3211 ends subsidies for commercial-scale wood heating systems through Massachusetts’ alternative portfolio standard (APS)

To speak at the hearings, the deadlines to sign up are: June 26th at 5:00 pm for the 10am hearing; June 28th at 11:00am. for the 1:00 pm hearing.  

Last year our campaign succeeded in stopping subsidies for wood-burning power plants in Massachusetts’ renewable energy portfolio standard (RPS). Now it’s time to finish the job and stop subsidizing burning wood for energy in Massachusetts’ other clean energy programs!

Please sign up to testify and/or submit written comments in support of these bills. You can testify in person or virtually, and/or submit written comments. Submit testimony separately to the House and the Senate TUE committees.

The deadline for written comments is Friday June 30th at 5:00pm.  Click here for talking points on the bills.

  • Other actions you can take are:
    • Ask your state reps to cosponsor the bills
    • Sign on to a group letter to TUE supporting the bills (organizations only)

For more information and for talking points, please visit the NoToxicBiomass website

June 2023 — Call or write to your Representative and tell them that the 2023 Farm Bill must include support for regenerative practices and programs for all farmers and ranchers!

Share Your Farm Bill Feedback with the House Agriculture Committee

Through June 9th 2023, the House Agriculture Committee is accepting public feedback on the 2023 Farm Bill. We’ve made it easy to share our top proposals that will ensure farmers and ranchers are supported in transitioning towards more regenerative practices, so click the button below and tell the Committee that you want a more regenerative and just Farm Bill this year!

Just copy and paste to share these key proposals with the Committee or view the fact sheet for more info:

Conservation, Title II – Advance conservation programs, education and technical assistance.

Credit, Title V – Increase producer access to flexible capital.

Research (Title VII) – Increase research on soil health and regenerative agriculture.

Crop Insurance (Title XI) – Remove barriers and recognize the risk reduction benefits of soil health in crop insurance. 

  • Pass the COVER Act to provide a $5/acre insurance premium subsidy to farmers who plant cover crops.

Help Amherst, Shutesbury and Pelham residents preserve acres of forest slated for massive solar arrays: visit Smart Solar Western Mass

Tell Maura Healey your thoughts about a healthy climate: visit SHARE YOUR IDEAS


Looking back– 2022 archive

November 2022 — Rally & Hearing in Greenfield about Northfield Solar Project

NORTHFIELD 76 ACRE PRIME FARMLAND SOLAR SPECIAL PERMIT APPEAL 

Rally at 8:30 am, Hearing at 9:00 on Monday, November 28, 2022, in Greenfield at the Franklin County Court House, 425 Main St.

The court will hear arguments about a special permit for solar arrays in Northfield on Pine Meadow Road. Northfield Planning Board granted the permit for three arrays on 76 acres. 

The rally calls attention to the loss of farmland for the sake of solar development, as well as ratepayer funding for “dual use” solar. This project is right near the Connecticut River in the “Northfield Farms” area, considered some of the richest farmland in the world. It has been continuously used for farming for thousands of years. This proposal is being funded by the MA solar SMART program.

Please attend, bring signs, spread the word. Here is an article from the Greenfield Recorder about the scope of the project.

September 2022 — State Land Designations Under Review–time for your input

The 2022 DCR Landscape Designation events are underway. Comments are due September 28th!

Climate Action Now, with Save Massachusetts Forests, RESTORE: The North Woods, Elders Climate Action and others groups encourage you to tell the DCR that all state properties, including the watersheds, should be designated “parks” or “reserves.” Land management in them would be similar to our National Parks, preserving intact ecosystems and protecting them from logging or other active management. This level of protection now exists for only 1% of the state’s land base. Here is the link to submit online.

View the info session Calling for Carbon and Biodiversity Reserves on Our State Lands: Serving the Public Interest ~ September 6, 2022.

Introductory remarks by Representative Lindsay Sabadosa. Speakers: climate scientist Dr. Bill Moomaw, Michael Kellett, Executive Director of RESTORE: The North Woods, and biologist Bill Stubblefield, Ph.D. 

While we are disappointed that the legislature did not take action on H.912 and H.1002, we now can say the same things to the Department of Conservation and Recreation (DCR) during its 10 year review of how our state parks and forests are managed. 

Click here for the Mass. Department of Conservation and Recreation Designations and Management Guidelines 10 year review website. The current DCR plan, written in 2012, is here

Your written comments will become part of the record and will be available for others to see on the DCR website. Written comments are due September 28th. 

Here is a sign on letter with a simple message:

We, the undersigned, call for state-owned lands administered by the Massachusetts Department of Conservation and Recreation, including all woodlands, reserves, watersheds, and undeveloped parklands, to be designated and permanently protected as Carbon and Biodiversity Reserves. These Reserves would protect intact ecosystems, which are influenced primarily by natural processes, with only minimal human interference. Limited management activities would be allowed if proven to be necessary to protect public safety, endangered species, or the environment.

Resources:

The Department of Conservation and Recreation (DCR) also regularly cuts trees for logging on public lands. Check out their plans for 2022 here.

September 2022 — Eversource proposes massive tree cutting along transmission power lines!

Eversource wants to cut all trees within 100 feet of transmission power  lines running from the Northfield Substation, through the towns of Erving, Wendell, Montague, Leverett, Shutesbury, Pelham, Belchertown, Amherst and Granby, to the Ludlow Substation in Ludlow, crossing two Environmental Justice communities: Wendell and Amherst.

Eversource has filed with MEPA (Massachusetts Environmental Policy Act Office) in order to move forward with its plan to cut over 370 acres of trees along the transmission power line corridor.

Send a comment to MEPA!  Go HERE for an action guide which will give you all the info you need. Please share with family and friends. 

The MEPA comment deadline was extended to September 23, 2022.

Check out this video of a meeting with Eversource called by Senator Jo Comerford