Senator Sal DiDomenico Passes Action Plan in Response to Climate Change Bill

Senator Sal DiDomenico (D-Everett) and his colleagues in the Massachusetts Senate recently passed S.2196, a bill to establish a comprehensive adaptation management action plan in response to climate change. This is the fifth time such a plan has been passed by the Senate: first in July 2014; then July 2015; followed by January 2016; and as part of the Energy Diversity bill in June 2016.

“As a Commonwealth and a nation, we can no longer wait to properly address and plan for the harmful realities of climate change,” said Senator DiDomenico, Vice Chair of the Senate Committee on Ways & Means. “This critical piece of legislation will put Massachusetts at the forefront of innovation when it comes to addressing climate change by creating a long-term, preemptive strategy that will help to protect our environment, as well as invest in our local economy and infrastructure. I am proud to have voted in favor of this bipartisan bill, and I look forward to advocating for its passage as it moves to the House of Representatives for consideration.”

A comprehensive adaptation management action plan (CAMP) would be established through a collaboration led by the Secretary of Energy and Environmental Affairs and the Secretary of Public Safety and Security. The plan would codify for the Baker Administration and all future administrations the goals, priorities and principles for resiliency, preservation, protection, restoration and enhancement of the Commonwealth’s built and natural infrastructure, based on data around existing and projected climate change impacts including temperature changes, drought, inland flooding and sea level rise. The plan would go into effect in 2018 with an update every five years.

“If gone unchecked, severe weather will wreak immense havoc on Massachusetts,” said Senate President Pro Tempore Marc R. Pacheco (D-Taunton), founding chair of the Senate Committee on Global Warming and Climate Change and original sponsor of the bill. “An adaptation plan must be codified in statute to protect our economy, public health and built and natural infrastructures. We can make our communities more resilient to the harmful effects of climate change by using our unique system of federalism to forge our own paths and organize for survival. This is the fifth time the Senate has sent resiliency legislation to the House, and it is high time that these protections make their way to the Governor’s desk.”

“The recent historically damaging and powerful hurricanes have put climate change at the forefront of international issues,” said Senate President Stan Rosenberg (D-Amherst). “We believe it is essential for us to act right now, at least on the key issues of adapting to the potential change, being ready for them and reducing emissions. Senator Pacheco’s bill once again puts Massachusetts in a leadership role on a critical issue. If we don’t plan and adapt for climate change now, we will pay dearly down the road, both in terms of potential harm to our residents and in dollars we will have to spend. This bill creates a proactive, long-term strategy to deal with the realities of our changing climate.”

“Merely reacting to climate change is not cost-effective, and it can have many advance consequences,” said Senate Minority Leader Bruce Tarr (R-Gloucester). “Having a dynamic and responsive plan can maximize the potential for success in addressing the impacts we must face on this front.”

Through the legislation, a comprehensive adaptation management action plan advisory commission would be established through the Executive Office of Energy and Environmental Affairs and the Executive Office of Public Safety and Security. The committee would be charged with producing a report that documents the preparedness and vulnerabilities in the Commonwealth’s emergency response, energy, transportation, communications, health and other systems. The group would also put forth a proposal that establishes and commits to sound management practices while compiling data on existing and projected sea-level rise using the best available science.

The legislation also establishes a regional, comprehensive climate change adaptation management plan grant program to aid in the development of regional adaptation plans. The program consists of financial assistance to municipalities for the development and implementation of comprehensive cost-effective adaptation management plans; technical planning guidance for adaptive municipalities through climate vulnerability assessments and adaptation strategy development; and development of a definition of impacts by supporting municipalities conducting climate vulnerability assessments. The grants shall be used to advance efforts to adapt land use, zoning, infrastructure, policies and programs to reduce the vulnerability of the built and natural environment to changing environmental conditions that are a result of climate change. The Secretary of Energy and Environmental Affairs shall also develop and implement an outreach and education program about climate change and its effects in low-income and urban areas.

The bill also creates a coastal buy-back program authorizing the Executive Office of Energy and Environmental Affairs to acquire, by voluntary purchase, property abutting areas subject to tides or barrier beaches or located in velocity zones of flood plain areas that contain structures repeatedly damaged by severe weather. Prior to the acquisition of land under this section, the executive office shall, after consultation with the municipality in which the land is located, develop a conservation and recreation management plan and a coastal erosion mitigation and management plan.

The bill now goes to the House of Representatives for consideration.

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