In an impassioned floor speech during the waning moments of the legislative session last Friday evening, State Rep. Dan Ryan delivered on a promise made earlier in the session to push for passage of an Environmental Justice (EJ) bill.
There were several iterations of EJ legislation this session and in sessions past. The omnibus bill that passed on Friday evening was a forward-thinking climate change and emissions reducing bill entitled An Act Creating a 2050 Roadmap to a Clean and Thriving Commonwealth. The legislation set reduced emissions goals for the next thirty years. Ryan, in his floor remarks, stated that the COVID-19 pandemic has exasperated the realities of gateway cities and urban communities that bear the brunt of environmental degradation. The EJ amendment ensures that communities like Chelsea and Charlestown, that have overwhelmingly shouldered an inordinate amount of our region’s infrastructure, will have a greater stake in future planning.
“As we have read in the news, the COVID-19 crisis has not only exasperated the conditions of our densely populated urban communities, but have also highlighted the inequities in our gateway cities, our communities of color and our immigrant populations. None of these issues were news to the people of Chelsea and Charlestown,” said Ryan. “We have been dealing with environmental injustice for over a century. In that light, 2050…will be here before you know it.” Ryan later added, “the time to fix the environmental sins of the past is now.”
The amendment in question, Amendment #52, was overwhelmingly adopted and added to the Roadmap 2050 final bill. There was a series of stand-alone EJ bills introduced at the beginning of the legislative session eighteen months ago. Of particular note, the amendment language that was adopted emulated an early EJ bill sponsored by Representative Adrian Madaro (D- East Boston), co-sponsored by Ryan, and worked on and advocated for by Chelsea GreenRoots and other environmental groups. These bills were originally assigned to the Joint Committee on The Environment and had passed favorably out of committee. The Roadmap bill, because of its regulatory nature, was carried to the floor by the Joint Committee on Telecom, Utilities and Energy. Ryan also secured adoption of key necessary reforms of the gas industry in the final bill. These amendments will ensure worker and community safety while also helping the environment.
“This bill, and these amendments, presented an opportunity for me to weave together two of my legislative priorities,” said Ryan, who has emerged as a legislative leader on workplace safety issues and has earned the ranking of ‘Environmental Champion’ by the Environmental League of Massachusetts (ELM). “We added important pieces to this bill that will reform the way we install and monitor our natural gas infrastructure. These amendments protect workers, our communities and our natural environment.” The amendments referred to include Amendment #28, authored by Ryan, which would require gas gates in future natural gas infrastructure maintenance, as well as Amendment #40, Field Safety in Gas Infrastructure, offered by Rep Frank Moran (D-Lawrence) and co-sponsored by Ryan, as a direct response to the Merrimack Valley gas explosions. “These reforms protect our environment by more closely monitoring maintenance work being done to our gas systems, particularly in our older more urban areas, but more importantly they ensure public safety by protecting workers and consumers alike. This bill sets a goal for zero emissions in 2050, but there are also immediate fixes that can occur now. These amendments do just that.”
The Roadmap 2050 bill will now go to conference with the Senate and onto the Governor.