Climate Change Mitigation and Preparedness

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Governor Patrick    FY 2015 Budget Recommendation:
    Key Initiatives

    Deval L. Patrick, Governor

Of the challenges the Commonwealth will face in the near and long term, few have the potential to have a greater impact on our way of life than climate change. Though Massachusetts accounts for only a small amount of national and global greenhouse gas emissions (GHG), the Patrick Administration has lead by example by both increasing Massachusetts renewable energy generation and simultaneously reducing the amount of fossil fuel energy used.

Clean Energy Progress (2007-2013)
Title: Clean Energy Progress (2007-2013) - Description: This picture compares clean energy technology growth in the Commonwealth from 2007 to 2013.  In 2013, there is substantially more clean energy technology.

Title: Renewable Energy Generation in Massachusetts - Description: This picture the growth in renewable energy generation in Massachusetts from 2003 to 2011.  There is significantly more renewable energy in 2011.

Despite these successes, scientific evidence overwhelmingly points to the inability to prevent climate impacts in our communities through mitigation alone. It has become increasingly apparent that the impacts of climate change will affect the Commonwealth’s infrastructure, environment, economy and livelihood over the next century. The Commonwealth needs to begin preparing now to face a new reality.  Key climate change predictions in Massachusetts include:

Title: Dam Flooding  - Description: This is a picture of Governor Patrick observing a flooded dam with a firefighter.

The Commonwealth has already weathered a number of recent storms that point to a changing climate.  While it is difficult to link any individual event directly to climate change, we should take lessons learned from recent severe storms across the state and apply best practices as we begin to prepare for the increasing intensity of storms predicted by scientists. In addition, the summer of 2012 saw a significant increase in Eastern Equine Encephalitis (EEE) that necessitated aerial spraying, and in the summer of 2013, oyster beds had to be closed for the first time in the history of Massachusetts, at significant cost to shellfishermen, because of vibrio parahaemolyticus. Recovery from these disasters comes not only at significant cost to the Commonwealth, but also slows our economic growth, displaces families and businesses and changes the fabric of our communities. In order to continue leading by example on climate change issues, functioning as a hub of innovation, talent and resolve, we must adapt to our changing climate in addition to continuing to reduce our dependency on fossil fuels.

Climate preparedness will require initiatives across government agencies. In FY 2015, the Patrick Administration will expand its climate change efforts through a $52 M cross-secretariat investment in a comprehensive climate change preparedness plan using operating, capital and trust resources.

Transportation Preparedness

Our transportation assets have been built to withstand prior weather patterns, leaving them vulnerable to extreme changes in climate. Additionally, transportation infrastructure is vital to creating economic growth, job creation and support for communities. Impacts that threaten these assets also threaten the Commonwealth’s ability to grow. To address this issue, the Administration will conduct a statewide vulnerability assessment for all state-owned transportation assets and adopt climate adaptation plans to provide a blueprint for protecting our infrastructure from harm.

Energy Resiliency

The ability to generate power during natural disasters and under new environmental stress is essential to the public safety, public health and economic vitality of the Commonwealth. The New England Power Generators Association (NEPGA) represents 92% of all generating capacity in the Commonwealth, with facilities located in 25 cities and towns. The Administration’s EOEEA, in partnership with NEPGA, will distribute a survey identifying resiliency efforts taken or planned to date at our generation facilities and soliciting feedback on recommended steps to improve the preparedness of generation facilities. 

Additionally, the Department of Energy Resources (DOER) will use its trust resources to launch a $40 M energy resiliency initiative to protect citizens of the Commonwealth from interruptions in energy services due to severe climate events exacerbated by the effects of climate change.  Funds will be largely distributed to cities and towns to harden critical energy services for public works, community services, fuel supplies, public health, food, communications and recovery resources as well as support clean energy technology. 

Lastly, the Department of Public Utilities (DPU) has begun developing alternatives to traditional regulation by creating the right regulatory environment to encourage investments in system hardening, new communication systems and “self-healing” grid technologies, as well as improved monitoring of service quality.

Protecting Our Communities

Title: City of Boston Sea Levels in 100 Years - Description: This photo displays projected sea-levels in Boston 100 years from now. Many of today's landmarks, such as Faneuil Hall are shown under water.

Due to the Commonwealth’s particular vulnerability to rising sea levels, the Office of Coastal Zone Management (CZM) will assess the vulnerability of our coastal communities. In order to address these vulnerabilities, the Patrick Administration will invest $10 M in capital funds toward our critical coastal infrastructure. Within this investment, EOEEA will offer municipal grants to reduce or eliminate community risk associated with coastal storms and sea level rise. Further, as natural systems such as sand dunes and salt marshes often prove to be the best defense against natural disasters, EOEEA will also implement a series of Green Infrastructure for Coastal Resilience pilot projects, to reduce storm surges and control flooding. In addition, the Patrick Administration is making efforts to consider future climate patterns across various state planning processes, including plans for future state building and infrastructure construction, and in emergency management planning and procedures.

Improving Data

In order to most effectively plan for climate change, we need to ensure that we are using the best available data. The Commonwealth will officially appoint a state climatologist due to the need to analyze complex climate data and science in order to assist state agencies and municipalities in understanding climate change impacts. Recognizing that the Office of Geographic Information (MassGIS) plays an important role in understanding the impacts of climate change at the local level, EOEEA will provide MassGIS with resources to expand its current data capabilities to assist municipalities in adapting to climate change. Additionally, the Patrick Administration will complete light and radar (LiDAR) mappings of the Commonwealth in order to model riverine flooding and storm surge, as well as assess the vulnerability of our built infrastructure and critical habitats.

Addressing Public Health Exposures

Unlike many states, Massachusetts has local boards of health (LBOH) for each of its 351 cities and towns. In order to provide LBOHs with a centralized source of information, the Department of Public Health (DPH) will develop state-level resources to identify areas of special concern, draft model strategies and enhance education and training related to climate change public health issues.

With the small but continued rise in water temperatures, the presence of vibrio bacteria in Massachusetts oysters will likely increase.  Without the proper resources to detect and monitor these bacteria, the Commonwealth will face increased risk of food-borne illnesses and more frequent and prolonged closures of oyster beds, which will impact the Commonwealth’s commercial fishing industry.  To address this issue, DPH and the Department of Fish and Game will conduct a needs assessment of current capacity of vibrio response and DPH will begin planning to anticipate other potential threats to food safety and likely increases in food-borne illness due to climate change.  Additionally, DPH will collaborate with the Department of Agricultural Resources to conduct a needs assessment to identify gaps in monitoring exposures to vector-borne diseases. Finally, as maintaining infrastructure associated with potable water is critical to the public health and safety of Massachusetts residents, the Department of Environmental Protection will help communities identify and address vulnerable elements of their critical water infrastructure.

Prepared by the Executive Office for Administration and Finance ·
For more information email: (617) 727-2040