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Activists Demand Climate Legislation 'In the 11th Hour'
By Brittany Polito, iBerkshires Staff
08:06PM / Monday, July 11, 2022
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There were 11 rallies across the state held at 11 a.m. to stress the bills are in the 11th hour with only four days left for passage.

Their are four bills in the Legislature addressing air quality, energy facilities, jobs and clean energy. 

PITTSFIELD, Mass. — Local activists are pushing for the state Legislature to adopt a series of strong climate bills, saying we are in the "11th hour" for such initiatives.

These include an act to improve outdoor and indoor air quality for communities burdened by transportation pollution; an act relative to energy facilities siting reform to address environmental justice, climate, and public health; an act for building justice with jobs; and an act transiting the state to clean electricity, heating, and transportation.

Berkshire Environmental Action Team, in conjunction with the Berkshire Branch of the NAACP, 350MA Berkshire Node, and statewide environmental coalition Mass Power Forward had a standout on Monday at Park Square to advocate for climate justice legislation.

"We're here today to push the Mass Legislature to pass a comprehensive, equitable energy bill," said Rosemary Wessel, program director for BEAT's No Fracked Gas in Mass.

"On Friday afternoon, we learned that there's a possibility that State House politics could result in no climate bill at all in this session, so they need to have a deliverable bill worked out by [July]15 at the latest and the word is from several sources that talks have completely broken down. So we need to ramp up the pressure and make sure that the legislature hears loudly and clearly that no bill is not an option."

This was a part of 11 simultaneous actions across the state held at 11 a.m. on July 11 to signify its proximity to the end of the legislative session on July 15. They're using the hashtag #MA11thhour

"BEAT's mission is to protect the environment for wildlife in support of the natural world that sustains us all," Executive Director Jane Winn said.

"So we're here keeping in mind that this work is not just all about us humans.  We are causing the sixth extinction, a massive loss of biodiversity. We need our legislators to take action now."

The climate activists want to keep the biomass language in the Senate version of a bill to prevent biomass energy and to stop the state's "Future of Natural Gas" assessment.

West Side Neighborhood Initiative Chair Linda Kelley acknowledged how environmental justice is important for her neighborhood. She said the West Side is the lowest income area in the city — with a median income that is nearly half of the whole city — and its residents have a life expectancy shorter by almost a decade.

Kelley outlined a few reasons why the area is in great need of environmental justice. These include residents not having the upfront cash to invest in cleaner heating options like solar, health effects from "dirty sources of energy," and a lack of transportation options coupled with lower-income residents being forced to drive older and less efficient cars.

"The health of our overall community depends on environmental, economic, and social justice," she said.

"So if we are serious about clean air, if we are serious about climate change, and we should be, it's absolutely essential that it must be clean air for all."

Wessel also reported that the organization had luck with two larger peaker plants that have agreed to convert to renewable energy.

BEAT's "Put Peakers in the Past" initiative demands that the three peaking power plants located in Berkshire County revert to only renewable and clean alternatives. "Peaking" plants are used to meet periods of high energy demand.
The decades-old plants at Pittsfield Generating Co. on Merrill Road, the Eversource substation on Doreen Street, and the EP Energy plant on Woodland Road in Lee run off fossil fuels such as natural gas, oil, and kerosene. Pittsfield Generating is a co-generating plant that also provides steam energy.

Wessel reported that the Doreen Street plant and the Woodland Road plant are going to be transferring over to grid storage by the end of 2023.

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