An important part of Green Newton’s mission is to advocate with local, state, and national governmental leaders to create and support legislation that protects the environment. We collaborate with other environmental groups, work with Newton Aldermen and the Newton Mayor to shape regulations and legislation, and encourage and provide information to individuals and businesses to make their voices heard about protecting the health and safety of the environment.
- Smart Growth: Newton’s Austin Street Development – Green Newton supports the Austin Street Development Project proposal, because of the numerous beneficial “green” features that the developers have committed to include in the plans. We call on the City to hold the developers to these, including:”LEED certifiable mixed-use building (Energy-efficient heating and ventilation systems, fixtures, and lighting along with rooftop solar power and EnergyStar appliances). • GreenStaxx building technology (Quality offsite modular construction with less community disruption). • Green terrace and rooftop garden. • Bike-friendly location with secure stations and storage. • Car-sharing (e.g. Zipcar), and electric vehicle charging. • Highly walkable location with supermarket, pharmacy, village shops, restaurants and commuter rail access. • Widened Austin Street sidewalk and improved Bram Way.”As the Board of Aldermen considers a Special Permit for the proposed Austin Street development, we urge that the City use its powers to ensure that the development maintain the features of environmental sustainability that have been promised by its promoters, in all phases of planning, construction and operation.
- Leaf Blower Restriction – Green Newton endorses timely action by Newton’s Board of Aldermen toward improved management of leaf blowers in the city. Our position is that their unrestricted use creates an unacceptable environmental harm in terms of excessive noise levels, polluting emissions including dangerous particulates, and lofting of dust and dirt including animal waste into the air over our city sidewalks and streets.The Board of Green Newton urges the Board of Aldermen to support measures that will be:
- Effective in controlling environmental harm, nuisance, and threats to public health
- Readily and consistently enforceable
- Clearly and widely communicated during implementation
- Progressive in restriction based on yearly review of city experience
To read a report, “Leaf Blowers and Health,” prepared for the Town of Lincoln Board of Health, by a study group in Feb. 2014 go to http://lincolntown.org/DocumentCenter/View/6597If you wish to follow Newton’s leaf blower issues visit:
Closing Pilgrim Nuclear Power Plant – Green Newton’s Board of Directors supports the non-binding Newton ballot measure to urge the closing of the Pilgrim Nuclear Power Plant in Plymouth. Pilgrim is a boiling water reactor with the same design as the Fukushima nuclear plant that experienced a disastrous partial core meltdown in 2011.The U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC) currently rates Pilgrim as its second worst nuclear plant despite granting the facility a 20-year extension when its 40-year license expired. The Boston Globe reports that the plant’s owner, Entergy Corp., is considering a shut down because of prohibitively expensive repairs needed to increase the safety rating. In the interim, it may go on operating in an unacceptably risky condition.Pilgrim currently supplies about 12% of our electrical power. One concern is that shutting it down now may risk more use of natural gas, which is a major contributor to climate change. Better options are to reduce our reliance on fossil fuels, while expanding renewable solutions and ramping up conservation efforts like never before. The likelihood of a catastrophic accident at Pilgrim is much too great a risk. A core meltdown like Fukushima’s or a major release of radioactive material from the spent fuel stored at the Pilgrim site would cause many deaths and potentially make a huge part of Massachusetts uninhabitable. Therefore, we urge Newton voters to support Newton’s non-binding ballot question urging the Governor to intervene with the NRC to close the plant as soon as possible.
Recent Past Initiatives
- Second Water Meters/Tiered Rates – Green Newton voices our support of the current proposal to rationalize water and sewer rates in Newton. It is our understanding that there are two basic concepts being proposed: (1) adding an option for property owners to request second water meters measuring outdoor water use only, and (2) instituting a tiered water rate structure.The first measure, the option of second water meters, would ensure greater “fairness” of water use charges. Under the current system, a sewer use charge is applied to all water use. The new system would disaggregate outdoor water use, recognizing the fact that outdoor water use does not increase flows in the sewerage system and so should not have a sewer use charge applied to it.The second measure, the tiered water rate structure, would create a progressive structure of water rates – protecting all users from unacceptable increases for the basic “life uses” of water while imposing increasingly higher rates on the largest users of water – and on outdoor water use as measured by second meters. Green Newton endorses the proposed changes, recognizing that they are inextricably linked to each other and, as such, are fundamentally supportive of water conservation principles that we support. The changes as proposed, and adopted together, will ensure that water and sewer user charges are fairly apportioned but at the same time would fairly charge outdoor water use as a “luxury” use of our water resources.
- Stormwater Fees and Impervious Surface – Green Newton supports the need for the City to increase fees for stormwater managemnet to account for current and future infrastructure and operational costs. We recognize that new Clean Water Act requirements will increase the City’s future costs in this regard and new revenue is needed. Moreover, if it is possible, we would like to see stormwater charges be based on the amunt of impervious surface on a propery. In this way, where properties are more fully paved or built upon, more water will flow into the stormwater system, and such properties, in fairness, ought to pay more in our opinion. We acknowledge there are difficulties in this approach, but support the City in it’s efforts to apply it to our stormwater rate structure.
- Newton Plastic Bag Reduction Ordinance 2015: PASSED! – GN advocated the passing of a ban on single use plastic bags in grocery stores and large retailers in the City of Newton. The purpose of the ordinance is to protect the environment and reduce trash while encouraging the use of reusable bags. This Ordinance will also reduce the use of paper bags, due to their greater use of natural resources and higher cost impacts on retailers. The Ordinance will be implemented in July 2015.The ban targets large supermarkets and retailers with stores of at least 3,500 square feet, or with two or more locations in the city, and bags that are given out at the point of sale only. It does not include plastic bags used to carry produce or other items to the point of sale, or dry-cleaning and newspaper bags.In addition, paper bags given out must be 100 percent recyclable, and made with at least 40 percent “post-consumer recycled content.”Establishments in violation of the new law will receive a warning for a first offense and will then be charged up to $300 for a fourth and subsequent offense.Smaller stores and thicker plastic bags are not included. Brookline, Nantucket, and Newburyport already have similar bans in place.
- Gas Tax 2014 – GN campaigned against a statewide ballot question that planned to eliminate a portion of the gas tax. Unfortunately, the passage of Question 1 in November 2014 eliminated this law that links the state gas tax to inflation. The decrease in funding represents a step backwards, causing our roads, bridges, public transportation, bikeways and sidewalks to fall into further disrepair. It threatens the gains we’ve made towards a sustainable, healthy, and equitable transportation system.
- Bottle Bill 2014 – GN lobbied strongly to support the passage of State Proposal #2 “The Bottle Bill.” The bill would have added a 5 cent deposit to non-carbonated beverages in Massachusetts and put the responsibility of cleaning up discarded beverage bottles on the drink producers rather than on municipalities and their denizens. Currently, more than 80% of bottles with deposits are redeemed / recycled, compared with less than 23% of bottles without deposits. The Proposal was defeated in November 2014, but GN continues to advocate for corporate responsibility.