We need a RGGI for Transportation

Last week, 5 Northeastern states along with Washington, DC announced their intention to explore a market-based program similar to the Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative (or RGGI) to reduce emissions from transportation.

This is a great idea and I hope that Massachusetts joins these states in creating a strong regional program to cover transportation.

Why is this a great idea?

The short answer is that creating a market-based program like the Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative in the transportation sector would help create a cleaner, more efficient transportation system for the region. In the process, we can create jobs, save consumers and businesses money, and drive economic growth.

According to the report issued by the Georgetown Transportation and Climate Initiative, when combined with existing state and federal policies, a market-based system could help reduce emissions by 40%, save consumers up to $72 billion and create over 90,000 jobs in the region by 2030.

The long answer requires a bit of background on the RGGI program and some of the core challenges facing the region in transportation and climate policy.

What is RGGI?

RGGI is a regional program created by a network of states in the Northeast and Mid-Atlantic region. The core of the RGGI program is a requirement that big utilities that emit large quantities of global warming emissions purchase allowances sold at regional auctions. The requirement to purchase these allowances holds utilities accountable for their emissions and creates an economic incentive to reduce pollution as much as possible. Moreover, by limiting the total number of allowances available, RGGI guarantees overall regional emission reductions.

At the same time, the sale of allowances at these regional auctions raises money, which is then invested in projects that reduce consumer costs. In Massachusetts, the RGGI program is one of the primary funding sources for our efficiency programs that have helped make Massachusetts the most energy-efficient state in the nation.

The “triple win” that defines the success of the RGGI program is that by investing in efficiency and low-carbon technologies, RGGI saves consumers money, reduces pollution and improves economic performance.

The Transportation Challenge

The biggest limitation to the RGGI program right now is that it only applies to electricity. While generating clean electricity is important, electricity is responsible for only 20 percent of total emissions in Massachusetts.  Our largest source of pollution is transportation.

Solving the climate challenge in transportation requires significant new reforms and investments. We need more public transportation. We need to invest in new technologies, such as electric vehicles and low-carbon fuels. We need to be doing more to encourage active transportation by creating communities where walking and biking are real choices for people. And we need to make housing more affordable in areas with convenient access to public transportation.

At the same time, responding to the climate crisis also requires us to make our transportation system more resilient to climate change. From the billions in damage to the New York and New Jersey transportation system in Hurricane Sandy to the devastating storms in Massachusetts last year, it’s clear that more intense storms and floods are going to create challenges for our transportation systems. Protecting our transportation system from climate change will require billions in new infrastructure investments.

Unfortunately, the actual agencies responsible for making the needed reforms and investments are broke, and since the primary source of transportation funding is the gas tax, everything we do to reduce gasoline consumption is making the transportation agencies more broke.

What would Transportation RGGI look like?

The good news in the TCI report is that the RGGI “triple win” of reduced consumer costs, reduced pollution and increased economic growth can be replicated in the transportation sector.

The TCI report evaluates a model in which states would use some kind of pricing mechanism to raise funds to invest in sustainable regional transportation. While the report leaves open the possibility of different kinds of pricing strategies, the most straightforward approach would be to expand the existing requirement that electric utilities purchase allowances to transportation fuel distributors.

These auction sales would raise money that could then be used on projects that help reduce emissions and consumer costs and create a more resilient transportation sector. The report suggests that auction proceeds could be invested in improving public transportation in the region, investing in new technologies, promoting active transportation, and expanding housing opportunities close to transportation, while also looking at new transportation systems technologies to increase efficiency and reduce congestion.

The result for residents of the region would be cleaner air, less time spent in traffic, less money spent at the pump and a stronger and more resilient regional economy.

I hope that our elected leaders take advantage of this great opportunity to build a stronger transportation system for the state.


Daniel Gatti is Executive Director of Massachusetts League of Environmental Voters (MLEV) and a consultant to the Massachusetts Campaign for a Clean Energy Future, which advocates for smart carbon pricing policies in MA. You can follow me on twitter @danielsgatti or @massenvirovoter. And while you’re at it like us on facebook too. 

Who's Going to Get Fulfilled at Amazon's New Fulfillment Center?

Amazon is coming to Fall River. The on-line giant announced last week that it will occupy a million-square-foot building that’s going to be built on the Fall River-Freetown line. The new warehouse, which in Amazon-speak carries the name “Fulfillment Center,” will join 50 or so similar facilities around the country.

So who among us can look forward to being fulfilled by the Fulfillment Center?

For starters, Amazon customers in Massachusetts, who can look forward to next-day delivery of their $600 premium foosball table with enamel screen-printed graphics or their Natura Bisse Oxygen Cream (immediately softens the most dehydrated skin, $88 for a 2.5 ounce jar).

Second, Amazon itself, which in addition to its profits gets more than $6 million in state and local tax breaks for choosing the Fall River site.

Third, Governor Charlie Baker, who’s pretty excited about it all (as is the predominantly Democratic Fall River area legislative delegation).

Anybody out there who’s not going to be so fulfilled?

Well, construction companies in Massachusetts, which lost out on the building contract.  That went instead to a company from East Rutherford, N.J.

And the people who will be working in the new Fulfillment Center? Amazon is promising 500 full-time jobs at an average salary of $35,000. Which might well sound good to people in Fall River right now, where the unemployment rate remains stubbornly high. But that average salary will still leave a Fall River family of four about $25,000 short of what they need to live on (and 500 jobs is only half the number of jobs Amazon was promising Fall River a year ago).

Then there’s the issue of the working conditions at Amazon’s Fulfillment Centers. The Allentown, Pennsylvania, Morning Call newspaper has been covering the working conditions at Amazon’s nearby Lehigh Valley Fulfillment Center for the past five years. Anybody contemplating an Amazon job in Fall River and anybody who is unequivocally keen on Amazon’s arrival in the state might want to take a look at the Morning Call‘s stories about life in an Amazon warehouse: punishing productivity quotas that result in the firing of workers unable to meet them and injuries to many who try (keep in mind that workers must cover a warehouse that’s size of 21 football fields); a management structure in which the real employer is not Amazon itself, but a temporary help agency called “Integrity Staffing Solutions,” which can take advantage of laws that limit its liability for unemployment insurance and can help reduce the risk of encroachment by labor unions through constant employee turnover; triple-digit temperatures in the warehouse during the summer (on this point, Amazon was at pains to say that it had arranged for paramedics to be in ambulances parked outside the warehouse to treat the severely dehydrated).

If you take another look at Governor Baker’s enthusiastic comments about Amazon’s arrival, you’ll notice that he’s very excited to help Amazon meet all its needs — and that the Massachusetts residents who will be working there are a mere afterthought:

“Our collaboration and partnership with Amazon is a good example of where the state has worked with, and will continue to work with, companies and help them meet their needs for everything from tax incentives to training new employees to permitting so that they can continue to grow in the Commonwealth.”

Points for honesty.


(Cross-posted here.)

Demonstrate Solar IS Civil Defense at the Boston Climate Defense Carnival

350 Maine, 350 Vermont, 350 Massachusetts, 350 New Hampshire & 350 Connecticut are organizing a Boston Climate Defense Carnival on Saturday, December 12, 2015 at 3:30pm – 5:30pm at Fanieul Hall, 1 Faneuil Hall Square, Boston, MA.

I’d like the Boston Climate Defense Carnival to demonstrate that
Solar IS Civil Defense

that by using simple Solar Principles

you can discover that
A South-facing Window Is Already a Solar Collector

and see at least six basic solar devices in a single plastic bottle

Education Reform in Newark

  I just read a wonderful book on the devastating effects of education reform in Newark.  It helped me put together a long term perspective on these “education reform” efforts, and I wrote the following essay.  I hope you find it useful.

One thing that really struck me.  These “reformers” are relentless in pursuing their agenda, over a period of decades.  And, like Republicans, they are completely resistant to the decades of facts that show that their agenda does not improve student learning.  This is, of course, because student learning is the last thing they care about.

I would be interested in your feedback.  Enjoy!

Sue Offner




I just finished reading The Prize by Dale Russakoff.  It is well worth the read.  It describes the changes in the Newark Public Schools resulting from Mark Zuckerberg’s eye popping $100,000,000 donation to them.


Several things struck me about this book:


1. The Newark Public Schools are woefully underfunded.


2. In spite of many well-attended community meetings, the leadership (Zuckerberg, Cory Booker, Chris Christie) knew exactly what they wanted to do and did it anyway.  The community meetings were just a sham – the thousands of people attending them had no meaningful input.


3. The playbook was the standard playbook – close many “failing” schools, replace them with charters, fire many teachers and other school workers, disrupt the lives of hundreds of students by transferring them to new and unfamiliar schools.


4. Sweeten the pot for charters by lavishing large amounts of money from Zuckerberg’s donation on them.  This paid for useful things – extra teachers in the classrooms, social workers and other support staff that could help students needing extra help and, of course, newly refurbished facilities.  Mind you, this extra money wouldn’t last forever, but in the short run, they make the charter schools seem attractive.  And by the time the money runs out, the public schools are badly damaged.


5. What struck me most about this “reform” is how exactly the same improvements could be made in the regular public schools if there was enough money, and if they money got to the classrooms, and not into a bloated central office bureaucracy.


Let’s go back to the issue of funding.  Ronald Reagan was elected President in 1980.  His first major initiative was to:


1. Double the military budget in peacetime.


2. Give an equal amount of money to the top 1% in the form of tax cuts.


3. Greatly reduce federal aid to the states.  Massachusetts saw a $600,000,000 cut in federal aid (this is 1980 dollars).  As a result, state aid to cities and towns was slashed, and local school boards were left to make up the difference, either by raising property taxes (regressive, and always unpopular), or by cutting the school budget.  They coped in many ways, one of which was to defer maintenance.  Unwilling to cut services directly (increase class size etc.), they instead raided the maintenance budget to pay for the day-to-day running of the schools.  This can work for a year or two, but after 35 years, you wind up with the situation in Newark, and indeed all over the  country, where the school buildings are literally falling apart.


These policies were continued under both Bush presidencies, squeezing the public schools, and, indeed, all human services, even more.


The remedy for all this is money – lots of money, reliably available every year, and funded by taxes.  All the schools in the country need to be rebuilt, not just a few “charter schools,” and with taxpayer money, not philanthropy, which comes and goes, has many strings attached and is not accountable to an elected body.


What was most striking about the book was how an infusion of serious money could transform regular public schools into much higher performing schools simply by paying for the things that private philanthropy pays for in charter schools.


They gave the example of a particularly gifted kindergarten teacher who had taught successfully for many years in the Newark Public Schools, and who was deeply committed to the public schools, as opposed to charter schools.  But in 2014, she left the public school for a charter school.  Why?  In her public school class, she had a class with two disturbed children who would throw furniture at her and the other students.  Her repeated requests for an aide who could help her handle this situation went unheeded.  Then she went to the charter school.  She has a class of 26 children.  In the classroom are also another full time teacher and a learning specialist who conducts small sessions with students in groups of eight or nine.  When she has a disruptive student, the administration sends in a social worker to help.  All of this is paid for with Zuckerberg’s philanthropy.


This example made a deep impression on me and left me with several questions:


1. It’s obvious that exactly the same interventions, paid for with taxpayer money (the money stolen by Ronald Reagan and his successors), done in the regular public school in this same teacher’s class would have had exactly the same result.  This is how education should be funded.


2. What happens in ten years, when the charter school philanthropy money runs out?  We will be left with a shattered public school system, whose faculties are being decimated and whose buildings are being destroyed.  I doubt we have the money to rebuild the system.  And the charter schools, without the extra support will be even worse.  Their model is high teacher turnover.  This, in the long run is not good for a school or for students.  Interestingly, through all the upheaval caused by the education reform in Newark, the test scores did not improve.


My final question is the really big one.  To me, charter schools and the education reform movement are simply stealth ways of destroying the public schools.  Public schools are an enormous middle class entitlement.  They also, collectively have a budget of approximately $700 billion per year.  This is over 4% of the GDP.  There are all kinds of venture capitalists who can’t wait to get their hands on this money to enrich themselves and their friends.  They are willing to invest enormous sums of money to destroy the public schools, using the rhetoric, of course, of “improvement.”  It is vital that they be stopped in their tracks immediately.


The implications for MTA and NEA are enormous.  The movement to destroy public schools (“education reform”) is a well organized, national movement, with a long perspective.  They have already been at it for several decades, and, despite repeated failures, they persist with their agenda.  They are not interested in student achievement, and will not change their behavior just because the facts don’t support their assertions.  The only way to counter this is for NEA and state affiliates such as MTA to also take a decades long view.  The first thing to do would be to document and publicize the amount of money cut from school budgets since 1980.  I’m sure it will be hundreds of billions of dollars.  The next thing would be to show what could be done with that money right in the context of today’s public schools.  I know this is a massive undertaking, but it is what is necessary to counter the education “reformers.”


It might seem surprising that, in spite of this philanthropy, the test scores in Newark did not improve.  And yet this is perfectly understandable if you look at how charter schools work.  They mainly rely on bright, young, idealistic and totally inexperienced teachers to do the teaching.  They burn them out within a few years, ensuring that there will always be inexperienced teachers in the classroom.  And they give them highly scripted lesson plans to follow.  This is not a recipe for engaging or inspiring teaching.  To the contrary, it encourages rote learning without the engagement that is so essential to genuine achievement.  Students at charter schools may be well behaved, but they are not being inspired.

Close vote against Olympics in Hamburg

Since it was quite the topic here a few months back, readers might be interested to know that voters in Hamburg and Kiel are split on the 2024 Olympics, with “no” leading by a very slim margin (51.9%), and counting still going on.  If that is the final result, it will be a surprise, as polls showed a clear majority in favor.  However, the attacks in Paris and the costs of the refugee crisis seem to be damping down enthusiasm for the Games.  They are projected to cost over 11.2 billion euros (about $11.9 billion) with a lot of urban development for Hamburg wrapped up in that price. Some background at http://www.dw.com/en/hamburg-votes-on-2024-olympics-bid/a-18882770

If you read German, there is a live blog from NDR up at https://www.ndr.de/sport/olympia/Ja-oder-Nein-Die-Olympia-Entscheidung-im-Live-Blog,referendum122.html

The Press Is Enabling the Nutty Right

The press is really despicable. This poll that everybody is citing saying that 69% of the American people think that an attack is imminent is true. What they don’t mention is that a year ago the same 69% thought that an attack was imminent. This is a very rational belief.   The real story here is that this rational belief has been unaffected quantitatively by recent events.

This ersatz interpretation of the poll is either lazy or despicable.  One thing is clear.  It is irresponsible:  it creates an entirely false impression of panic that plays into the hands of the Cruzes and the Trumps.  The real story is not being told. The real story is that the American people are not being cowed by the terrorists. Nor are the French people. Nor are the Lebanese people.  I’ve seen no indication the people of Mali or Nigeria or Israel or Tunisia or Great Britain or Spain are being cowed despite the violence in those countries – even horrific levels of violence in the case of Nigeria.  Terrorism does not work – with one exception:  it greatly excites the press.

So Let's Go Ahead And Say It Aloud: The Democratic Leadership In This State Had A Bad Year

The policy outcomes are being derailed by the politics inside the building.

That was state Senator Daniel Wolf’s assessment when he spoke to the Boston Globe shortly after the 2015 legislative session ended last week.  That article emphasized how the “legislative session sputtered to an end,” and, indeed, it did.  But our leaders on Beacon Hill were quick to stress the need to take a longer view.  “If you look at our body of work, it has been good,” said House Speaker Robert DeLeo, presumably with a straight face.

Now back at their districts, he and others will undoubtedly spin the same narrative to their supporters at various fundraisers and local party breakfasts.  And most of us in attendance will clap, clap clap and heap praise upon them when they do.  But it’s far past time for those of us who give a damn to call out this nonsense.  It was a bad year for the Democratic leadership in this state, generally, and for the House leadership, in particular.

At the start of the year, as our state’s public transit system faltered, House Democrats made DeLeo Speaker For Life, abolishing the term limits that he placed on his Speakership just six years ago.  In doing so, they stressed the need for experienced leadership in the House.  Five weeks later, as entire rail lines remained shut down, that wonderfully experienced House Leadership scoffed at the idea actually doing something it.  Meanwhile, a host of well-connected Democratic leaders from across the state backed several half-baked versions of a Boston 2024 Olympics proposal and consumed much of the remaining local political oxygen in the process.  And as that effort halted during the first half of the year, so too did activity on Beacon Hill.  In fact, the Legislature took the fewest number of roll call votes during that time span in a generation!

The progressive case for Hillary Clinton

I figured I’d start another diary rather than further sidetrack the one about HRC’s position on and reaction to the ISIS threat.  I want to directly address the objections some have made to the idea that Clinton is progressive and flesh out more why I think claiming she is otherwise is an unproductive appeal to purity and absolutism, or as I have been known to put it, the Democratic equivalent of the “Tea Party” (which, too be fair, some have argued is exactly what the doctor ordered).

There are two websites that I find to be thorough and instructive both in placing various candidates on the political spectrum and in comparing them to each other.  The first is Project VoteSmart which, inter alia, lists the rankings various interest groups have assigned to those who have been legislators during the course of their careers.  Not all the groups are well-known and I would argue some are even misnamed.  (For example, I’m sure if the “Campaign for Working Families” really were that, HRC would have a much higher ranking from them.)  However, even if you just go by the groups listed in the liberal and conservative categories you would find that she is much better identified with the former than the latter.  You can also click from the linked page to find votes, speeches, and funding sources.

The second website is OnTheIssues which lists a series of statements followed by legislative history, but for a quick visual scroll to the bottom and you will find that HRC is positioned pretty close to the left corner, in the left-liberal segment with plenty of room to spare.  If you scroll through the itemized list and check those you agree with you may find yourself surprised (as I was) how liberal she really is on some things.  This site spans an entire career, in this case including statements made while still working at Rose Law Firm.  For fun, take the quiz yourself and drop results in the comments.  I was most closely matched to HRC with 78% compatibility though other quizzes have matched me with Sanders.

Both of these sites cover all candidates and electeds and not just for the presidency, so look around, click through, compare Clinton to others, etc.  I am in no way arguing that she is more progressive than Sanders (In fact, he is directly planted on the far left corner in the OnTheIssues diagram.), but I really hope this can put to bed once and for all the myth that Hillary Clinton is not a progressive.

Twenty Years for Non-Violent Drug Distribution

I can understand why we might want to crack down on fentanyl distribution. I can also understand why we may want to let people out of jail if they are serving long sentences for non-violent drug crimes. What I don’t understand is why we are doing both things at the same time.

Are you working on Thanksgiving?

Senator Warren often sends out emails about what she is working on, but this one in particular strikes me as a no-brainer, so I actually took the extra couple of seconds to click through and sign her petition.  This is one of those things where it is obvious there needs to be a law to guard against abuse, but also should be obvious that you shouldn’t treat someone this way law or not.  Why can’t people just have standardized shifts working the same hours every week?  If someone calls out sick time could be traded or it should ultimately be for the manager to cover.  There should also be certain days like Thanksgiving where a worker should have the right to veto his or her assignment that day without question or consequence.  Here is Sen. Warren’s message:


Do you have to work on Thanksgiving?

For some retail, restaurant, and fast food workers, the answer to that question could still be: “I don’t know.”

Half of low-wage workers say they have little or no say over the hours they are scheduled to work. 20-30% are in jobs where they can be called into work at the last minute. Others might think they’ll be working four hours – and getting paid for four hours – then are sent home after one or two because there aren’t enough customers.

Think about how much of a challenge it is to plan for anything – childcare, doctors’ visits, parent-teacher conferences, classes – without knowing when you’ll be working next week.

That’s why I’ve introduced the Schedules That Work Act to cut back some of the most rigid, unstable, and unpredictable scheduling practices. Please join me this Thanksgiving week to tell Congress that America’s workers need Schedules that Work.

Look, I get it. Sometimes employers need flexibility – and the bill allows for that. But routinely placing workers on-call with no guarantee of work, sending workers home early without pay, and punishing workers who request schedule changes all hurt working families.

There’s lots of talk about personal responsibility. But how does someone who depends on every paycheck plan a budget when her work hours can fluctuate 40-70% from week to week? How does a mother arrange for childcare if she doesn’t know if she’s working Thursdayor Saturday or Monday? And how does anyone get ahead – going back to school to qualify for a better job or getting a second job to close the gap – if they don’t know when they will be available?

The Schedules that Work Act is about basic fairness:

  • A single mom should know if her hours are being canceled before she arranges for daycare and drives halfway across town to show up to work.
  • Someone who wants to go to school to get an education should be able to ask for a more predictable schedule without getting fired just for asking.
  • A worker who is told to wait around on-call for hours with no guarantee of work hours should get something for his time.

Workers have always had to fight for a level playing field every step of the way. A minimum wage. Basic workplace safety. A 40-hour workweek. Now it’s time to fight again for some basic fairness in scheduling.

I’m ready to fight for America’s workers, but I need you alongside me. Sign up right now to show your support for the Schedules that Work Act.

Thank you for being a part of this, and Happy Thanksgiving to you and your loved ones!


Charlie Baker: Is That All There Is?

[Cross-posted at planetgrafton.com]

A good friend of mine asked me a couple weeks ago what I thought about Governor Baker so far.

“He’s been okay,” I said.

“I really like him,” he replied.

“Quick, what was Charlie Baker’s greatest accomplishment his first year in office?”

Blank stare.

Exactly.  Which isn’t to say that Charlie Baker hasn’t accomplished anything his first year in office.  But it does serve as a reminder that great poll numbers are not, in and of themselves, actual accomplishments.  Rather, great poll numbers serve as political capital to institute a Governor’s vision for the Commonwealth.

But what is Charlie Baker’s vision for Massachusetts?

The Governor’s best moments so far have come in crisis-management moments.  He was rightly critical of the MBTA in the wake of last year’s costly public transit meltdown, and has since instituted a plan for improved service.  He has instituted policy reforms at DCF in the wake of the Bella Bond tragedy that even people within the agency are heralding as “long-awaited.”

Governor Baker’s pattern thus far is read and react.  He’s a management professional who reads institutional failure and moves forward quickly and unequivocally to institute common-sense management reforms.  Frankly, Massachusetts needs someone with that skill set as Governor right now.

The question is though:  Is that all there is? Is he just picking low-hanging fruit at this point?  Is it enough to simply respond to an agency failure?  At some point, shouldn’t there be a vision of what we want government to do before it fails us?   Does he even have a vision of Massachusetts that goes beyond tweeking state agencies and banning Syrian refugees from settling here?

Baker’s style is interesting to contrast with former Governor Deval Patrick’s style.  Patrick was, essentially, Baker’s opposite.  Patrick was a visionary who had an ideal in mind for Massachusetts and pursued it doggedly, often to the chagrin of Beacon Hill insiders who didn’t like his personality.  Specific agency management reforms were not, however, a strong suit.

With Patrick, you got education reform, pension reform, CORI reform, transportation reform and legalized gaming.  Big picture stuff.  But because of his relationship issues with two straight Speakers of the House (and others), his detractors will never let you forget about the Cadillac or the drapes.  He nixed a legislative pay-raise on his way out the door and the next thing you know, there’s an investigation about “secret accounts” leaked to the Herald.

Charlie Baker, meanwhile, has a fantastic relationship with our legislators.  They can’t stop talking about him in glowing terms.  One local Democratic pol told me how much easier it is to work with the new Governor, contrasted with the old one.

So, now freed from the imperial reign of Governor Patrick and his chaffing management style, how much has the legislature accomplished with a friendly face in the corner office?  Well, next to nothing, actually.

So much for all that.

I’m not trying to be needlessly contrarian in the face of a 74% approval rating.  That’s swell.  But the point of governing isn’t to be popular.  The point of governing is to govern, which can sometimes be decidedly unpopular.

So, the question about Governor Baker becomes: Is that all there is?

Boston Waterfront Development Must Address Climate Change

by Peter Shelley

Senior Counselor, Conservation Law Foundation (CLF)

It’s no news that Boston will likely face unprecedented environmental and public health threats associated with climate change. We know that sea levels will rise significantly. Even before rising sea levels start to threaten the Massachusetts coastline, we know that there is a high probability that the waterfront will see record storm surges. And we know that Boston is ranked as the sixth most vulnerable city in the nation for environmental damages associated with climate change.

Developers have proposed a large-scale luxury hotel complex out over the water at the end of Lewis Wharf in Boston’s North End—right in the center of the projected storm surge bull’s-eye.  The complex will itself be significantly at risk to flooding and storm damage but also will be one likely to exacerbate risks of damage to existing properties and neighborhoods. The area already floods, and this project would increase flooding—not stop flooding.

While it is one thing for a developer to put its own capital, customers, and employees at risk by constructing in an unsound location, it is completely another matter if there is even a risk that the development would increase the severity or frequency of storm-related or climate change-related effects to others.

For many in the immediate vicinity and the North End, this is personal. But this is not merely a local development fight. For us at Conservation Law Foundation, this comes down to whether the City of Boston and the state are committed to taking real action to increase resiliency of the waterfront to climate change or whether it will be business as usual.  Developers should not be allowed to build in high-risk flooding areas in the city; and development of present or former state tidelands should several the broadest public interests, not cater to private interests.

Increasingly intense and frequent storms surges and sea level rise are the new normal. The Lewis Wharf project and any other new waterfront development around Boston Harbor will define how seriously Massachusetts and the City of Boston intend to address and mitigate those coming threats. The proposed luxury hotel complex is not the right approach; it is irresponsible and dangerous to move forward with this project.


“Global warming is a total, and very expensive, hoax!”

The Guardian has helpfully assembled a selection of quotations from Republican leaders that outline their position on climate change and helps to explain why the GOP, a party that unites tens of millions of Americans, including Governor Baker, has become the “anti-science” party:

Donald Trump
Tweeted in November 2012: “The concept of global warming was created by and for the Chinese in order to make US manufacturing non-competitive.”

Tweeted in December 2013: “Global warming is a total, and very expensive, hoax!”

Tweeted in January 2014: “This very expensive GLOBAL WARMING bullshit has got to stop. Our planet is freezing, record low temps, and our GW scientists are stuck in ice” and “Any and all weather events are used by the GLOBAL WARMING HOAXSTERS to justify higher taxes to save our planet!” …

Marco Rubio …
Said in September 2015: “We’re not going to make America a harder place to create jobs in order to pursue policies that will do absolutely nothing, nothing to change our climate. America is a lot of things, the greatest country in the world, absolutely. But America is not a planet.”

Ben Carson
Said in November 2014: “There’s always going to be either cooling or warming going on. As far as I’m concerned, that’s irrelevant. You can ask it several different ways, but my answer is going to be the same. We may be warming. We may be cooling.”

Ted Cruz
Said in October 2015: “Climate change is not science. It’s religion. Look at the language, where they call you a denier. Denier is not the language of science. Any good scientist is a skeptic. If he’s not, he or she should not be a scientist. But yet the language of the global warming alarmists, ‘denier’ is the language of religion. It’s heretic. You are a blasphemer.”

John Boehner
Said in May 2009: “Every time we exhale we exhale carbon dioxide. Every cow in the world, you know when they do what they do you’ve got more carbon dioxide.” …

Leaving no City Behind-starting with Lynn

An inconvenient reality for too many in Massachusetts is that many of our poorest and most vulnerable residents are clustered in post-industrial cities that have missed out on the tech boom, biotech, and gentrification fueled real estate boom in cities like Boston, Cambridge, and Somerville.

I am really excited that our Governor, Congressmen, and a city manager with turnaround experience like John Ash are focused on revitalizing the Lynn waterfront and using it as a catalyst for smart, transit oriented growth. A great write up in the Globe gives more details for this effort. There is so much potential in this city, even the last time I drove through it I see a downtown with the potential for lofts, artisan spaces, cafes, and the kind of amenities that turned Slummaville into one of Money’s top 10 cities to life in.

Unlike other experiences, this can be done in a gradual and intentional way that takes existing residents concerns into account and makes their needs and goals the driver of development. The article doesn’t mention the existing political leadership in Lynn and the comments section include many criticisms of a corrupt local political culture and poor managers at City Hall and the School Department. Not sure if I can verify that or not, but I would like to hear more and see more of this effort across the state in places like Lawrence, Springfield, New Bedford, Fall River, Leominster, and others.

The Commonwealth’s Ratepayer Advocate Concludes that More Natural Gas Pipeline Capacity Is Not the Way to Save Electricity Customers Money


On November 20, the Boston Globe posted my opinion piece on Attorney General Maura Healey’s report on natural gas and the reliability of the electric system in New England.  The report’s analysis was done by the consulting firm The Analysis Group.

The bottom line finding of the study is that the region’s electric system will remain reliable through 2030 (the period the study examined) without any additional gas pipeline capacity.  An even more stunning finding, given the insistence in many quarters (including the Baker Administration) that additional pipeline capacity is necessary in order to lower electricity costs, is that increased investments in energy efficiency and demand response would actually lower electricity costs more than new gas pipeline capacity.  Note, especially in light of these findings, that the Attorney General is the state’s “ratepayer advocate,” charged with protecting consumers with respect to the cost of energy.

The study also found that even in the hypothetical “stressed system” scenario modeled, there would be only 26 hours of deficiency per year in gas supply, spread out over a maximum of nine days.

According to the report, increased pipeline capacity would also make it impossible for the region to achieve its climate-related goals.  (Actually, in Massachusetts, we have, by law, climate-related obligations, not just goals.)  By contrast, strategies like energy efficiency and the import of clean power could make future climate-related obligations less expensive and easier to achieve.

The climate-related findings seem self-evident.  Similarly, increasing our over-dependence on natural gas by using more of it seems like an obviously bad idea, and may have dangerous long-term implications for reliability.

It is important to note that the Attorney General’s study only relates to whether the region needs more natural gas pipeline capacity for electric reliability purposes and to lower the cost of electricity.  These are important questions, in light of the drumbeat that has been sounding the need for more pipeline capacity to address precisely these concerns.  However, note that the question of whether we need more natural gas for other purposes, like for building heating and for manufacturing, is outside the scope of the study.

Also outside the scope of the study is the question of whether changes in the law would be needed in order to impose the cost of additional natural gas pipeline capacity on electric ratepayers.  The Department of Public Utilities has already concluded, in an October 2, 2015 Order (D.P.U. 15-37), that no changes in law would be required.  It remains to be seen whether the SJC agrees with that conclusion.

In the meantime, the debate on whether we need additional gas pipeline capacity for electricity purposes has been vigorous, to say the least.  There are thoughtful studies on both sides of the issue.  Hopefully stakeholders on both sides will examine the conclusions of the studies with equal thoughtfulness.




Democratic pickup in the Bayou

Democrat John Bel Edwards has defeated Republican David Vitter in today’s runoff to become the next Governor of Louisiana, a state that has not elected a lot of statewide Dems in recent years.  The GOP Lt. Governor who had been a first round candidate actually endorsed Edwards over Vitter and the last numbers I heard gave Edwards a comfortable margin.

I canvassed for Hillary in NH today...

with Team Clark.  That’s Congresswoman Katherine Clark (MA-5).  Katherine fired up the troops with an inspiring pep talk then we all hit the streets of Portsmouth.

The response from undecided / independent voters was truly amazing.  Hillary Mo is building in New Hampshire.

So, I’m ready now to make my traditional Presidential Challenge  to any and all takers.  I bet a Lobsta Dinna that Secretary Hillary Rodham Clinton will be the 45th President of the United States.  Any takers ?  :)

Fred Rich LaRiccia


When you hear any politician promoting "Jobs and a Growing Economy", remember this:

In September of this year, my supervisor gave me the news that the company was making changes, going in a new direction, and my services were no longer needed.  I was 60 years old and out of work.  It was more of a relief than a surprise.  I had been living under threat of being laid off for months.  Now, it was finally over.  It was back in March that I suspected this day would come.  In April, I knew for sure  The company hired a new group of younger managers and I received my first ever negative job review.  No specifics were given, just broad generalities. I asked how I could improve without knowing what was wrong and was told, “Don’t worry about it.  Everyone is getting this review.  We all need to work together.”  I did what I could to become more efficient, eating my lunch at my desk, arriving early, staying late.  In April, I asked how I was doing and I was told, “Just great.”  The next week my desk was moved from a small office to a corner of the hallway.  I faced a building column.  I was told they needed the space.

I saw the handwriting on the wall, or in this case, the column, and looked for another job.  Right then, I knew my days were numbered.  I found a few places with job offerings that were similar to what I had.  I even received two job offers.  The problem was that these jobs paid 30-45% less than what I was making.  I sure my employer knew this as well.  No doubt he compared notes with his business friends and tried to cut costs whenever possible.  As far as the company bottom line was concerned, I was no different than a uniform supply company or a case of toilet paper. If he could get the same thing for less, he went with it.  As the saying goes: nothing personal, just business

I turned down the job offers and continued to search for more in the hope that I could find that needle in the haystack.  I cleared all my personal belonging out my “office” and waited for the eventual moment that arrived in September

Fortunately, being laid off without cause allowed me to file for and receive unemployment  I learned that I could work part time, earning no more than one third of my weekly unemployment payment, and make a few extra dollars, as long as I also continued to search for a full time job.  In November, I got that part time job, working as a clerk in a large retail outlet.  What I learned there inspired me to write this report.

I am 60 years old. I was Service Coordinator at major industrial products company.  I’ve been laid off for two months and been searching for a suitable job ever since.  Unable to find one, I have accepted a job as a stock clerk in a large retail store; a wee bit over minimum wage, twenty hours a week, no benefits.

It’s here that I met Manny.  Manny is in his late-50’s one kid in college, one in high school.  Manny was an Analyst for a major financial company and lost his job in 2008.  He is now working full time as a stock clerk and training me.

When I was having difficulty with the time clock (had not used on in over 40 years), Roberta helped me out.  She worked in the department next to me.  She told me she’s been working here for a year and still can’t get used to a time clock.    She used to be a Project Manager at a nearby medical device company.  Now at 62, she is a retail clerk.

I met Fred in the break room.  I had seen him there a few times, never speaking with anyone.  He looked to be in his late 60’s or early 70’s.  I sat next to him and struck up a conversation.   The axe fell for him back in 2001 when the company he worked for went bankrupt.  He lost his pension and much of his savings were in company stock. He got a check for $11 in the end.  A local apartment complex hired him as a maintenance man but when the recession of 2008 hit, he lost that job and just four years ago, was hired on here as a maintenance man.  I tried to console him with “At least you have a job” and he said, “Yeah, and I’m alive”.  Three of his coworkers at the bankrupt company had committed suicide.  He described what each one of them had as careers, family, hobbies, and then described the consequences of their life and how they killed themselves.  It seemed he did so out of respect for them, almost a eulogy.

Here are, all in out late 50’s to early 70’s, all well qualified, honest, industrious –  and working for minimum wage or close to it, just trying to bridge the gap until we might possibly be able to retire. The more I look around me the more of us I see.  At least we’re still here, I remind myself.  The fact is that an alarming number of us are just dying.   Here in the United Stated of America, people who have worked for the majority of their life are being devalued, cast aside, and taking their own life.

At the same time presidential candidates in both parties fail to address this issue with any more than lip service.  Some Republicans are even calling for increasing the age of eligibility for Social Security and Medicare. Meanwhile the economy continues to “grow” and there are “new jobs” as politicians in both parties promise, but they fail to mention that little if any of that growth will go to any of us.  And the jobs?  I just told you about four of them.

Joke Revue: "Trump’s Focus on Muslims Distracting Him from Campaign Against Mexicans, Supporters Fear"

Seamus memorial edition. R.I.P. old fellow.


Trump’s Focus on Muslims Distracting Him from Campaign Against Mexicans, Supporters Fear

NEW YORK (The Borowitz Report)—There are growing fears among supporters of the Republican Presidential candidate Donald Trump that his new focus on Muslims is distracting him from his campaign against Mexicans.

After the billionaire said he would consider shutting down mosques if he were President, supporters expressed concern that such signature proposals as a wall with Mexico and mass deportations were being lost in the shuffle.

Carol Foyler, who viewed a recent Trump appearance on television, said that she was “alarmed” to hear him talk about closing mosques “without mentioning the wall with Mexico even once.” “I just worry, I guess, that with all of this talk about Muslims he’s really forgetting about Mexicans,” she said. “It feels kind of like a bait-and-switch.”

Another Trump supporter, Harland Dorrinson, agreed. “Shutting down the mosques is a great idea, sure, but he shouldn’t do that if it’s going to divert resources from forcibly deporting eleven million immigrants,” he said. “I would be very sad to see that happen.”

But Tracy Klugian, a die-hard Trump volunteer who is working for his campaign in Iowa, called such criticism of her candidate “misguided.” “You don’t get to be a successful businessman like Donald Trump without being able to multitask,” she said.

Carson Announces Detailed Plan to Google Syria

DES MOINES (The Borowitz Report)—In a major foreign-policy announcement on Wednesday, the Republican Presidential candidate Ben Carson unveiled a detailed plan to Google Syria. …

He said that “Google holds the key” to many questions about Syria. “Where is it? Who lives there? How many square miles is it? These are all things that have to be pinned down,” he said.

Daniel Kurtzman:

“Last night, Bobby Jindal announced that he is dropping out of the race for president. I guess that after talking it over with family and friends, he realized that even THEY didn’t know he was running for president.” –Jimmy Fallon

“Bernie Sanders will deliver a speech tomorrow, which pundits say will seek to clarify his identity as a Democratic socialist. He’ll explain that ‘Democratic’ means he believes everyone should have an equal say, and ‘socialist’ means he’s not getting elected.” –Seth Meyers

“Governor Chris Christie said in an interview yesterday that New Jersey would not accept Syrian refugees. Which is too bad, because Syrian refugees would be the first people ever to arrive in New Jersey and say, ‘Hey, this is MUCH better!’” –Seth Meyers

“The Democratic candidates went head-to-head Saturday night in their second debate, where unlike the Ronda Rousey fight, we saw a woman knock out TWO opponents.” –Jimmy Fallon

“If you watched the debate on mute, it looked like Bernie Sanders spent two hours angrily sending his soup back at the deli.” –Jimmy Kimmel

“Lately, Trump has been pretty cranky about losing his lead in the polls over retired neurosurgeon and ‘Guy who sits next to you in an otherwise empty theater,’ Ben Carson. Evidently, people have been looking at Trump and thinking, ‘Maybe we shouldn’t elect a man who shouts crazy things. Maybe we should elect a man who whispers crazy things.’” –Stephen Colbert

“First Ben Carson said he attacked his mother with a hammer, now Ben Carson’s mother is saying she’s the one who attacked Ben with a hammer. I don’t know about you, but that’s going to be one awkward Thanksgiving at the Carson house.” –Conan O’Brien

“Ben Carson did say he’s tired about answering questions about his personal history. The last thing Ben Carson needs is to be even more tired than he already appears to be.” –Jimmy Kimmel

“Donald Trump said Ben Carson is wrong about the Egyptian pyramids being used to store grain, because the pyramids are solid. And that, ladies and gentlemen, perfectly sums up the Republican presidential race.” –Conan O’Brien

“Donald Trump weighed in on the controversial decision by Starbucks to remove Christmas imagery from their holiday cups, saying, ‘If I become president, we’re all going to be saying Merry Christmas again.’ Though the only way I could see Donald Trump saying ‘Merry Christmas’ is if he’s correcting someone who just said ‘Feliz Navidad.’” Seth Meyers

“SeaWorld is phasing out its killer whale show. Or as Fox News reported it, ‘More killers set free under Obama.’” –Conan O’Brien

“Dr. Ben Carson is drawing intense criticism after reports have surfaced that he may have embellished his history of violence as a teen, his scholarship to West Point, and other parts of his life story. Not only that, but it turns out the twins he separated were fraternal.” –Seth Meyers

“The Rockefeller Center Christmas Tree arrived on Friday. They’re calling the tree ‘Jeb’ because it’s a dying bush.” –Seth Meyers

Americans deserve a pause in gun sales

The Paris massacre shows how much damage citizens with guns can do. We live in a dangerous world. The Second Amendment would prohibit any permanent ban (which would be as unconstitutional as Governors deciding which people can live in which state) but the American people deserve protection. A emergency ban on gun sales is the least we can do. This ban would be temporary–it would expire as soon as all the gun owners had been vetted, or when there were no more terrorist threats.
It’s not a ban, just a pause.