ACMi's Town Hall Update: The town manager Adam Chapdelaine provides
an update about Connect Arlington, the town's sustainable transportation
and the Net Zero Action plans.

Arlington is among some Massachusetts communities whose officials seek significant cuts in greenhouse-gas emissions and want the state's support to proceed.

"Let us be your test kitchen," Town Manager Adam Chapdelaine told lawmakers Tuesday, July 27, WBUR reported. "Let Arlington, let Lexington, Brookline and Acton, others that are pursuing this — let us put this effort forward. The people of Arlington want it to go forward."

Three bills before the Municipalities and Regional Government Committee would prohibit fossil-fuel infrastructure in new buildings or those undergoing major renovations in Brookline, Lexington and Arlington. Rep. Tami Gouveia and Sen. Jamie Eldridge, both of Acton, have also filed bills that would allow municipalities interested in pursuing such policies to do so without first receiving legislative approval.

Leaders from 3 towns

Local officials from the three towns described the bans as a way to help phase out use of fossil fuels to combat climate change and move the state and municipalities closer to their emissions-reduction goals.

A sweeping climate policy law signed in March commits Massachusetts to reducing  its greenhouse-gas emissions to a net-zero level by 2050, a timeline that has officials and advocates looking for ways to boost energy efficiency and adoption of renewable power.

Chapdelaine said that allowing the towns to proceed now with measures that have been overwhelmingly approved by their residents will allow the local officials to come back to the Legislature with evidence in support of a broader policy. The Town Meeting vote for Arlington's petition (H 3750) was 225-18, Rep. Sean Garballey said. See the Nov. 18, 2020, vote here >> 

In Lexington, 66 percent of all greenhouse-gas emissions come from buildings, Select Board member Mark Sandeen said. He said Lexington Town Meeting voted, 175-7, to request authority from the Legislature to restrict fossil fuels via a home-rule petition (H 3893).

Brookline history

Brookline Town Administrator Mel Kleckner said his community has a history of piloting policies that would go on to gain traction across the state, including bans on single-use plastic bags and flavored cigarettes.

"We believe the success of these initiatives and the demonstrated ability of the town of Brookline to manage regulations related to these compel the Legislature to support Brookline and other municipalities who wish to advance the ball on climate action," WBUR reported he said. "By doing so, the commonwealth will be able to assess the cost and other impacts of this policy as it considers statewide action to meet our shared goals on greenhouse gas emissions."

Brookline's home-rule petition (S 2473) is not the town's first attempt at moving away from fossil fuels in buildings. A 2019 Town Meeting vote approved a ban on the installation of gas and oil infrastructure in new construction. Attorney General Maura Healey last summer knocked down the resulting bylaw, finding that it conflicted with state laws and regulations but writingthat she agreed with its policy goals.

Eldridge said the bill he and Gouveia filed is a response to Healey's ruling that municipalities did not have the authority to restrict fossil-fuel infrastructure.

Their bill (H 2167, S 1333) would give cities and towns the option of requiring all-electric buildings if they choose to do so, without first petitioning the Legislature.

July 27 Testimony from Town Manager Adam W. Chapdelaine

to Rep. John J. Cronin, chair, Joint Committee on Municipalities and Regional Government, and Sen. Lori A. Ehrlich, chair, Joint Committee on Municipalities & Regional Government

town recycling logo

Re: H.3750 - An Act authorizing the town of Arlington to adopt and enforce local regulations restricting the use of fossil fuels in certain construction 

As Arlington’s Town Manager I appreciate the opportunity to submit this testimony before the Joint Committee on Municipalities and Regional Government regarding H.3750.

On Nov. 18, 2020, Arlington Town Meeting passed Warrant Article 5 with a vote of 225-18. This Warrant Article provided approval for the Select Board to petition the Massachusetts General Court to enact special legislation that would authorize the Town to adopt and enforce local regulations restricting fossil fuel infrastructure in new building construction and major renovation projects. Passage of this Warrant Article came after broad community outreach and with the Select Board’s unanimous support (there was one recusal). [Steve DeCourcey recused for the Select Board report vote and abstained at Town Meeting]

Arlington has been in the forefront by committing resources to address sustainability, energy and climate issues for many decades. In 2003 Town Meeting overwhelmingly approved Warrant Article 32 requiring all municipal building construction to achieve Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED) Silver certification. Arlington became one of the first five Green Communities in the Commonwealth in 2010, committing to the reduction of municipal energy use by 20 percent within five years.

In 2015, the Town of Arlington installed 584 kW of solar energy systems on six school buildings. The Town will soon install more than 1 MW of additional rooftop and ground-mounted solar arrays at the new Arlington High School and Department of Public Works facilities (which will be heated and cooled almost exclusively with all-electric heat pumps). In 2017, Arlington launched its Arlington Community Electricity green municipal aggregation program which delivers over 26 million kWh of 100% renewable electricity each year to over 14,000 customers. In 2019 Arlington ran a popular HeatSmart campaign to promote clean heating and cooling systems, especially all-electric heat pumps, resulting in more heat pump installations than any HeatSmart campaign in the state.

In January 2018 Arlington’s Select Board committed the Town to reducing greenhouse gas emissions to net zero by 2050. In July of that same year, the Select Board established a Clean Energy Future Committee (CEFC) to help guide the Town toward achieving the 2050 net zero commitment.

The CEFC released a Net Zero Action Plan (NZAP) in February this year with 31 specific measures designed to achieve Arlington’s goal of net zero greenhouse gas emissions by 2050. One priority measure calls for the transition of all municipal, residential and commercial buildings to net zero emissions by 2050. For this to be achieved, there must be no onsite combustion of fossil fuels. A greenhouse gas inventory conducted as part of the NZAP was key to understanding the need to reduce emissions; approximately 60% of carbon emissions in Arlington come from buildings, with most of those emissions from space heating alone. While Arlington has already taken steps to decarbonize some buildings, including two Town buildings under construction which utilize heating and cooling solely with heat pumps, we have much further to go..

Arlington Town Meeting has consistently demonstrated, with large voting majorities over more than a decade, a commitment to energy and climate issues. Their actions have helped the Town dedicate energy and resources to address climate change. Most recently, on June 2, 2021, Arlington Town Meeting passed a Climate Emergency warrant article, by a vote of 172-13, calling on the Town to accelerate our efforts to transition to zero greenhouse gas emissions.

H.3750 will allow Arlington to build on the energy and climate steps we have already taken and bring us closer to meeting our goals. Arlington will not be able to meet its Net Zero by 2050 commitment if we cannot regulate the use of fossil fuels in new construction and major renovations.

I appreciate the opportunity to convey my enthusiastic support for passage of H.3750. I respectfully request that you and the members of the Joint Committee on Municipalities and Regional Government vote to approve moving this bill out of committee with a favorable report.

Feb. 25, 2021: Electricity program seeks to increase renewable-energy use


This news summary was published Friday, July 30, 2021.