Commonwealth Magazine

MAYOR OF BOSTON Michelle Wu said Tuesday she wants the city to join a state pilot program allowing 10 municipalities to ban fossil fuel infrastructure in most new construction, but she’s a little late for the party.

Boston’s participation is part of Wu’s broader climate change vision and would enhance the experience of 10 communities administered by the state’s Department of Energy Resources. But there’s no guarantee Boston will be included, and the mayor’s decision is sparking opposition in the city and some confusion in Beacon Hill.

Wu is undeterred. “Boston is ready to go and excited about this opportunity,” she said.

The experience of 10 communities was included in the recently passed climate change bill, over objections from Governor Charlie Baker, who said it would discourage housing construction in participating communities. Interested communities began asking to participate by filing Bylaws petitions even before the measure was enacted. Ten communities have already come forward, and one or more of them would have to fight for Boston for a chance to participate.

State Sen. Michael Barrett of Lexington, a lead negotiator for the bill, said he contacted Boston several times, encouraging the city to participate, but was unsuccessful.

“The city unfortunately sent chills down our spines. Now we are in uncertain territory,” Barrett said. “The way forward for Boston is very difficult now.”

Barrett’s House counterpart, Rep. Jeffrey Roy of Franklin, said he thought it was unclear whether Boston would be left out of the 10 communities. He said the original 10 communities all filed before the bill became law, while Boston will be the first to file once the bill becomes law. He said it’s unclear which communities would be given preference.

“That would be a legal issue that’s going to need ironing out,” Roy said. “That’s a matter we will leave to the Department of Energy Resources to resolve.”

Asked about Roy’s comment, Barrett said there were no legal issues to resolve. “I wrote this section of the law,” Barrett said. “There is no wiggle room.”

The 10 communities that have already signaled their intention to participate are Acton, Aquinnah, Arlington, Brookline, Cambridge, Concord, Lexington, Lincoln, Newton and West Tisbury. All have up to 12 months to meet qualifications, including the requirement that 10% of the community’s housing stock meet affordability standards.

Three of the communities – Arlington, Newton and West Tisbury – do not currently meet the affordable housing threshold. West Tisbury is particularly far from the threshold. According to Barrett, communities can be removed from the list, but then it is up to the Department of Energy Resources to decide whether others should be allowed in, regardless of when they applied.

Wu said Boston waited until Baker had signed the bill before announcing its intention to seek a place in the 10-community experiment. “It wasn’t a solid opportunity until the bill was signed into law,” she said.

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Editor, Commonwealth

About Bruce Mohl

Bruce Mohl is the editor of Commonwealth magazine. Bruce came Commonwealth from boston globe, where he spent nearly 30 years in a wide variety of positions spanning business and politics. He covered the Massachusetts State House and served as Worldchief of the State House bureau in the late 1980s. He also reported for the World‘s Spotlight Team, which won a Loeb Prize in 1992 for its coverage of conflicts of interest in the state pension system. He served as World‘s political editor in 1994 and continued to cover consumer issues for the newspaper. To Commonwealth, Bruce helped launch the magazine’s website and has written on a wide range of issues, with a particular focus on politics, tax policy, energy and gambling. Bruce is a graduate of Ohio Wesleyan University and the Fletcher School of Law and Diplomacy at Tufts University. He lives in Dorchester.

About Bruce Mohl

Bruce Mohl is the editor of Commonwealth magazine. Bruce came Commonwealth from boston globe, where he spent nearly 30 years in a wide variety of positions spanning business and politics. He covered the Massachusetts State House and served as Worldchief of the State House bureau in the late 1980s. He also reported for the World‘s Spotlight Team, which won a Loeb Prize in 1992 for its coverage of conflicts of interest in the state pension system. He served as World‘s political editor in 1994 and continued to cover consumer issues for the newspaper. To Commonwealth, Bruce helped launch the magazine’s website and has written on a wide range of issues, with a particular focus on politics, tax policy, energy and gambling. Bruce is a graduate of Ohio Wesleyan University and the Fletcher School of Law and Diplomacy at Tufts University. He lives in Dorchester.

Baker, in fact, signed the bill with deep concerns about the experience of the 10 communities. The new law exempts life science and healthcare facilities in the 10 communities from the all-electric requirement, but Baker said an exclusion was also needed for multi-family dwellings to prevent residents low and middle income are excluded from the price of housing. He called the zoning measure exclusionary.

“Multi-family buildings that use only electric alternatives are currently prohibitively expensive,” Baker said in his signing letter.

Greg Vasil, CEO of the Greater Boston Real Estate Board, echoed Baker’s concerns in criticizing Wu’s decision to seek to ban fossil fuels in the construction of new buildings in Boston.

“Construction costs are already too high due to inflation and domestic supply chain challenges,” Vasil said in a statement. “Banning fossil fuels in new developments will only increase costs further. This ban would be particularly problematic in a city like Boston, which produces huge levels of housing and is an economic engine for any development. Housing production is key to overcoming our state’s housing crisis. Instead of participating in the state’s pilot program to ban fossil fuels in new developments, we believe the city and state should wait for the results of the pilot program before determining if and how Boston can implement this prohibition.

The mayor is also facing pressure from the local gas workers union not to pass a ban on fossil fuel infrastructure in new construction.

Announcing its decision on Tuesday, Wu said the city wanted to maximize the benefits of the 10-community experience by including the state’s largest city. She predicted that Boston’s participation would “help provide healthy, energy-efficient spaces that will save our residents and businesses on utility costs and create local green jobs that will fuel our economy for years to come.” decades”.

If Boston succeeds in joining the experiment, it would follow the example of several other major cities, including New York, Seattle and Washington, DC.

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