Author Archives: maggiemckee

Mayor highlights environment in major speech

The year is getting off to a promising start! On January 28, 2019, Mayor Tom Koch mentioned several green initiatives in his “State of the City” address. They include issues that QCAN has been advocating for, including a plan to increase the fraction of our electricity sourced from wind and solar, called green municipal aggregation, and the creation of a group to study the feasibility of collecting food waste in a separate bin on trash day. He also wants to ban plastic bags in Quincy, plant more trees, protect marshland as a hedge against sea level rise, and improve the energy efficiency of city buildings and vehicles. Read his full comments below:

The environment we leave our children and grandchildren remains one of our most enduring challenges. It is also those very same young people of today who inspire us to act.

I was fortunate enough last year to sit with students at Central Middle School who had just completed a project asking them to identify solutions to a major problem we face as a society. The passion and knowledge these students shared with me was truly extraordinary and has stayed with me all these months later.

The students spoke of the devastating impact of discarded plastic on our environment, particularly on our ocean ecosystems and the chain reaction of widespread consequences caused by an unhealthy ocean. Thanks to the passion of these young people and that of many of others in our community, our administration will present to the City Council in the coming weeks a ban on single-use plastic bags and a ban on single-use plastic alcohol containers.

The students also talked about the dangers of greenhouse gas emissions and their near and long-term implications for all of us. This is nothing new. But listening to young people talk so passionately about it gives me great hope for our future and should drive all of us to act now.

To that end, based on a discussion started by the City Council some months ago, we will present legislation that will allow our residents to receive electricity from renewable or clean energy sources. This energy aggregation program, which will give our residents a choice in how their electricity is generated, will not only help our environment but also holds great potential for cost-savings on monthly electric bills.

And it was also the Council that recently began a discussion about the potential of a citywide composting program. Working in collaboration with the Council and a community-based task force supported by the Quincy Climate Action Network, we’ll conduct a feasibility study with the goal of piloting an organic waste diversion or composting program.

Two years ago, we installed LED lights on all 6,000 of our street lights. Five years ago, we installed solar panels on more than a dozen of our school buildings, creating more than 2 megawatts of power. We invested through what’s called net-metering credits in solar fields in Southeastern Massachusetts, saving the City millions of dollars in energy costs.

Our first electric car-changing stations will be installed at the new South-West Middle School and the new Hancock Parking Garage. We’ll continue to explore higher efficiency practices when it comes to the city’s vehicle fleet and ensure new buildings – including a new public safety headquarters – are built to the highest efficiency standard possible.

These programs point toward our future, but we must also move to address the environmental threats we face today. The storms of last March – and others in recent years – show without a doubt that our community’s 27 miles of coastline needs immediate protection. This year, we’ll present to the City Council a funding request to rebuild 8,000 linear feet of seawalls along some of our most vulnerable areas from Merrymount and Houghs Neck – seawalls built higher and stronger than those that currently exist.

We also finalize a five-year sustainability plan that touches on virtually every natural threat we face and how we plan to address it – from coastal storms to inland flooding in places like West Quincy. That includes studying the potential of a regional hurricane barrier that would protect all Boston Harbor communities – the first step of which includes planning money currently before the City Council.

Protecting our coast and other vulnerable areas ties closely to the health of our existing natural resources – the acres upon acres of tidal wetlands, our freshwater brooks and ponds, our passive open spaces. This is part of the reason why we proposed expanding the role of the Park Department to incorporate the stewardship of these assets as part of what will be called the Department of Natural Resources. The proposal, pending before the City Council, creates a management structure that puts the responsibility of protecting and enhancing these resources into a single department. The health of our wetlands is an absolutely critical component to protecting our coastline, and their viability should be entrusted to a designated City department.

Protecting our environment also means a substantial expansion of our tree planting efforts – the health of our urban forest is critically important for our quality of life and our environment.

Compressor’s health study panned at public meeting

About 120 skeptical citizens, including four QCAN members, packed the cafeteria of Quincy High School on the snowy night of November 15, 2018. They were there to hear officials from the state health and environmental protection departments and the Metropolitan Area Planning Council unveil the first results of a study predicting the effects of the proposed Fore River Compressor Station on public health in Quincy, Weymouth, Braintree, and beyond. The station is intended to increase the capacity of a system of natural-gas pipelines stretching from New Jersey to Nova Scotia. The station would be powered by a natural-gas fired engine that would produce exhaust.

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Quincy takes first step towards curbside composting

Huzzah! On November 13th, 2018, the Quincy City Council voted unanimously to create a task force to study curbside food waste pickup. The supportive letters that QCAN friends wrote to their ward councilors and the councilors-at-large no doubt made that happen, so thank you to all who made their opinions heard! Thank you also to Ward 6 Councilor William Harris, who introduced the resolution, and to Ian Cain, who amended it, suggesting the task force study the pros and cons of building a food-waste recycling facility right here in Quincy.

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Parking tweaks could save money and fight climate change

Minimum parking requirements are rules set by the city spelling out the fewest off-street parking spaces that a new or rezoned property must have. They are designed to be very high – to guarantee plenty of parking even at the busiest times – meaning that most of the time, there is an overabundance of spaces.

These very specific requirements – Quincy requires a bowling alley to have four parking spaces per lane! – sound scientific, but they are rarely based on the needs of their communities. In Quincy Center, for example, 37% of households don’t even own a car, and the neighborhood averages 0.88 cars per household. But even the lowest parking minimums in this neighborhood specify at least one parking space per household in residential buildings, meaning that many families are forced to pay for parking spaces they don’t need.

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PARK(ing) Day in Washington, DC, part of an open-source global event where citizens, artists, and activists temporarily transform metered parking spaces into public places. Credit: Edward Russell

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Support green energy at city finance meeting

If you want to support green energy in Quincy, come to City Hall on Monday, October 15th at 6:30 p.m. That’s when the city’s finance committee will discuss green municipal aggregation.

Municipal aggregation (also known as community choice aggregation) allows a municipality to purchase electricity in bulk on behalf of its residents and businesses. If Quincy were to join other communities nearby such as Brookline and Somerville and adopt green municipal aggregation, the city would increase the percentage of its electricity sourced from renewable energy. Electricity rates would likely stay about the same, and customers could easily opt out if they so chose.

During the committee meeting, Shelly Dein, Quincy’s energy and sustainability director, and Larry Chretien, executive director of Green Energy Consumers Alliance, will provide brief presentations on GMA.

To show your support for greening Quincy’s electrical grid, please join members of QCAN at the city meeting and write to thank the councilors who support the initiative: Nina Liang, Anne MahoneyIan Cain and Noel DiBona. Please also encourage your ward councilor to consider the benefits of green municipal aggregation.

Human genome pioneer to discuss climate change at library

Charles_DeLisiHow should we tackle climate change? “We need something like a moon shot, human genome project or Manhattan project,” says Charles DeLisi, a Boston University professor of science and engineering.

DeLisi knows firsthand the magnitude of what he’s proposing. In the 1980s, he helped spearhead the human genome project, a massive, worldwide effort that by 2003 had revealed just about every gene in our bodies.

Now, DeLisi is turning his attention to climate change and how to combat it, matters he’ll discuss in a free talk at the Thomas Crane Public Library (40 Washington Street in Quincy) on Tuesday, October 16, at 7 pm. The talk is sponsored by the library, the Quincy Climate Action Network, March Forward Quincy and the Quincy Making Waves Coalition.

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