Why is Ithaca beating Cambridge to zero emissions city and buildings? This week I won’t put out a full newsletter, since we sent one on Tuesday. However, I didn’t want to wait on the news that after a lot of work, on the agenda for Monday’s meeting is a very exciting policy order that I’ve been working on, related to getting Cambridge to be a true environmental leader.
POR 2021 #268 – Fossil Fuel Special Permit Policy Order: At our December 13 meeting, the Council will discuss an important policy order that ties into the work of the Climate Crisis Working Group – and builds on the work of climate activists across the area. Please write to the council and support this idea, or sign up for public comment on Monday and urge us to do all we can – we can’t let other cities be like Ithaca and jump ahead.
I am incredibly excited about this possible path. … I am upset at myself for not proposing this 6 months ago when I first read about Brookline’s approach. There are other measures being taken to move us away from fossil fuels – including amending our BEUDO ordinance, and a net zero energy stretch code at the state level, the proposed Cambridge Green New Deal and our Net Zero Action Plan. We need every tool possible. We need to do everything we can as quickly as we can. I believe this tool is one that has the potential to be enacted more quickly than anything else. AND have impact more quickly.
SUMMARY: The idea is to incentivize developers and builders to have no new fossil fuel in their buildings through the special permit process. This idea comes via Brookline activists, who had tried to institute a ban on all new gas or fossil fuel connections. That attempt from 2019 by the Town of Brookline was unable to go forward since the Attorney General judged that it conflicted with existing state codes. This year Brookline found a new way to incentivize electrification for all new buildings and substantial renovations. Their bylaw would place conditions on permits for construction projects, issuing special permits to all zero emissions buildings without restriction. New buildings that choose to install new fossil fuel infrastructure, however, would have their permit expire in 2030 – then forcing an upgrade to all-electric within the decade. Brookline has thoroughly researched to ensure no conflicts with state law and has established a clear legal rationale for this type of ordinance.
With Mayor Siddiqui, Councillor Zondervan, and Councillor Sobrinho-Wheeler, I have proposed a similar ordinance change for Cambridge to do the same: incentivize developers to construct without fossil fuel infrastructure while simultaneously encouraging the use of renewable energy sources. I hope that my colleagues also see the importance of this policy order and that we very quickly get a draft for an amendment to the special permit ordinance.