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Canton Residents for a Sustainable Equitable Future (CR4SEF) sent a set of three questions to the four candidates running for the two Canton Board of Selectmen open seats in the April 7, 2020 election. The questions are based on CR4SEF’s vision of working collaboratively across sectors; residents, businesses, and our Town government. Our goal is to rapidly reduce our carbon footprint and demonstrate how every town can play a significant role by taking concrete steps to effectively address the rapidly evolving climate crisis.

 

Below are the questions and responses, in order of when received, from all four candidates.  

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QUESTION 1: Do you agree that a predominant contributing factor of climate change during the past 50 years is the result of increased atmospheric greenhouse gasses due to human activity, in particular, the extraction and burning of fossil fuels? 

https://academic.oup.com/bioscience/article/70/1/8/5610806

https://www.un.org/en/climatechange/reports.shtml

 

Lisa Lopez: Yes.

 

Chris J. Connolly:  I agree that a predominant contributing factor of climate change over the past 50 years is the result of increased atmospheric greenhouse gasses due to human activity, in particular, the extraction and burning of fossil fuels.

Tom Theodore: I do agree that the predominant factor of climate change over the past 40-50 years is indeed due to the extraction and burning of fossil fuels along with the destruction of open spaces. Growing up in the late 1950’s and 60’s, a family of four for the most part had one vehicle- today a family of four has four vehicles. Our streets have become Congested, traffic is horrendous with cars sitting idle and burning their noxious gases. How can anyone for one minute believe this has no effect on our climate? What is sad is that no one takes the time to walk to a store anymore, students no longer walk or ride their bikes to school or take the bus for that matter. Just the other day I was pulling out of my street and noticed a long line of cars dropping their children off at school while at the same time there were half empty school buses pulling in dropping off 4 or 5 students….it made no sense. Those buses should be full.

 

Joseph Amrhein: I absolutely agree. The problem with greenhouse gases (carbon dioxide, methane, etc.) is they absorb and re-emit infrared radiation, thereby heating the lower atmosphere. As visible light passes through the Earth’s atmosphere from the Sun, the Earth’s surface absorbs that visible light and emits thermal radiation in the form of infrared light (IR). What’s problematic with greenhouse gasses is they trap IR/infrared radiation in the lower atmosphere causing the planet to warm, hence the Greenhouse Effect. 

 

I believe the extraction and burning of fossil fuels (gas, coal, and oil) is the main contributing factor behind accelerating global temperatures. Implementing energy efficiency practices and transitioning away from fossil fuels to low-carbon renewables like solar and wind energy would substantially reduce harmful greenhouse gasses. 

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QUESTION 2: What pending state or national climate legislation resonates the strongest with you and how would you apply it to advance sustainable and equitable environmental policy here in Canton on a town level?

 

Lisa Lopez: The Governor has issued a call to Massachusetts cities and towns to do their part to help achieve a regional target of net zero emissions by 2050.  

 

There are many ways a town of our size could contribute to this goal. Some would need to be facilitated by local town officials. Others would be volunteer efforts by residents and businesses who want to support this important initiative, but desire information and educational materials that could be distributed by the Town. 

 

Either way, there should be a town PLAN that communicates what Canton would like to achieve, identifying our priorities supported by specific strategies, tactics and goals, including how residents and local businesses can help, and an annual REPORT that communicates what we have achieved.  

 

A partial list of potential strategies that could be deployed depending on public interest and support, include stated town goals and strategies to: 

 

  • Preserve and expand green space and public trees

  • Improve energy efficiency of municipal buildings (heating, cooling and lighting systems, including solar panels)

  • Improve energy efficiency of town owned vehicles (police, fire, schools)

  • Reduce the use of disposable plastics and Styrofoam in municipal buildings, programs and services, including schools

  • Introduce curbside composting

  • Improve recycling programs by banning items not recyclable 

  • Reduce water leakage from town owned pipes

  • Implement/optimize smart traffic lights 

  • Increase public access to safe walking & biking routes, as well as public transportation as an alternative to driving

  • Include sustainability criteria when negotiating with corporate parties for tax breaks

  • Educate the public and our school children about what they can specifically do to further Reduce, Reuse & Recycle in their homes and businesses 

  • Include requisite training and credentials in sustainability when hiring certain municipal employees (e.g., DPW engineers).

 

Chris J. Connolly:  Pending state legislation that resonates the most with me is the three current Senate bills that tackle the contributing factors of climate change, chart an aggressive course of action against global warming, and pave the way for a clean energy future.  According to a February 6, 2020 press release from Senator Walter Timilty:

--Senate No. 2498 - An Act to accelerate the transition of cars, truck and buses to carbon-free power;                                                  

--Senate No. 2499 - An Act relative to Energy Savings Efficiency (Energy SAVE);

--Senate No. 2500 - An Act setting next-generation climate policy.

  • Setting a statewide greenhouse gas limit for the year of 2050 of "net zero" emissions

  • Establishing the Massachusetts Climate Policy Commission

  • Allow for choice among various market-based forms of pricing carbon

  • Provide legislative direction to the Department of Public Utilities, the state's primary energy oversight agency, for the first time

  • Jump starting efforts to supply low-cost solar electricity to low-income communities

  • Letting cities and towns adopt a "net zero" stretch energy code

  • Nudging natural gas utilities to adapt 

  • Strengthening executive branch of oversight of MassSave

  • Tightening the alignment between MassSave and emissions limits

  • Setting a deadline for converting MBTA buses to all-electric power

  • Updating appliance standards to improve energy.

 

Tom Theodore: I am not going to pretend that I understand everything there is to know about climate change because I don’t, but I do believe we should be taking measures and setting goals to eventually become 100% free of fossil fuel dependency and explore other means of energy. I understand that this is a global issue, however these are some of the things we can be doing on a local level to help our community.

 

Look into other means of energy consumption and supply-set goals to become free of fossil fuel dependency.                                                                                                                      

  • Support the safe street initiative program and make our street pedestrian friendly.                          

  • Adopt building codes requiring new construction to be energy efficient and ecologically friendly.      

  • As repairs are being done on our buildings take the necessary measures so they become energy efficient.       

  • Adopt the legislation that was just recently passed in the MA Senate regarding switching to electric vehicle fleets.

  • Protect whatever open space we have left, plant trees and when you're done planting those, plant more!! I can’t emphasize this enough.                                                                                                      

  • Let’s look into why these buses are not full - if it’s because of the fees associated, let’s re-examine. from what I understand the fees charged for riding the bus covers only about ¼ of the annual contract cost.  Maybe we should go back to no fees at all and get the students back on the buses.

 

Joseph Amrhein: On the state level, HD2706/SD1846, an act relative to solar power and the green economy (a statewide solar target of 25% solar by 2030), HD2700/SD1876 An act to increase the Renewable Portfolio Standard (increasing the statewide RPS by 3% each year), and S1834/H1745 An act for Community Empowerment (allows cities and towns to set their own course for their energy future) resonate the most with me. On a town level, I would support ways to increase renewable energy, specifically, the implementation of Community Choice Aggregation and other low-carbon renewable methods. 

 

On the federal level, the Green New Deal resonates with me the most, specifically, clean air and water. On a town level, I would support efforts to protect local waterways, specifically the Neponset River Watershed. Protecting the Neponset River Watershed to ensure a clean, healthy, and accessible river should be in all our interests.

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QUESTION 3: Will you champion the implementation of Community Choice Aggregation in Canton? And, what other plans would you initiate toward achieving net zero emissions for Canton? https://www.massclimateaction.org/community_aggregation

 

Lisa Lopez: Yes, I would champion town-wide support of a Community Choice Aggregation program in which Town Meeting approves the state authorized program to allow the Town to negotiate bulk purchase of energy on behalf of residents with the objective of sourcing more clean energy, at equal or lower prices to residents, and encouraging job growth in the local green economy.  

 

Christopher Connolly:  I support the Community Choice Aggregation (CCA) process in Canton. We would need to see if the Town at Town Meeting would vote to authorize the Select Board to research and develop a plan to participate in contracts to aggregate the electricity load of the residents and businesses of Canton, to increase Town access to clean electric energy.

Locally, I supported Canton's adoption of the Stretch Energy Code at 2017 Town meeting.  Last    year, I supported the plastic bag reduction by-law that bans single-use plastic bags at the point of sale in Canton. Reducing plastic waste in Canton will go a long way toward mitigating climate change and pollution. 

 

Tom Theodore: I am a strong advocate for keeping our town clean and taking whatever measures needed to keep our town safe and clean!

 

Joseph Amrhein: I would be proud to approve a Community Choice Aggregation (CCA) plan if I am elected to the Canton Board of Selectmen. A growing number of Massachusetts municipalities are switching the electricity of households and small businesses over to cleaner energy. With CCA, electricity is still distributed and billed through the original utility (Eversource, etc.), and residents may opt out at any time. 

 

As far as helping Canton achieve net zero emissions, I would support having dedicated bike lanes on some of Canton’s streets, like Washington Street. Not only would dedicated bike lanes reduce traffic/car emissions, they would make our sidewalks safer for our seniors. Dedicated bike lanes may incentivize residents with cost savings from parking at either Canton Junction or Canton Center train stations.

 

Along with dedicated bike lanes, I would support easing traffic through Canton Center by restoring the right-hand turn onto Bolivar Street from Washington Street and restoring the left-hand turn onto Church Street from Washington Street. The improved traffic flow would not only reduce harmful CO2 emissions, it may help alleviate the significant traffic congestion that plagues Canton Center.

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