In order to secure a healthy and livable planet, our level of legislative ambition must reflect the latest science and data available to us, including the findings in the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change’s 2021 Report. As we ask ourselves how to prioritize, operationalize, and resource climate efforts, we need to consider not just what it costs to take these measures, but what it will cost to not take them, because we are living in a climate emergency.
In Massachusetts, we possess the resources and institutions to become the tip of the spear in humanity’s efforts to combat the rise of CO2 in our atmosphere. Massachusetts has made significant progress in recent years, most notably by passing legislation to require a statewide net-zero limit on greenhouse gas emissions by 2050. But our work is not done, and our current timeline is insufficient. The Town of Acton has set a net-zero goal of 2030, and the rest of the Commonwealth should do the hard work necessary to accelerate our net-zero timeline.
As we seek to meet and exceed the goals that have been established on Beacon Hill, we need watchdog legislators who possess the know-how and desire to make legislative adjustments that enable us to reach our goals faster, more equitably, and with greater efficiency. And we need creative thinkers who will consider and address the potentially disparate impacts that these changes — and climate change writ large — will have on our communities across the Commonwealth. As your State Representative, I will bring my background in Environmental Science and Chemistry to Beacon Hill, and apply all of my energy and experience to our generation’s most pressing challenge.
Below are some of the greatest opportunities I see to advance our climate agenda while improving the quality of our air and water in Massachusetts. I hope you will fill out our Priorities Survey to let me know how our team can further develop its environmental platform.
Eliminate PFAS From Our Water Supply
We have a major water quality problem in various communities within the 14th Middlesex District arising from polyfluoroalkyl substances (PFAS). PFAS are synthetic chemicals that have been used since the mid-20th century in a variety of commercial applications. Importantly, PFAS break down extremely slowly over time, and are linked to harmful health effects in humans and animals. In our District, the problem has surpassed a level at which localities can afford to remediate PFAS contaminations in drinking water, to the point that residents in the district have begun to purchase bottled water out of fear of negative health effects. Our towns should not be left to deal with our PFAS levels alone; state resources must be deployed to protect our health. I would work to bring funding to our District to assist with PFAS contamination, and would advocate for legislation to ban PFAS-containing substances from household products and plastics in Massachusetts.
Increasing Local Renewable Sources
We need to invest in local sources of renewable energy like solar, ground source heat pumps, and networked geothermal. Towns, citizen groups, and residents in the 14th Middlesex District are at the vanguard of renewable energy initiatives. Meanwhile, renewable energy technologies are increasingly market-ready and available in our District and across Massachusetts. A recent feasibility study by HEET demonstrates that the networked geothermal could “[r]educe emissions for the connected buildings by 60% immediately and by over 90% as the electricity grid becomes renewable.” Additionally, a combination of rooftop solar (residential and commercial) and solar plants could supply about a quarter of Massachusetts’ electricity demands. Our District should become a leader of innovation.
Massachusetts coasts possess ten times the amount of power we need to meet the demands of our electric grid. Offshore wind is the low-hanging fruit of our renewable energy production equation, and it exists right here in the Commonwealth. Developing offshore wind infrastructure would also produce thousands of jobs, which, with tailored incentives and an appropriate legislative framework, could advance our economic agenda and provide job opportunities to minorities and economically disadvantaged populations. As your legislator, I will work to promote the development of offshore wind by securing more offshore wind procurements and augmenting funding for research and development of offshore wind.
Fossil Fuel-Free Buildings
When I wrote my thesis on the thermodynamics of residential energy in 2008, we already possessed the construction technology to make our new buildings fossil fuel-free, and to vastly reduce the energy consumption of existing buildings. Over a decade later, our legislation and building codes lag behind existing building science and technology. For starters, we need a moratorium on new fossil fuel-dependent building construction. Home Rule petitions are a good place to gain momentum so reps. can provide local proof points that show an effort is economically practical as well as environmentally sound. But, our state legislators should be working quickly towards a statewide mandate.
For existing buildings, we need to vastly expand the reach and offerings of programs like Mass Save and MassEnergize, which is led by residents in the 14th Middlesex District, in every community in the Commonwealth. Every Massachusetts resident should have access to professional consultation on how to increase the efficiency of their homes and in turn reduce their utility bills (and by extension, their carbon footprint), followed by free or affordable opportunities to actualize any recommendations.
Delineate Between Green and Dirty Fuels
Progress on environmental causes has historically been hindered by our collective inability to distinguish between clean and dirty energy sources. Biomass energy is being promoted as a “renewable” fuel, but burning biomass for fuel degrades air quality and will not advance our climate goals. Biomass plants do not warrant clean energy incentives through the Renewable Portfolio Standard or the Alternative Portfolio Standard. As a legislator, I would actively seek out and oppose any measures that amount to mission creep against environmental progress.
Conserve Our Forests and Open Space
The 14th Middlesex District is home to some of the most treasured open spaces that can be found anywhere. Our forests and open space harbor irreplaceable carbon sinks, are home to our treasured ecological diversity, and provide publicly accessible recreation for all of our residents, in addition to numerous other benefits. On Beacon Hill, I would work to advance legislative existing proposals to ensure that there is no net loss of lands or easements protected under Article 37 (S.524/H.851), require municipalities to develop reforestation plans (S.504/H.905), and expand designations of wildlife reserves to make permanent the protection of more acreage in Massachusetts (H.1002).
$9 billion is coming to Massachusetts over the next 5 years as part of the federal infrastructure bill passed in late 2021, to support projects involving roads, public transportation, electric vehicle usage, water infrastructure, and broadband internet. As your State Representative, I will work hard to secure a fair share of those funds to our district so that we can address the many infrastructure challenges we are currently facing, and so that we can continue to aggressively pursue our climate goals. Our district continues to suffer from severe traffic problems in certain areas, creating negative effects on our air quality, safety and overall quality of life. Parents should be able to commute to work and return home in time to see their children, and seniors should be able to reliably and safely get to where they need to go, especially for healthcare appointments. Beyond transportation challenges, our enjoyment of the towns we love and our local economic strength continue to be impeded by outdated, inefficient infrastructure. As your State Representative, I will advocate for:
As a former special education teacher in an under-resourced school, I have fought on the ground to provide children with the education they deserve. It is hard work, and there are no simple solutions to problems and inequities that have existed since the birth of public education in this country. I’m also the product of the great public schools in our district, having attended Concord and Carlisle public schools from K-12, so I understand the value of excellent public schooling for our kids, families, and the community at-large.
The towns in our district have a strong educational ethos and we continue to invest a large portion of our local tax base to maintain our in-district public schools, as well as the two great vocational high schools that serve our residents, Minuteman High School and Nashoba Valley Technical High School. The state government needs to be a better partner in order for our schools to continue to adequately serve our kids and our communities moving forward. Without strong financial partnership from the state, funding our schools will overburden our residents with local tax obligations that prohibit people from aging here with dignity, impede the provision of basic town services, and exclude working class families from our district.
As your State Representative, I will work to make sure that the state government is a true partner in ensuring the continued strength and improvement of our public schools. I will advocate for
To move forward and right the historical wrongs that plague our education system, we also need to fight for universal pre-K, free and debt-free public higher education for those who can’t otherwise afford it. Finally, we should find creative ways, through state tax incentives and otherwise, to lower the cost of childcare – which in Massachusetts is currently the second highest in the entire United States. A mom or dad should be able to return to the workforce in a middle class job and make more after taxes than it costs to put a child in daycare.
These are the battles I will fight for the residents of Acton, Carlisle, Chelmsford, and Concord on Beacon Hill.
I understand that democracy can only survive when the public’s confidence in our elected leaders is high. I have devoted much of my career to combating public corruption on the local, state, and federal level, having investigated and prosecuted elected officials, appointed officials, corrupt businesspersons, campaign donors, and even a judge. On Beacon Hill, I will be a force for progress in promoting ethics and integrity in state government. I am committed to being the most accessible, transparent, hard-working, and communicative legislator that I can be. I will treat this job as what it is: the privilege to represent and serve our residents on Beacon Hill. A healthy democracy also means protecting and strengthening everyone’s right to participate in the electoral process. I supported the VOTES Act, and as a legislator will continue to seek out creative ways to improve access to voting. Furthermore, we should lower the voting age to 16 in municipal elections. We can help secure the lifelong civic and political engagement of our current high schoolers by allowing them the right to vote. Our youth have the most to gain by electing good leaders, so they should have a voice in choosing who runs their municipalities. Finally, with the Citizens United decision and Congressional gridlock significantly hampering Washington's ability to enact meaningful campaign finance reform, I will seek to ensure that Massachusetts' campaign finance system serves as a model for transparency, simplicity, and public access to information.
The Supreme Court’s decision last year to effectively block relief in Whole Woman’s Health v. Jackson, followed by the release of Alito’s draft opinion, serves as a clarion call to Massachusetts legislators, advocates, and residents of all backgrounds: in Massachusetts and around the country, the constitutional right to bodily autonomy is in peril. The Court is adopting an activist role on matters involving abortion, and is poised to eliminate the constitutional basis underlying other privacy rights, including the right to use contraception.
Massachusetts needs to act swiftly to fortify the right to choose in our Commonwealth. The best litigating position will be based on principles of federalism, i.e., states’ rights. By strengthening both the legal and practical ability for people to obtain abortions and contraception in Massachusetts, we can make it more difficult for the Court or Congress to take rights away in the years to come. I discussed this view and other related concepts in a 2021 podcast interview on Boston Red Cloaks radio.
There is strong proposed legislation currently pending that will advance these efforts. As a State Representative, I would prioritize measures that include:
It is helpful and necessary to state what we all know to be true through our relationships with family, friends, and colleagues: we are experiencing a mental health crisis in our district. People of all ages, but perhaps most acutely children, seniors, and veterans, are struggling, and Massachusetts lacks the mental health infrastructure to adequately address the gravity of the challenge. The legislature has an important role to play in this area. As your State Representative, I would work to strengthen our system of support, from early diagnosis of mental health needs, to crisis response, to in-patient care, to ongoing support. Specifically, I would work to: