SECTION 1. Said section 1 of said chapter 21N, as so appearing, is hereby amended by inserting after the definition of
“Market-based compliance mechanism” the following definition:-
“Natural and working lands” are: (i) Land that is actively used by an agricultural owner or operator for an agricultural operation that includes, but need not be limited to, active engagement in farming or ranching; (ii) Land producing forest products; (iii) Lands consisting of forests, grasslands, freshwater and riparian systems, wetlands, coastal and estuarine areas, watersheds, wildlands or wildlife habitat; or (iv) Lands used for recreational purposes, such as parks, urban and community forests, trails, and other similar open space land.
SECTION 2. Said chapter 21N is hereby amended by adding the following section:-
Section 12. (a) Actions related to natural resources can increase the volume of carbon stored in natural and working lands, reduce the loss of already-stored carbon, and decrease greenhouse gas emissions from natural and working lands, helping to achieve the goal of reducing greenhouse gases and carbon pollution in the atmosphere. Said actions related to natural resources shall aim to optimize and maximize benefits and achieve the goals above, to the maximum extent practicable. They may include, but are not be limited to: (i) conservation; (ii) restoration; (iii) enhancement; or (iv) management.
(b) The secretary of energy and environmental affairs shall: (i) conduct a statewide baseline assessment of carbon stock on natural and working lands and track the release of measurable greenhouse gases from and carbon sequestration by natural and working lands, to the maximum extent practicable; (ii) adopt clear statewide goals, indicate expected outcomes, and identify a path to reduce greenhouse gas emissions and increase carbon sequestration on natural and working lands; and (iii) develop a natural and working lands plan, including, but not limited, to recommended policies, programs, grants, loans and incentives and public-private partnerships to meet the statewide goal. Said recommendations shall provide guidance and strategies for state agencies and authorities, municipalities and regional planning agencies to proactively address these measures, including through changes to plans, by-laws, ordinances, regulations and policies. The secretary shall ensure that policies and strategies to reduce greenhouse gas emissions and increase carbon sequestration on natural and working lands contribute to meeting statewide emission limits and complement and enhance efforts for climate change adaptation and resiliency. Said baseline assessment, goal, and plan may be incorporated into the inventory, baseline assessment, plan, and reporting under sections 2 through 5 of chapter 21N of the general laws. The secretary shall issue the plan and provide it to the senate and house committees on ways and means and the joint committee on environment, natural resources and agriculture not later than July 1, 2019 and every fifth year thereafter.
(c) The executive office of energy and environmental affairs shall develop policies, programs, grants, loans and incentives to meet the statewide natural and working lands goal as identified in the plan, including, but not limited to, a communities for a sustainable climate program. The executive office of energy and environmental affairs shall apply and disburse monies and revenues as provided in this section.
(d) The secretary shall establish a communities for a sustainable climate program. The purpose of the program shall be to provide technical and financial assistance, including incentives, grants and loans, to municipalities that qualify as sustainable communities under this section. These incentives, grants and loans shall be used to finance all or a portion of the costs of designing, constructing and implementing actions and strategies to reduce greenhouse gas emissions and increase carbon sequestration on natural and working lands.
(e) To qualify as a community for a sustainable climate, a municipality or other local governmental body shall comply with eligibility requirements developed by the secretary or his designee. Eligibility requirements are intended to incentivize communities to adopt policies and practices that protect, enhance, and restore carbon stocks on natural and working lands beyond business as usual. The secretary shall set eligibility requirements from among, but not limited to, the following: (1) adopt a municipal tree retention and replacement by-law or ordinance; (2) adopt natural resource protection zoning, as defined by the secretary; (3) collect a reasonable fee to be used exclusively for measures to remedy and offset the generation of greenhouse gases caused by activities that convert forest, wetlands, and agricultural lands for development at a size and scale determined by the secretary; (4) adopt a municipal transfer of development rights by-law or ordinance; and (5) adopt and implement a municipal procurement policy for municipal purchasing and substituting wood products for municipal operations and assets, where feasible, including but not limited to, concrete and steel in buildings. The secretary may waive specified requirements based on a written finding that, due to unusual circumstances, a municipality cannot reasonably meet the requirements and that the municipality has committed to alternative measures that advance the purposes of the communities for a sustainable climate program as effectively as adherence to the requirements. The Secretary may adopt alternative eligibility requirements that provide opportunities to achieve the goals of the program.
(f) The secretary may develop policies to provide for consistency and predictability and to help offset the impacts of municipal ordinances and by-laws upon the private sector under the communities for a sustainable climate program that may be adopted by participating communities, including, but not limited to, grants, loans, incentives and tax credits and expedited permitting for practices and strategies consistent with the goals to reduce greenhouse gas emissions and increase carbon sequestration on natural and working lands.
(g) Funding for the communities for a sustainable climate program in any single fiscal year shall be available, without the need for further appropriation, from sources including, but not limited to: (1) the global warming solutions trust fund established in section 35GGG of chapter 10 of the general laws; and (2) land management and restoration grant, loan and incentive programs administered by the executive office of energy and environmental affairs.
(h) The secretary may develop and implement communities for a sustainable climate as a stand-alone program or combine said program with other municipal assistance programs related to climate adaptation, resiliency or mitigation, including, but not limited to, the municipal vulnerability preparedness program and the green communities program, established in this chapter.
(i) The secretary shall adopt rules, regulations, and guidelines for the administration, oversight, accountability and enforcement of this section, including, but not limited to, establishing eligibility criteria, funding priority, application forms and procedures, and reporting requirements.
(j) The secretary shall annually, not later than April 1, submit a report to the clerks of the senate and the house of representatives, the joint committee on environment, natural resources and agriculture, and the senate and house committees on ways and means detailing the expenditures and results relative to the communities for a sustainable climate program.
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