Governor Deval Patrick Outlines New Climate Change Plans

He's vowed to put $52 million toward helping communities avoid serious storm damage.

AP photo

AP photo

Massachusetts is beefing up protections for residents prone to flooding and extreme weather conditions due to climate change, so they can better prepare and cope with any emergencies that may arise from stormy conditions.

During a press conference at the New England Aquarium on Tuesday, Governor Deval Patrick announced that officials would inject $52 million into resources to assess and address vulnerabilities in public health, transportation, and energy statewide.

“Recent storms and related outages serve as a reminder that it is critical we secure our energy grid to endure more extreme weather patterns,” Patrick said.

The grant money will go toward capital funds for coastline projects, inter-agency assessments of state parks and transportation infrastructures, as well as backing up the grid so people don’t go without power for days on end.

Citing the unusual weather changes all across the country in the last two years—including tropical storms and out-of-season snowstorms in October in Massachusetts—Patrick said more needs to be done to be on guard.

He also discussed the progression of wind energy efficiency and solar-powered projects that have advanced since he first took office. “That’s all good, but we must do more,” he said, citing the need to implement further change in dealing with blistering weather conditions. “Billions of dollars [have been spent] on disaster relief. Sea level rises of 1 to 6 feet would put thousands of lives at risk in Boston alone. The question is not whether we need to act, we are passed that. [The] climate is changing, and human activity is contributing to that change. Massachusetts needs to be ready.”

At the start of the month, the state was hit by the first storm of the year, which dumped more than a foot of snow in many parts of the region. Along the coastline, it led to extreme flooding in towns like Scituate and Duxbury.

Patrick said they would be investing $10 million in “critical coastal infrastructure” and dam repair, which will include $1 million in municipal grants offered by the Office of Coastal Zone Management, to help reduce the risks associated with coastal storms and sea level rise.

Mayor Marty Walsh joined Patrick during the announcement, and said the state has always governed with “an eye towards the future,” but with some of the devastating effects of climate change like flooding that causes increased spending to clean-up efforts, it’s important to invest in ensuring that better protections are in place.

Walsh joked that his former stomping grounds, from when he was a State Representative, are in the potential flood zones that were pictured on a map on display during the press conference. “Much of my old district is potentially underwater, and I think my house, too. So, thanks Mr. Governor,” Walsh said.

The mayor said he wants Boston to be a leader in combating climate change and pledged full support to Patrick’s plan. “We want to remain number one when it comes to climate change, to make sure critical infrastructures are protected in the city,” he said.