Who we are
Clean Heat for Arlington MA is a group of volunteer Arlington residents who felt that their skills would be useful in helping their town move forward to a sustainable future.
Why do we need a Net Zero Stretch Code?
Climate change due to carbon dioxide and other powerful greenhouse gas emissions is happening now and worsening rapidly. The IPCC has made it clear that to avoid catastrophic outcomes we must reach net zero emissions by 2050, and, in response, both the state and the Town of Arlington have committed to this goal. Despite these commitments, we continue to build fossil-fuel reliant buildings that we know will need to be retrofitted well before the end of their useful lifespan, in order to reach net zero emissions in time to make a difference to our climate change future. A strong Net Zero Stretch Code would allow the Town of Arlington to take necessary action towards meeting our, and the state’s net zero goals.
Why does a Net Zero Stretch Code need to address fossil fuels in buildings?
- What’s the problem with natural gas? Mothers Out Front overview covers a range of substantial impacts.
- Natural gas leaks in Boston are vastly underreported — and could be coming from inside homes, study says. New research shows that methane emissions in the Boston area were six times higher than previously estimated. That could make the greenhouse effect of natural gas “equivalent to coal.” 10.25.2021, Washington Post.
- It’s a Vast, Invisible Climate Menace. We Made It Visible. New York Times, Jonah M. Kessel and Hiroko Tabuch, Dec. 12, 2019. “Immense amounts of methane are escaping from oil and gas sites nationwide, worsening global warming… ” The article describes how these leaks were found and why the problem isn’t getting fixed.
- Making gas unnatural. Yvonne Abraham, 1.29.2022. Boston Globe. Excellent overview of the problems with natural gas including the enormous financial impact on Massachusetts of the utilities’ pipe replacement program.
- GSEP AT THE SIX-YEAR MARK, A Review of the Massachusetts Gas System Enhancement Plan. A 2021 report commissioned by the Gas Leaks Allies found that Massachusetts’ gas pipe replacement program is no longer financially sound and is not meeting its goals.
- Methane research series: 16 studies Environmental Defense Fund. “To better understand how much methane escapes from the U.S. natural gas supply chain — and from where — EDF spearheaded an extensive research series from 2012 to 2018.”
What About Cooking with Gas?
- Health Effects from Gas Stove Pollution Rocky Mountain Institute (RMI), Physicians for Social Responsibility, Mothers Out Front, Sierra Club, 2020.
- Effects of Residential Gas Appliances On Indoor and Outdoor Air Quality And Public Health In California. UCLA Center for Occupational & Environmental Health, April 2020.
- We need to talk about your gas stove, your health and climate change. October 7, 2021, Heard on Morning Edition, NPR.
- Gas Stoves Leak Methane Even When Turned Off, Study Finds Raymond Zhong, Jan. 27, 2022. The New York Times
What does a strong Net Zero Stretch Code look like?
A strong Net Zero Stretch Code would:
- Apply to all building types
- Apply to new construction and major renovations
- Set high energy efficiency standards consistent with leading benchmarks such as Passive House to reduce greenhouse gas emissions, operational expenses, and grid load
- Require primary heating/cooling systems, appliances, and other systems to be 100% electric
- Require buildings to be powered by 100% renewable energy, so that building operations are carbon neutral
- Address embodied carbon
- Require reporting and other measures to ensure that building systems operate as designed
- Define exemptions narrowly and subject them to review as technology changes and provide waivers, if any, only in limited instances with a clear process
- Go into effect without unreasonable delays
What is the process and timeline for the new building code?
In March 2021, the legislature enacted “An Act Creating a Next Generation Roadmap for the Massachusetts Climate Policy” which requires the DOER to develop a new municipal opt-in specialized stretch energy code that includes net zero performance standards and a definition of a net-zero building. This net-zero stretch code must be designed to achieve compliance with the state’s greenhouse gas emissions limits. The agency has 18 months from the effective date of the act (which is 90 days after enactment) to develop and promulgate the net-zero stretch energy code, meaning it must be completed by December 2022.
During this 18-month period, the DOER must hold at least five public hearings in a diverse range of communities, including at least one low-income community. These five public hearings have been held, although the schedule for them was released only a few business days before they started, and minimal outreach was done, especially to environmental justice (EJ) community residents who have the most to gain from a strong Net Zero stretch code. This is because much housing in those neighborhoods is poorly constructed, maintained, and insulated; heating and cooling bills are high; and because negative effects of decades of environmental policy harm the health of all EJ residents.
What is Arlington’s role in this?
Arlington is at the forefront of municipal climate action in the state. In 2019, by a Town meeting vote of 93% in favor, we sent a home rule petition (H.3750) to the state asking for the authority to prevent the installation of new fossil fuel infrastructure in new construction or gut renovations. The near unanimous support for this policy, along with the commitment by the Arlington Select Board in 2018 to be net zero by 2050, provides a strong mandate for action now. Furthermore, buildings are by far the largest source of emissions in the Town of Arlington, making up almost two thirds of the Town’s overall emissions.
A strong building code would provide us another avenue to begin working towards our net zero goals, and thus it is our responsibility to advocate for the building code that we need.
Arlington support for a strong Net Zero Stretch Code, began last year.
Does the technology for net zero construction exist?
Yes! Modern cold-climate heat pumps, in combination with current efficiency standards for new construction, and rapidly greening Massachusetts electric grid make fossil fuel-free, net zero-ready construction not only feasible but practical and economical. For more information, look at these resources:
- Guide to cold-climate heat pumps
- What is an all-electric building?
- All-Electric New Homes: A Win for the Climate and the Economy
- Local examples of all-electric construction:Draft Report: “Mass is Ready for Net Zero”
- Study on when Electricity will be cheaper than Gas for heating and cooling(March 2021)
- FAQ by RMI on Electrification and New Building Construction(March 2021)