ACE Fellows Testify at Critical MA Energy Hearing

New England Fellows rally outside of the MA State House

ACE is proud to partner with 350 Massachusetts and the Better Future Project for the Divest MA campaign, calling for divestment of Massachusetts state pension dollars from fossil fuels. This is a guest blog post by ACE Action Fellow Brian McDermott about the experience of  New England Fellows testifying for clean energy at the Massachusetts State House. 

On Tuesday, September 29th, six ACE Action Fellows gathered at the Massachusetts State House to make their voices heard at a public hearing on the future of energy policy in the state.

The hearing was held as Massachusetts lawmakers craft legislation to shape energy policy for the foreseeable future. ACE Action Fellows joined hundreds of other environmental and climate advocates and other citizens, and four ACE Fellows testified in front of the Joint Committee on Telecommunications, Utilities and Energy. The testimony at the hearing focused on the trajectory of Massachusetts’ energy future, renewables or fossil fuels.

"Climate change isn’t always a big, abstract idea, but rather the small moments you see every day. As youth, we have to live with this world much longer than adults will."

—Action Fellow Grace Maddox

Out of the hundreds of attendees, the Action Fellows were the only citizens offering a youth perspective at the hearing. The Fellows made their youth perspective a central component of their message. After patiently waiting for hours as other citizens testified, Action Fellows Pat Walsh and Grace Maddox finally got their chance to testify.

New England Action Fellows TestifyingReflecting on his testimony, Action Fellow Pat Walsh said, “the big message was how climate change affects youth and how it will affect our future, and no other speaker really touched on that as much as we did because we were youth talking about it.”

Added Fellow Grace Maddox of her message for the Committee, “climate change isn’t always a big, abstract idea, but rather the small moments you see every day. As youth, we have to live with this world much longer than adults will.”

Senator Marc Pacheco, the Senate Vice Chair of the Committee and President Pro Tempore, is a longtime advocate for action to address climate change. He offered his thoughts on the importance of the hearing process: “hearings are more of a formal part of the process for committee members who haven’t had the opportunity...to work on climate change and energy policy from a leadership perspective...It’s a part of the public process of developing legislation. Some of what takes place during the testimony will be included in the legislation at the end of the day and some of it may not be.”

New England Fellows with Sen. Marc PachecoExplaining what he hoped to see in the final legislation, Sen. Pacheco added, “I hope that we will maximize the efforts for expanding our good, comprehensive green energy economy that we’re starting to head into, and we become much more aggressive in that regard—much more aggressive with conservation, energy efficiency, expanding to include offshore wind...solar, and also hydro...and all of the things that have to do with clean energy policy [that] will be needed in order for us to meet our goals under the Global Warming Solutions Act.”

The hearing proved to be a unique experience for the Fellows, not just for the opportunity to testify, but also as an experience that demonstrated the extensive process of lawmaking. The hearing, originally scheduled to end at 5:00p.m., had hardly even begun as the hour neared. With pages upon pages of testimony for the Committee to hear, the Fellows did not get their chance to speak until after 9:00p.m.

Yet, the experience was overall rewarding for the Fellows, who expressed a deeper understanding of the realities of the political system. Pat Walsh said, “I learned a lot how much these people making the laws actually care...I never put these politicians’ names to a face, but they actually showed emotion, they cared, and it was much different than what I expected it to be. I really loved it.”

Grace Maddox added, “The legislature and just politics in general are really complicated and it’s a slow process, but it’s definitely worth it in the end.”

Brian McDermott is ACE’s Youth Organizing Associate.  He recently completed the 2015-16 ACE Fellowship in New England and will be attending American University in Washington, D.C. beginning in the fall.