FROM OTHER SOURCES: NEWS AND FEATURES FOR AND ABOUT AMHERST (#16)

Editor’s Note: “From Other Sources” offers links to selected articles that might be of interest to Amherst readers. We will update this section every other week, emphasizing different timely topics. We have added a tag called “From Other Sources” so that you can easily find previous editions/links. Simply click the “From Other Sources” tag on the tag menu, found in the right-hand sidebar on any open article.

CLIMATE/ENVIRONMENT/ENERGY
Trump Removes Pollution Controls on Streams and Wetlands. by Coral Davenport (1/22/20). The Trump administration on Thursday finalized a rule to strip away environmental protections for streams, wetlands and groundwater, handing a victory to farmers, fossil fuel producers and real estate developers who said Obama-era rules had shackled them with onerous and unnecessary burdens. From Day 1 of his administration, President Trump vowed to repeal President Barack Obama’s “Waters of the United States” regulation, which had frustrated rural landowners. His new rule, which will be implemented in about 60 days, is the latest step in the Trump administration’s push to repeal or weaken nearly 100 environmental rules and laws, loosening or eliminating rules on climate change, clean air, chemical pollution, coal mining, oil drilling and endangered species protections. (New York Times).

Spain Declares Climate Emergency, Gets Climate Plan Ready.  by Associated Press (1/21/20).   Spain’s new government declared a national climate emergency on Tuesday, taking a formal first step toward enacting ambitious measures to fight climate change.Spain’s coalition government wants up to 95% of the Mediterranean country’s electricity to come from renewable sources by 2040. The plan also foresees eliminating pollution by buses and trucks and making farming carbon neutral. (Associated Press). 

New Zealand Passes Historic Zero Carbon Bill with Near Unanimous Support. by Michael Mazengarb ( 11/19/19).  The New Zealand parliament has passed landmark legislation that enshrines the country’s commitment to the Paris Agreement into law, and will see the country achieve zero net carbon dioxide emissions by 2050. The legislation establishes New Zealand as one of the few countries in the world with a legislated commitment to meeting the goals of the Paris Agreement, with the New Zealand bill committing to establishing policies consistent with limiting global warming to just 1.5°C. (Renew Economy).

Four Ways to Cut Plastics’ Growing Greenhouse Gas Emissions. by Phil McKenna.  4/15/19. As concern over plastic waste grows, researchers are raising red flags about another problem: plastic’s rapidly growing carbon footprint. Left unchecked, greenhouse gas emissions associated with plastics will be nearly four times greater by mid-century, when they are projected to account for nearly one-sixth of global emissions. (Inside Climate News).  

First Gas Station in America To Ditch Oil For 100% Electric Vehicle Charging Opens in Maryland.  by Jacob Douglas (9/30/19). The first gas station in the U.S. that has been completely transitioned from a petroleum station to exclusively charging EVs opened Thursday in Takoma Park, Maryland. There are more than 20,700 registered electric vehicles in Maryland, and the area also has an electric taxi service in need of more charging infrastructure. (CNBC). 

GOVERNMENT
Amherst Board Members Have Concerns Over Year-Old Town Charter. by Jim Russell (1/20/20). A year into the new form of government here, there is some griping about how things are working under the new town charter. Public meetings that have dragged on for hours have added to frustrations. Members of the Town Council, and Planning Board, recently expressed frustration at two lengthy meetings this month. A councilor said there is now “less transparency” with the new form of government voters approved in 2018. (Masslive). 

HEALTH
It’s January and Massachusetts is Dealing with Ticks Again.  by Nichole Berlie (1/14/20). Record breaking temperatures over the weekend have awakened ticks across Massachusetts that were experiencing their version of winter hibernation. (WCVB). 

Here’s How Exercise Reduces Anxiety and Makes You Feel More Connected. by Kelly McGonigal (1/22/20). We all know exercise makes your body healthier and helps you live longer. A growing body of research shows exercise is also linked to a wide range of mood-based and social benefits. People who are physically active are happier and more satisfied with their lives. They have a stronger sense of purpose, feel more gratitude, are more connected to their communities, and are less likely to be lonely or anxious. (Washington Post).

HOUSING
Finland Provides Shelter for All in Needby Kontrast.at. (11/14/19). Finland is the only country in Europe where homelessness is in decline. In Finland, the number of homeless people has fallen sharply. The reason: The country applies the “Housing First” concept. Those affected by homelessness receive a small apartment and counseling – without any preconditions. 4 out of 5 people affected thus make their way back into a stable life. And: All this is cheaper than accepting homelessness. (Scoop.me). 

Report Details Barriers to Fair Housing in Northampton. by Greta Jochem (1/22/20). Though Northampton has been dubbed by some as “Paradise City,” it’s not a paradise accessible to everyone, says a new report looking at the barriers to fair housing in the city. “As a working-class single parent, I cannot imagine ever being able to afford a home in Northampton,” one city resident is quoted as saying in the report. “That feels frustrating because I do feel safe here. But it’s way too overpriced.” Many renters also struggle with high costs — 38% are spending more than half their income on rent. Anyone working full time at minimum wage would spend about 51% of their income to pay the gross median rent in the city, according to the study, “Unlocking Opportunity: An Assessment of Barriers to Fair Housing in Northampton.” (Daily Hampshire Gazette).

SOLID WASTE/RECYCLING
California Becomes the First State to Mandate Composting for Residences and Businessesby Californians Against Waste (1/21/20). Three years after California’s Short-Lived Climate Pollutant Reduction Strategy (SB 1383, Lara) was signed into law, formal regulations were adopted by the California Department of Resources Recycling and Recovery (CalRecycle) at a public meeting today and will be transmitted to the Office of Administrative Law for final codification. As a part of a multi-pronged strategy, CalRecycle will be responsible for reducing organic waste disposal by 75% and recovering 20% of edible food that is currently thrown away by 2025.  Under this nation-leading measure, local governments and generators will be required to compost, anaerobically digest, or otherwise recycle food scraps, yard trimmings, and other organic waste by providing curbside compost collection services to residents and businesses, and to minimize food waste from businesses such as grocery stores, event venues and restaurants. They will also be required to procure organic waste products such as compost and mulch. The regulations go into effect by 2022. (Californians Against Waste). 

Recycling Is Becoming So Expensive That Some Towns Don’t Know What To Do. by David Abel (1/11/20). On a recent afternoon here, in Westfield, with urgency in the air, local officials huddled to consider what until recently was unthinkable. Should they abandon their popular curbside recycling program? Or spend millions to build a plant to process plastic and paper on their own? With the recycling market across the country mired in crisis, a growing number of cities and towns are facing a painful reckoning: whether they can still afford to collect bottles, cans, plastics, and paper, which have so plummeted in value that in some cases they have become effectively worthless.“We’re looking at going from paying nothing to paying $500,000 a year,” said Dave Billips, the director of public works in Westfield, referring to the city’s recycling costs. “That’s going to have a major impact.” (Boston Globe).  

TAXES
What Is a Proposition 2 1/2 Override? A Primer. by Dusty Christensen (1/17/20).  They are the focus of some political campaigns. They are often the way municipalities raise money for what they say are essential services. They are cheered by some residents and derided by others. But for many, the term “override” is municipal jargon. And as Northampton prepares to vote on one, some residents are likely asking the same question: What exactly is a Proposition 2½ override? Proposition 2½, also known as the Massachusetts Local Property Tax Limitations Act, was passed by state voters in 1980. The law limits the amount of money a municipality can raise through property taxes — the largest source of revenue for most cities and towns — and how much that amount can be increased every year. The amount of revenue that a community can raise through property taxes is known as the “levy.” Proposition 2½ bars a community from increasing the levy by more than 2.5% of the total value of all taxable property in that municipality. That is known as the “levy ceiling.”  The law also places a “levy limit” on how much a community can increase its levy from year to year. That limit is always below or equal to the levy ceiling. (Daily Hampshire Gazette). 

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