- Executive Office of Energy and Environmental Affairs
Media Contact for Baker-Polito Administration Launches Digital Platform to Support Climate Resilience Planning Across Massachusetts
Craig Gilvarg, Press Secretary
Boston — Today, the Baker-Polito Administration launched the Resilient MA Action Team (RMAT) Climate Resilience Design Standards Tool, a web-based platform that will help integrate climate projections and climate resilience design standards into state and local projects. The Climate Resilience Design Standards Tool, a first-in-the-nation web instrument, will use up-to-date climate projections to provide users a preliminary climate change risk level and recommendations to increase the resiliency of project design. The web tool was announced by Lieutenant Governor Karyn Polito and Energy and Environmental Affairs Secretary Kathleen Theoharides at a virtual event as part of the Administration’s celebration of Earth Week in Massachusetts.
“While our Administration continues to take bold action to mitigate climate change, we are already seeing the inevitable impacts, such as prolonged drought and extreme weather, in cities and towns throughout Massachusetts,” said Governor Charlie Baker. “Assessing climate risk is an integral part of resilient program design, and this new web tool will strengthen state grant programs to ensure we have the data we need to safeguard the Commonwealth’s infrastructure, environment, businesses and residents.”
“Massachusetts’ cities and towns are committed to addressing climate change, but don’t always have the funds or expertise to integrate climate resilience into their projects,” said Lieutenant Governor Karyn Polito. “This tool will make climate resilience analysis more accessible to state and local agencies, and reflects our Administration’s steadfast commitment to partnering with municipalities to address the impacts of climate change.”
The Climate Resilience Design Standards Tool is an interactive, web-based platform that, through a series of site-specific questions and location information, generates a preliminary climate exposure and risk rating and recommended design standards for projects. The tool also provides guidelines and forms to help municipalities integrate site suitability, regional coordination, and flexible adaptation considerations into climate resilient planning and design.
“As the Baker-Polito Administration prepares for and responds to the growing impacts of climate change, it is imperative that all projects receiving state funding are planning for future climate risks,” said Energy and Environmental Affairs Secretary Kathleen Theoharides. “This new tool builds on the success of our Municipal Vulnerability Preparedness Program, providing municipalities, state agencies, and other project managers the resources they need to help us build a more resilient Commonwealth.”
The tool, currently in beta form, will be piloted by the Municipal Vulnerability Preparedness (MVP) Program and the MassWorks Infrastructure Program through the Community One Stop for Growth, a new joint application portal that allows applicants to use a single portal to access ten different state grant programs. Though intended initially for state-funded capital projects, the tool is a resource for all municipalities and practitioners, and can be used to assess climate risks for building, infrastructure, or natural resource projects with physical assets.
The tool is a project of the Resilient MA Action Team (RMAT), an inter-agency team that is working to implement the nation-leading State Hazard Mitigation and Climate Adaptation Plan and improve resilience to climate change across state government. The RMAT is led by the Executive Office of Energy and Environmental Affairs and the Massachusetts Emergency Management Agency, and is staffed by designated Climate Change Coordinators from each Executive Office.
“Cities and towns are eager for tools that help with climate resiliency planning and action,” said Metropolitan Area Planning Council Deputy Director Rebecca Davis. “The RMAT Climate Resilience Tool and design guidelines will help ensure that we don't waste resources building infrastructure that will be made obsolete by flooding or other climate impacts soon after construction.”
“The Baker Administration continues to take strategic steps toward building a more resilient, equitable, and thriving Commonwealth,” said Rick Dimino, President and CEO of A Better City. “The RMAT Climate Resilience Design Standards platform will be a vital tool in the toolbox to help municipalities and businesses make smart, informed decisions using the best available science.”
“Massachusetts is already experiencing the impacts of climate change – extreme storms and heat, flooding and droughts,” said Michelle Manion, VP for Policy and Advocacy at Mass Audubon. “RMAT is invaluable for presenting best available data on climate risks at a high level, enabling state agencies and municipal officials to rank and plan projects and investments in ways that minimize our communities' exposure to these risks.”
Users and stakeholders can submit feedback on the beta tool by 5:00 p.m. on June 11, 2021. The tool was developed with active engagement and feedback from state agencies, a summer 2020 public feedback period, and a Technical Advisory Group composed of consultants, academics, municipalities, regional planning organizations, and non-profit organizations.
The platform builds on the Administration’s nation-leading climate resilience efforts, including the State Hazard Mitigation and Climate Adaptation Plan, released in September 2018, which established a national model of integrating hazard mitigation priorities with forward-looking climate change data and solutions. The plan engaged over 500 stakeholders and is the first in the nation to fully integrate federal hazard mitigation planning requirements with a proactive approach to addressing the impacts from climate change.
The Administration’s nationally recognized MVP Program provides communities with technical support, climate change data, and planning tools to identify hazards and develop strategies to improve resilience. Through the MVP program, the Administration has awarded over $44 million since 2017, with 89 percent of the Commonwealth’s municipalities enrolled in the program. The 2021 grant round is now open, with Action Grant applications due on May 7, 2021 and Planning Grant applications due June 4, 2021.
During this year’s Earth Week in Massachusetts, the Baker-Polito Administration is highlighting its commitment to supporting the Commonwealth’s Environmental Justice communities, and ensuring that all residents are protected from environmental pollution can enjoy a clean and healthy environment. During Earth Week, the Administration is holding events throughout the Commonwealth spotlighting important initiatives, including the expansion of tree planting through the Greening the Gateway Cities Program, increasing access to healthy, nutritious food by supporting urban farms, and ensuring clean water by providing grant funding to local municipalities.
On March 26, 2021, Governor Baker signed comprehensive climate change legislation that includes nation-leading provisions related to Environmental Justice. Recognizing the significant impact of climate change on Environmental Justice communities overburdened by poor air quality and disproportionately high levels of pollution, the legislation statutorily defines Environmental Justice and environmental burdens, including climate change as an environmental burden. The legislation also expands Massachusetts Environmental Policy Act (MEPA) review to require an Environmental Impact Report for all projects that impact air quality within one mile of an Environmental Justice Neighborhood, and requires the Department of Environmental Protection to conduct a stakeholder process to develop a cumulative impact analysis as a condition of permitting certain projects. This change would, for the first time, require the agency to evaluate not just individual project impacts but also historic environmental pollution throughout the community through the permit process.