A crowd of a few hundred environmental advocates gathered yesterday morning at the State House to participate in Lobby Day, sponsored by the Coalition for the Environmental Bond.
Lobby Day focused on the passage of a $625 million comprehensive environmental bond, which would go toward various environmental programs, including pollution prevention and watershed protection.
Bob Durand, secretary of the Executive Office of Environmental Affairs, headed a list of public officials, all advocating the immediate necessity for the passage of the environmental bond.
Durand, addressing the crowd of lobbyists from his podium, said he fully supports the bond.
“We all show a strong environmental ethic that won’t allow us to sit on the sidelines,” Durand said. “Now is the time to protect our quality of life in this great state.”
Durand asserted that despite the current economic situation, the passage of this bond is “the fiscally prudent thing to do.”
Sen. Stephen Brewer (D-Worcester, Hampden), agreed with Durand, reiterating the importance of a timely bond passage.
“No issue is more important this year for the environment than the passage of this bond,” Brewer said.
Brewer praised Durand for his work toward passing the bond, calling him “the finest cabinet appointee.”
Despite any potential economic roadblocks, Brewer said future benefits for the land are paramount.
“Bonds take five years; land is eternal,” Brewer said. “The decisions we make today will shape the physical and spiritual character of futures to come.”
Gerrit Stover, a lobbyist with the Valley Land Fund organization, attended the rally with a special interest in land conservation programs the environmental bond would help to fund.
“The resources we’re trying to protect are going to be gone in 10 or 20 years, so the time to do this is now,” Stover said.
Stover pointed out that as a lobbyist, “The one fundamental thing we’re trying to educate people about is that this is a bond authorization, not an environmental spending bill.”
Durand praised the lobbyists, calling them “foot soldiers for natural resources and the quality of life in the Commonwealth.”
Angela Steadman and Nancy Merrill, representatives for the Boxford Trails Association, a member of the Coalition for the Environmental Bond, both emphasized the necessity for the bond.
Steadman said her main concern is that “towns today can’t afford to preserve open space without the help of the environmental bond.” Merill added that “all the programs to fund the preservation of open space are contingent upon the authorization of this bond.”
The Self Help program, a state assistance program that helps towns preserve open space, is one such program that will be depleted soon if the environmental bond is not passed.
Doug Pizzi, a spokesman for the Executive Office of Environmental Affairs, reaffirmed Durand’s platform of environmental support.
“Passing this bond will keep us on our goal to protect 200,000 acres of open space by the year 2010,” Pizzi said.
From an economic perspective, Pizzi stood firm that it is a good time to pass the bond.
“Interest rates are low, and we have broad-based support for the bond budget,” he said.
Currently, the environmental bond at stake is before the House Committee of Rules. The bond was originally filed last June by acting Gov. Jane Swift for $750 million. It has been revised by the House Long Term Debt Committee to provide for $625 million.