"The Biosphere Does Not Belong to Us; We Belong to It."

Friday, December 31, 2021


Almost exactly two years ago, environmentalists were making a push for the Massachusetts legislature to advance a bill that was the predecessor of today's House Bill 912, An Act Relative to Forest Protection, now before the Joint Committee on Environment, Natural Resources and Agriculture.  The bill they were advocating for had the same title, An Act Relative to Forest Protection, but a different number, House Bill 897; ultimately it did not move beyond the House Ways and Means Committee.

The contents of today's bill, H.912, are similar to the previous bill, H.897, but not identical. Read the texts side by side and you easily see where parts of the original have been dropped, parts have been altered, and new parts have been inserted.  

There's nothing unusual about that. Texts of proposed laws are changed all the time as bills wend their way through the legislative process.  The process exposes flaws and weaknesses.  And it is responsive to the voices of influential experts of all kinds and of powerful opponents who cannot be ignored if bill sponsors and bill supporters are serious about getting something into law.

Late in 2019 and early in 2020, proponents of An Act Relative to Forest Protection brought out some big names to lift their cause, including the noted journalist and author Bill McKibben ("The End of Nature") and E.O. Wilson, a retired Harvard University biology professor who won a slew of awards for his academic work and his writing for general audiences.  His book "On Human Nature" won the Pulitzer for general non-fiction in 1979.

After Wilson's recent death, The New York Times published a detail-rich obituary, "E.O. Wilson, a Pioneer of Evolutionary Biology, Dies at 92," 12-27-21.  It contained this assessment by Paula J. Ehrlich, chief executive and president of the E.O. Wilson Biodiversity Foundation: "His courageous scientific focus and poetic voice transformed our way of understanding ourselves and our planet."

Back in 2019, Wilson wrote a letter of support for An Act Relative to Forest Protection, asserting, "This is the single most important action the people of the state can take to preserve our natural heritage.  As it has many times in the past, Massachusetts can provide leadership on this issue, inspiring other states across the country to take similar bold actions." 

Wilson's letter on the bill also (notably) said: 

"Many decades of research have convinced me and many other conservation biologists that we must save at least half of the Earth from industrial exploitation if we hope to avoid catastrophic plant and animal extinctions.  A bill introduced into this Massachusetts legislative session would make us the first state to give this protection to all of its public lands.  I strongly support this bill, which will permanently protect (11%) of the Massachusetts land area, reaching from the Berkshires to the Atlantic Coast."

I don't have as great an understanding of An Act Relative to Forest Protection, in either its former or current iteration, as I would like.  I do not know enough about the nuances of the strictures the bill would impose, or about the bigger questions on conservation of our state's natural resources, to say it ought to pass now.  But I do know the obvious: winters were a lot colder and snowier when I was a kid in Revere than they are now, and Wilson's case for preserving half the natural world deserves to be considered on an urgent basis.

In an article he wrote, "A Biologist's Manifesto for Preserving Life on Earth," published in December, 2016, in "Sierra," the magazine of the Sierra Club, Wilson made the  argument for "Half Earth" thusly:

"We are playing a global endgame.  Humanity's grasp on the planet is not strong; it is growing weaker.  Freshwater is growing short; the atmosphere and the seas are increasingly polluted as a result of what has transpired on land.  The climate is changing in ways unfavorable to life, except for microbes, jellyfish, and fungi.  For many species, these changes are already fatal.

"...A biographic scan of Earth's principal habitats shows that a full representation of its ecosystems and the vast majority of its species can be saved within half the planet's surface.  At one-half and above, life on Earth enters the safe zone.  Within that half, more than 80 percent of the species would be stabilized.

"There is a second, psychological argument for protecting half of Earth.  Half-Earth is a goal -- and people understand and appreciate goals.  They need a victory, not just news that progress is being made...It is our nature to choose large goals that, while difficult, are potentially game changing and universal in benefit.  To strive against odds on behalf of all of life would be humanity at its most noble.

"...The biosphere does not belong to us; we belong to it."

I am a collector, a hoarder, I regret to say, of newspaper and magazine articles and books that make an impression upon me.  Often I have no particular reason for cutting out an article or a quote or an excerpt from an article, other than I think it might come in handy one day when I have to write something or might be the key to a door beyond which I will gain an understanding of a problem that has occupied me a long time or where I will perceive a puzzling situation in a new, clear light.

Out of that hoard recently tumbled a copy of a letter to the editor of The New York Times, dated Sept. 14, 2013, from Allen Hershkowitz, who was identified in a post-script as "a senior scientist at the Natural Resources Defense Council."  The letter was a response to a column by Eric C. Ellis that had recently appeared on the Times's Op-Ed page under the headline, "Overpopulation Is Not the Problem."  Mr. Hershkowitz's letter said, in part: 

"Contrary to the impression left by Mr. Ellis's article, nature is the ultimate source of all economic value.  (Bold facing added)  No commerce is possible without clean air, clean water, fertile topsoil, a chemically stable atmosphere, raw materials for food, energy and medicine, and the natural processing of wastes by the millions of species inhabiting our soil, water and air.

"It is the availability of these at-risk ecological services that makes possible the technical innovations that Mr. Ellis is banking on." 

Every now and then, it is good for us in Massachusetts to remember that high technology, higher education, advanced medical research and care, biotechnology, biomedicine, pharmaceuticals, etc. -- treasures though they undoubtedly be -- are not our Commonwealth's ultimate source of all economic value.


Preserve MA Forests to Fight Global Warming, Bill Advocates Urge

Thursday, December 30, 2021


We should find out fairly soon if there's a chance the legislature will enact some major-impact environmental bills in the new year.

Feb. 2, 2022, is Joint Rule 10 day, the deadline for most of the legislature's joint committees to issue reports on all bills assigned to them.

Watch the Joint Committee on Environment, Natural Resources and Agriculture (JENRA).  If it issues favorable reports that day on House Bill 912, An Act Relative to Forest Protection, and House Bill 1002, An Act Relative to Increased Forest Protection, it could be a sign something significant is happening on this front. 

H.912 would, among other things, prohibit the harvesting of timber in any of the state's public forests and prevent businesses and industries from siting needed infrastructure there.  You would not be able to put up a cell phone tower, for example, in a publicly owned forest if H.912 became law.

H.1002 would require the Department of Fisheries and Wildlife to set aside as nature reserves 30% of the land within already established Wildlife Management Areas and would impose new restrictions on the use of such land, such as permanently banning timber removal.

The idea behind both bills is to preserve and improve the condition of our forests because trees absorb atmospheric carbon dioxide, the cause of global warming and climate disruption.  Healthy forests also mitigate the effects of heavy rains, which have become more frequent in many parts of the world because of warming. 

When JENRA held a virtual public hearing on these and a number of other bills on Dec. 7, more than 20 witnesses offered testimony on each bill, most (but not all) in favor. 

Rep. Michael J. Finn, D-West Springfield, the main sponsor of H.912, told the committee that the bill was needed to update public land policies "written decades ago, before global warming and climate change were recognized as real and imminent threats."  

"This bill will protect over 400,000 acres of forests and watershed lands controlled by the Department of Conservation and Recreation by designating them as parks and reserves," Finn pointed out. (H.912 has 19 co-sponsors in the House and 2 co-sponsors in the Senate.)

Michael Kellett, of RESTORE: The North Woods, testified that H.912 and H.1002 "were conceived to bring the management of Massachusetts public lands in line with the most urgent environmental issues of the 21st Century: climate change and loss of biodiversity."  

The bills, Kellett said, "would increase carbon storage to fight climate change and sea level rise...They would protect maturing forests that can become future old growth."

One of those who spoke in opposition to the bills was Chris Eagan, Executive Director of the Massachusetts Forest Alliance, a trade association for forest landowners, foresters, timber harvesters and forest products companies.  

"H.912 was first filed last session (2019-20) and it was opposed by many of the major environmental organizations and land trusts in Massachusetts," Eagan said. "...It's being pushed on environmental and climate grounds, but the major environmental groups, the ones you've heard of, oppose it.  They oppose it because it's bad policy."

Also testifying in opposition was Evan Dell'Olio, General Manager and Director of Roberts Energy Renewables.  "A concerning point in regards to H.1002 is that Mass. Fish and Wildlife depends on an ability to use multiple types of wildlife management techniques, including commercial timber harvesting, to retain and create new habitats for declining endangered species," he said. "Often, these are the types of projects that private landowners may not have the resources to pursue, especially when large volumes of low-grade wood have to be removed to create this (desired) wildlife habitat."

On Feb. 2, joint legislative committees subject to Joint Rule 10, will have four options on each bill in their charge.  They can report it out favorably, report it out unfavorably, send it to study, or ask for a continuance, i.e., a new, future deadline for reporting it out.

If JENRA reports H.912 and H.1002 out favorably, the bills would get legs and be sent to another committee for possible, further favorable action.  Both would still have a long way to go to enactment.  

If JENRA gives them unfavorable reports, the bills would pretty much be dead for this session.  And if it sends them to study, the same would be the case.  In the Massachusetts legislature, "study" is a synonym for wastebasket.

[During the 2019-20 legislative session, JENRA gave a favorable report to a bill very similar to H.912 and having the same title.  It was then sent to the House Rules Committee, which also gave it a favorable report.  It wound up in House Ways and Means, but no further action was taken on it.]

NEXT:  A look at a recently deceased Harvard professor, a world-renowned biologist and champion of biodiversity, who favored the forest management approach set forth in An Act Relative to Forest Protection. 

NOTE: For the witness testimony quoted in this post, credit is due to MASSTRAC/InstaTrac, an independent, long-established, subscriber-only legislative monitoring service.  

Different Kind of Candidate, in a Familiar Lane, Could Shake Up Guv Race

Monday, December 20, 2021

The next election for governor is almost a year away.

Announced candidates include three Democrats, Harvard professor Danielle Allen, state senator Sonia Chang-Diaz and former state senator Ben Downing, and one Republican, former state representative Geoff Diehl, who's been endorsed by Donald Trump.

Rampant is the expectation that Maura Healey, our attorney general, will be in the race as well. Healey would be considered the frontrunner, both in the primary and general elections, the moment she announced.

Given how much Massachusetts likes having moderate Republican governors, like Baker and Mitt Romney, I have to wonder if there's a person of that stripe (or almost) who'd make a good candidate this time around.  (It's in that context that the name of Andrew Lelling, U.S. Attorney for Massachusetts under the Trump Justice Dept., has come up.)

Question:  Why can't the moderate Republican lane -- fiscally conservative/socially liberal -- be filled in the 2022 gubernatorial campaign by a moderate Independent...or a moderate Democrat who, realizing he or she would likely lose a Democratic primary to Maura Healey, decides to run as an Independent...or a moderate Republican who, realizing he or she would likely lose the Republican primary to Diehl, decides to run as an Independent?

There are some seriously qualified individuals with a great understanding of the public sector who, in theory, have a realistic path to the governorship if they took one of these routes.  

In that category, I'd put Tom Glynn, former CEO of Partners Healthcare and former MassPort executive director; Putnam Investments CEO Bob Reynolds; and Jay Ash, former Chelsea city manager, former Secretary of Housing and Economic Development in the Baker administration, and current Massachusetts Competitive Partnership CEO.  

Other names no doubt belong in this category.

...Let's consider Baker's decision not to seek a third consecutive four-year term, a prize definitely within his reach.

I believe the obvious reason is the real reason: he was tired of the endless demands of the office and unhappy with the rightward drift of his party, where more members have indicated they favor Diehl over him in next year's primary.

It could also be that Baker, who has remained highly popular with the mass of voters throughout his years in office, didn't want to press his luck.  

Third consecutive terms for governors, as well as for other politicians with executive responsibilities, often turn into minefields.   Third-termers can run into problems, for instance, in attracting, retaining and motivating top-notch staff and appointees.  

Speaking some years ago with "City & State," George Arzt, press secretary for former New York City Mayor Ed Koch during Koch's third term, said: "The danger for any third-term executive is a malaise that settles over the workforce, and you have to keep the workforce energized with new ideas, new projects, creativity, and it's going to take fierce leadership to do that."

Fierce leadership.

That's what it takes to be a truly successful executive in the public realm.  Maybe Charlie Baker just woke up one normal day, looked in the mirror and realized he had no more "fierce" to give as governor.  



Charlie Baker: Last Republican Governor of Massachusetts

Wednesday, December 1, 2021

As long as the Jim Lyonses of the world are in the driver's seat at MassGOP, it is hard to see how another Republican gets elected governor of Massachusetts.

Shortly after Governor Charlie Baker and Lieutenant Governor Karyn Polito announced today that neither had a desire to run for governor in 2022, the Republican Party of Massachusetts put out a press release with this quote from party chairman Jim Lyons:

"Our party remains committed to the America-First of agenda advocated by President Donald J. Trump, and it's clear to me that Charlie Baker was shaken by President Trump's endorsement of another Republican candidate (for governor in 2022) in Geoff Diehl.

"Our party remains committed to the strong conservative values of freedom, individual liberty, and personal responsibility.  We look forward to working with President Trump as we continue to rebuild the Massachusetts Republican Party."  (For those who are counting, that's three references to Trump as president in the present tense in a span of 69 words -- quite a feat, even by sycophant standards.)

Memo to Lyons: Trump lost to Biden last year in Massachusetts by 33 percentage points.

Here's how Baker and Polito, in an open letter, explained their decision to swear off 2022 gubernatorial campaigns:

"We have all been going through an extraordinarily difficult pandemic, and the next year will be just as important, if not more important, than the past year.  We have a great deal of work to do to put the pandemic behind us, keep our kids in school, and keep our communities and economy moving forward.  That work cannot and should not be about politics and the next election.  If we were to run, it would be a distraction that would potentially get in the way of many of the things we should be working on for everyone in Massachusetts.  We want to focus on recovery, not on the grudge matches political campaigns can devolve into." 

Politico reported in October that a Public Policy Polling survey of likely voters in next year's  Massachusetts Republican Party primary revealed that Diehl was favored over Baker by a 21 percent margin (50 to 29%).

In November, a poll by Northwind Strategies suggested Baker's best chance of getting re-elected would entail quitting the Republican Party and running as an Independent.  

At about the same time, The Boston Globe reported on a UMass poll showing Baker enjoyed an approval rating among Republican voters of only 41 percent.

I doubt Baker was "shaken" by the former president's endorsement of Diehl, but I can see him being angry.  Frustrated too.  

Maybe the endorsement was the straw that broke the camel's back, bringing forth a long dormant urge to go and make some real money in the private sector again. Maybe Baker wanted to give his beloved party a wake-up call: "You like Diehl so much?  Fine.  Good luck next year with your Geoffie boy."

Independents are the largest voting bloc in Massachusetts, making up 55.9 percent of registered voters, followed by Democrats (32.5 percent) and Republicans (10.1 percent).

Baker, I believe, could indeed have run next year as an Independent and won.  Then, if he wished, he could have re-enrolled as a Republican after taking the oath of office for a third time.  

I can see the MassGOP, if it continues indefinitely in its Trump-induced delirium, shrinking to a state of total irrelevance and inspiring the creation of a Massachusetts Centrist Party.


Higher Natural Gas Prices Can't Be Separated from Old Battles over Pipeline

Monday, November 15, 2021

Remember that company from Texas, Kinder Morgan, that proposed in 2014 to bring bountiful Marcellus Shale gas from Pennsylvania to New England via a new pipeline across northern Massachusetts?  

Remember how Massachusetts basically told Kinder Morgan to get stuffed? 

(The list of influential politicians willing to support the plan had zero names on it.) 

Remember how so many of our leaders questioned the rationale for the project: that we needed more natural gas and a new pipeline was required to deliver it? 

Focus now on the present.  New Englanders are facing steep price increases for natural gas and other fuels.  On Sept. 20, Bloomberg reported, "Natural gas futures have been soaring, and they're set to get especially high in New England and California in the coming months."

Available inventories of gas, Bloomberg explained, "are tight to the point where a harsh winter could mean a supply crunch.  Any shortages would have an outsized impact on New England, where limited pipeline capacity makes it harder to bring gas from Appalachia."

In its latest Winter Energy Market and Reliability Assessment, ISO New England, which oversees the regional power grid, noted:

"Natural gas availability is more of a concern in New England due to the size of New England's peak winter natural gas demand combined with the limited number of pipelines and available pipeline capacity into the region...New England is served by three major natural gas importing pipelines; however, despite a few expansions, this capacity has remained largely unchanged for decades."

In April 2016, Kinder Morgan suspended efforts to win the necessary approvals for its $3.3 billion Northeast Energy Direct (NED) pipeline project, citing inadequate commitments from prospective gas customers.

In response, the Governor Baker administration said it believed the company's decision "highlights the pressing need to secure cost-effective hydropower and other renewable energy resources to meet the growing demand for affordable energy in Massachusetts and New England."  That was a reference to the plan to connect Massachusetts to hydroelectric power sources in Canada, which would involve new electric transmission lines within a 145-mile-long corridor cut through untouched forests in Maine.  

On Nov. 2, Maine voters approved a ballot question opposing this plan and requiring the Maine legislature to approve projects of this nature.  

Somewhere, Paul LePage must have been smiling.  

LePage was governor of  Maine when Kinder Morgan was pushing for the NED pipeline through Massachusetts and he supported it as heartily as Baker now supports hydropower from Quebec because it would have supplied a lot more gas to Maine and given a much needed boost to his state's economy.

Mainers were, of course, aware in 2016 that Massachusetts did not concern itself with how its actions relative to the pipeline might crush their ambitions, which leads to this question:  Was the Maine ballot question against Quebec hydropower transmission lines karmic payback for the loss of the NED pipeline?

Charlie Baker certainly hopes not.  

Asked on Nov. 4 if he saw the passage of the anti-hydropower referendum as the death knell for that project, Baker said, "No, I don't see it as dead."  There's talk of challenging the referendum in court as "unconstitutional," but details on such a move have yet to emerge.

Best Contact Tracing Tool Was Out of Bounds. What About in Next Pandemic?

Saturday, November 6, 2021

The administration of Governor Charlie Baker has decided to shut down the Massachusetts Community Tracing Collaborative the end of this year and turn over all COVID-19 contact tracing to local boards of health.  To facilitate the transition, the administration will award more than $15 million in grants to the local boards.  It was during the second month of the pandemic here, April 2020, that the collaborative was set up to limit the spread of COVID-19 by contacting persons who were likely exposed to infected persons and getting them tested.

From April 2020 through nearly the end of October 2021, the state's Executive Office of Health and Human Services (EOHHS) reports that the collaborative and local boards of health traced and found contacts for 1.1 million COVID-19 cases.  (The boards traced about 35 percent of all cases.)

The agency points out that, at the beginning of the pandemic, there was "limited (COVID-19) testing capability, minimal therapeutic interventions and no vaccines," whereas today, "...Massachusetts is a national leader in vaccine administration and free testing, and (has) the second lowest COVID-19 hospitalization rate and case positivity rates in the nation."

As of Nov. 4, Massachusetts has had 858,000 cases of COVID-19 and 19,046 deaths from the disease.  Overall, our state coped very well with this unprecedented public health emergency.  

Yes, we can be proud of how Massachusetts has dealt with the pandemic.  But that cannot mean that any errors, oversights and deficiencies in our pandemic performance should be minimized or ignored.  

Instead, we should be examining all of the ways our state and nation could have prepared better for, and responded better to, COVID-19.  Especially, we should pay close attention to the beginning of the pandemic, the period when the chances of containing the disease were the highest.  

Much has already been said and written on this subject -- but not nearly as much as will be said and written on it in the coming years... 

Exercising the blogger's prerogative, I'm going to hold up for renewed consideration a column written several months ago by a friend of mine, Tom Kelly, which appeared in CommonWealth Magazine under the headline, "Safety should trump privacy in next pandemic.  Phone geo-tracking data could save thousands of lives."  

"Historians of the future," Kelly wrote, "will not excuse the many ways we made the pandemic worse than it had to be; for example, how we failed to foresee the critical role that communications technology could have played in halting the spread of the coronavirus, and how we failed to establish beforehand the necessary legal and logistical structures to exploit that technology when it was needed most."

Those historians, he continued, "...will ask why, when Americans first started falling ill with COVID, we were not able or even willing to use geo-tracking data in those patients' smart phones to trace everyone they may have been in contact with and to get those 'contacts' quickly tested and isolated?"

Kelly has a provocative thesis: We have been acting throughout this crisis as if privacy rights are immutable, but they are not.  "Privacy rights can and should be adjusted -- temporarily -- in a true national health emergency," he wrote.

Here's a key passage from his column:

"...we need to be talking now about adopting new laws and policies that would allow government agencies, in an explicitly defined health emergency, to access personal information that has the potential, in the aggregate, to prevent deaths on a massive scale.

"The laws and policies I'm talking about would need to have strong, built-in privacy protections concerning the collection, transmission, and analysis of digital data.  These things would be difficult to write and enact.  But, with memories fresh in our minds of all the damage COVID has wrought, I believe we could get it done."

Kelly supported his thesis by citing the leadership meeting convened by Biogen in Boston on Feb. 26-27, 2020, which became a COVID-19 super-spreader event.  There were 99 individuals who left that meeting having been exposed to the disease who became responsible, ultimately, for as many as 300,000 COVID-19 cases in 29 states, according to "Science," the journal of the American Association for the Advancement of Science.

"To those who believe in the immutability of privacy rights," Kelly wrote, "I would pose this question: Knowing now how a new strain of the coronavirus can quickly turn 99 cases of the illness into 300,000, can you really say you'd stick to that position, no matter what, in another pandemic?" 

Please read Kelly's entire piece.  It may be found at: 


Over the Mystic: Baker's All In on This Project

Thursday, October 28, 2021

The Baker administration anticipated the grumbling that would follow in the wake of its announcement last week that it was going forward with a $35 million project to build a 785-foot-long pedestrian and bicyclist bridge over the Mystic River linking the Encore casino site in Everett to Assembly Square in Somerville.  

Administration officials came to the Oct. 22 announcement ceremony armed with facts on how the bridge would help both people and the environment, and on how much it would do for communities deemed both Gateway Cities and areas deserving of "environmental justice" improvements.

Gateway Cities serve as foundations and hubs for economic activities that drive the economies of their regions.  In Massachusetts, the legislature has designated 26 Gateway Cities, including Chelsea, Everett, Fall River, Haverhill, Lawrence, Lynn, Malden, Revere and Worcester.

A neighborhood conforms to the Commonwealth's definition of an environmental justice area if it meets one or more of the following criteria: 1. the annual median household income is not more than 65 percent of the statewide annual median household income; 2. minorities comprise 40 percent or more of the population; 3. Twenty-five percent or more of households lack English language proficiency; or 4. minorities comprise 25 percent or more of the population and the annual median household income of the municipality in which the neighborhood is located does not exceed 150 percent of the statewide annual median household income.

Three days after the Baker administration announced it is fully committed to "completing the design, permitting and construction of the Mystic River Bicycle and Pedestrian Bridge," The Boston Globe published an opinion column under the headline, "A bridge to a casino, but not to a recovery center."  

The columnist juxtaposed the all-positive story from the administration on the pedestrian/bicyclist bridge with the long-stalled project to rebuild the bridge from Quincy to Long Island (in Boston Harbor), which would enable the City of Boston to re-open a desperately needed substance abuse treatment facility on the island, writing:

"In this tale of two bridges, is there a more textbook case about what society and government deem important?  As Alex Green, who teaches public policy at the Harvard Kennedy School tweeted over the weekend: 'Bridge to casino.  No bridge to massive Long Island rehab facility.  Massachusetts priorities, one decision at a time.' "

Closed due to safety concerns in October 2014, the Long Island bridge had to be demolished several months later.  Boston has since been attempting to rebuild it but has been blocked at every turn in the process by the City of Quincy.  The matter remains mired in the courts.  

Count me among those who believe the Mystic River Bicycle and Pedestrian Bridge is a great idea and a great investment by the state -- even if it plumps up the bottom line of Encore's owner,  Las Vegas-based Wynn Resorts.  (I say that as a lifelong, committed non-gambler.)

The bridge may help some gamblers get from Somerville to the casino and back, but I can't imagine there'll be lots of gamblers making it their primary route to the Encore.  The walk will be too much like work for most of the folks who get their kicks sitting for hours in front of slot machines.  And why would they walk to the casino when they can take a free shuttle to it from the Wellington T station, just one stop away from Assembly Square on the Orange Line?

The main beneficiaries of the bridge will be: (a) bicyclists who will no longer have to risk their lives on the traffic-clogged Alford Street Bridge (Route 99) from Everett to Somerville, (b) persons of humble circumstances from Somerville who will find it easier to take jobs at the casino, and (c) persons of humble circumstances from Everett who will find it easier to take jobs at the offices, apartment and condo complexes, shops and restaurants in the boomtown created by Somerville at Assembly Square.

The no-vehicle/no-carbon-emissions bridge will also open up new possibilities for people and enterprises beyond Everett and Somerville because it will connect the Northern Strand, one of the most popular pedestrian and bike trails in Greater Boston, to Somerville and adjoining municipalities.  

The Northern Strand is built mainly on old, abandoned freight railroad lines.  It begins in Lynn and courses for eleven-and-a half miles through Saugus, Malden, Revere and Everett before culminating on the banks of the Mystic.  

Once the new bridge is in place, anyone will be able to use the Northern Strand to bike, run or walk uninterrupted all the way to Somerville -- and, if they're especially fit and energetic, from Somerville to points in Boston, Cambridge and beyond. 

Through this bridge, Kathleen Theoharides, Secretary of the Executive Office of Energy and Environmental Affairs, sees the state "delivering a mobility solution that prioritizes equity, reduces greenhouse gas emissions, and enhances access to local businesses and services for residents in these environmental justice communities." 

The comparison between the construction of the Mystic River Bicycle and Pedestrian Bridge and the replacement of the Long Island bridge is rather thin.  The two cities involved with the first project, Everett and Somerville, are totally in favor of it, whereas the cities involved with the second project, Boston and Quincy, are on opposite sides.

Two points I'd like to stick in at the end:

The state collects taxes from the Encore casino equal to 25 percent of the casino's gross receipts.  That does not automatically entitle the casino to reap the benefits of a state-funded infrastructure project, but it allows the casino and its supporters to argue the bridge is worthy of public investment.  Developers and businesses argue from weaker vantages all the time.

The Encore casino itself is private property but the grounds around it, and (most attractively) the waterfront portions of it, are open at no fee or obligation to the public.  Wynn Resorts created a new waterfront park when it reclaimed and rehabilitated a shoreline and riverbed dangerously contaminated during the decades a chemical factory operated on the site.  It is a beautiful public amenity.