Energy and Environmental Affairs (EEA) Secretary Rick Sullivan today announced a new tree planting program to reduce energy use in urban neighborhoods and lower heating and cooling costs for residents and businesses. Through the Greening the Gateway Cities program, EEA will invest $5 million to plant trees in the cities of Chelsea, Fall River and Holyoke between April 2014 and December 2015. 

“Greening the Gateway Cities complements our efforts to insulate older buildings and has additional benefits of reduced stormwater pollution and treatment and cleaner air,” said Secretary Sullivan. “An upfront investment in tree planting across an urban neighborhood will pay back energy and water savings for decades as trees grow and mature, as well as make the cities greener and more beautiful.”  

Planting approximately 15,000 trees in Chelsea, Fall River and Holyoke over the next two years will lead to a 10 percent increase in canopy cover in the targeted neighborhoods, benefitting around 14,000 households.  This increase in canopy is expected to reduce heating and cooling costs in the selected areas by approximately 10 percent, with an average homeowner saving approximately $230 a year, once the trees reach maturity. Over their lifespan, the trees are expected to lead to $400 million in energy savings for residents and businesses.

The Commonwealth’s 26 Gateway Cities have lower tree canopy than other areas of the state because of their urban character and history of heavy industry and manufacturing.  The targeted areas within Chelsea, Fall River, and Holyoke were selected because of their low tree canopy cover, high population density, high wind levels and older, poorly-insulated housing.

We are proud to invest in trees, which are not only beautiful and uplifting for urban communities, but are long term, frontline allies in meeting our energy and climate goals,” said DOER Commissioner Mark Sylvia. 

MassDevelopment, which works closely with the Patrick Administration on the revitalization of Gateway Cities, will document the results of this pilot program and evaluate how it could be scaled up to be implemented in the Commonwealth’s 26 Gateway Cities. This program is expected to leverage private utility investment in green infrastructure, which has a positive impact on energy efficiency and community development.

To carry out the Greening the Gateway Cities Program, the Department of Conservation and Recreation (DCR) will partner with city governments and community organizations to plant approximately 15,000 trees on public and private land by December 2015. EEA has allocated $1 million of capital funding and the Department of Energy Resources (DOER) has committed $4 million in Alternative Compliance Payments (ACP) made by retail electricity suppliers that do not meet their statutory Renewable Energy Portfolio Standard obligation to purchase a sufficient percentage of renewable energy.  The Patrick Administration also received an $85,000 grant from the United States Forest Service to help local non-profits in these three cities in tree planting efforts to reduce stormwater pollution and municipal treatment costs. 

The value of urban trees became clear to us when we documented a 40 percent increase in summer electricity usage in a Worcester neighborhood after nearly all trees had to be removed due to the Asian Longhorned Beetle epidemic,” said DCR Commissioner Jack Murray. “We are looking forward to working with our local partners to plant 15,000 trees in Chelsea, Fall River, and Holyoke.”

The benefits of tree planting programs are greatest when tree canopy is increased over an entire neighborhood.  Many major American cities, including Boston, New York City, Philadelphia, Pittsburgh, Portland (Oregon), and Sacramento have implemented tree planting programs as a way of fighting climate change impacts and storm water infiltration.

Tree planting is part of EEA’s strategy to meet greenhouse gas (GHG) reduction targets set forth by the Global Warming Solutions Act (GWSA). The GWSA requires a 25 percent GHG reduction of 1990 levels by 2020 and an 80 percent reduction by 2050.

This new program will benefit the local economies of Chelsea, Fall River, and Holyoke by creating jobs for local residents. DCR will hire local workers for tree planting teams in each city, and every tree being planted will be purchased from Massachusetts nurseries. 

“Making Fall River a greener and more livable city has been a top priority for me,” said Fall River Mayor William Flanagan. “We are looking forward to working with the Patrick Administration and with the Fall River Street Tree Planting Program on this initiative, which will reduce energy costs for our residents and businesses and help make Fall River a better place to live.”

"This investment will have a lasting impact on Holyoke's environment and green infrastructure,” said Holyoke Mayor Alex Morse. “This funding will help keep the city’s utility rates among the lowest in the Commonwealth. I'm thankful that the Secretary and Governor continue to support us in these efforts, and I look forward to seeing the legacy this project will have on future generations to come."

“As one of the most densely populated cities in the country, Chelsea is in great position to benefit from the Greening the Gateway Cities program,” said Chelsea City Manager Jay Ash. “We appreciate the Patrick Administration’s commitment to improving the quality of life of Chelsea residents. The Chelsea Department of Public Works and the Chelsea Green Space Committee, our community partner, are ready to get to work and start planting.”

“Green infrastructure projects, like this tree planting program, yield a multitude of far-reaching returns by simultaneously protecting the environment, providing energy savings for residents, and beautifying our communities,” said Senator Michael J. Rodrigues. “I am pleased to know that my constituents in Fall River, and all those living in Gateways Cities, will enjoy the benefits of these trees for years to come.”

“Planting these trees will provide several huge benefits to our communities, including fresher air, reduced energy costs, and jobs to local residents,” said Senator Sal DiDomenico. “Not only will the local economy and individuals profit, but our neighborhoods will become healthier places to live.”

"Thank you to the Patrick Administration for this investment in our Gateway Cities,” said Representative Paul Schmid. “This pilot program will be helpful in beautifying our neighborhoods as well as hopefully mitigating negative environmental impacts in Fall River especially in the Sandy Beach and Maplewood neighborhoods.”