Climate Resilient Capital Task Force


This bill proposes to create an emergency task force to study the costs, impacts and other considerations of protecting or relocating state government infrastructure and at least one neighborhood to assure the continuance of government operation in the event of climate catastrophe.

Supported by Staff
MassLandlords staff drafted or participated materially in the creation of bill text below. Members will be polled at the next update of the policy priorities survey.

Video of CNN weather showing flash floods kill more people than tornados, hurricanes or lightning.

CNN's flash flood explainer describes how in the US, flash floods kill more people than tornadoes, hurricanes or lightning.

June 2023 Testimony

Click the image to read.

October 2022 Filing Announcement


Bill Number

Frequently Asked Questions

What does this bill do?

This bill would create a large, multi-year professional task force to study the costs of protecting not just wealthy coastal areas but all coastal areas, and to compare that cost with managing a retreat inland to elevations safe from coastal flood.

Why aren't current flood mitigation plans enough?

Many places have extensive flood management infrastructure in place already. For instance, the Massachusetts Institute of Technology has a flood tank under Vassar Street. This flood tank only holds flood water that impacts MIT's campus. Surrounding communities do not directly benefit. There are large and harmful climate justice implications from current plans to prioritize high value locations, and very little work done to protect low and middle income homes.

Areas people do not think of as vulnerable to climate change, like Montpelier, Vermont, very are.

Does this bill abandon Boston?

No, one outcome of the task force could be a decision to "double-down" on coastal communities in the way the Netherlands has worked extensively to manage flood risk on below sea-level land. But this decision must be made in context, because Massachusetts has many areas long-term safe from catastrophic sea level rise. This bill asks us to study and debate the matter.

Does this bill make Worcester the capital?

No, one outcome of the task force could be a decision to relocate or distribute state offices. It's possible the legislature might be recommended to relocate to Worcester or other areas that are long-term safe from catastrophic sea level rise. This bill asks us to study and debate the matter.

Who decides?

State officials and local organizations will be allowed to designate a representative, who will then become a paid state employee for the purpose of working full time over several years on this difficult question. The task force will make recommendations that the legislature would then have to act on before any change was made.

Full Text and Explanation of the Climate Resilient Capital Bill

Bill Text May Change
The legislative process involves many changes to most bills. Our goal with bill explainers like this is to communicate core concepts assuming final wording is beyond our control. If you feel we missed or misunderstood a core concept about this bill, please contribute to this explainer by emailing or by using the support widget on this page. Pointing out typos or poor drafting is appreciated on green bills (we wrote or support).
Bill title and nickname. “Don’t Look Up” is the title of a 2021 movie about the world ignoring an impending extinction-level disaster.
Because delaying action proposed in this bill could result in disaster, this shall be an emergency law creating a task force to formulate a plan for the continuance of government in the event of climate catastrophe, either by building adequate protection for existing government infrastructure or relocating it to more flood-resistant territory. The task force is described below.
Task force members may attend meetings remotely.
Task force members will be paid for their service, as described below.
The task force’s work and compensation will be supported by appropriated or donated funds.
Task force members will elect a chair, secretary and treasurer from among membership.
An election can be called by a majority any time to elect a new chair, secretary or treasurer.
If a task force member passes away, a new member will be appointed.
Further task force rules may be adopted by a three-quarters majority of the membership.
The task force will pursue the following issues and tasks:
Calculate and project the costs of climate-related catastrophe to existing government infrastructure, and to a nearby neighborhood, for use in decision-making.
Costs will be based on the scenario of 1.75 meters of sea level rise or more, as published by the IPCC, and storm surge on top of this.
Cost estimates will be inclusive of economic losses and indirect losses due to government non-function.
The task force will formulate a defense plan against climate catastrophe for existing government infrastructure.
The plan will include all aspects necessary to keep government operating and protect residents.
The plan will Include levees, seawalls and other measures as necessary.
The task force will project plan material and labor costs;
costs for
local training and apprenticeship;
costs for public land purchases without taking private land;
costs for replacing impacted ecology;
and a timeline for implementation.
All estimates should include projected ranges to account for unpredictable factors.
The task force will also formulate a plan for relocating government infrastructure.
Relocation must be to areas above estimated flood levels assuming all ice on the planet melts, as projected by the U.S.G.S.
The plan will also consider rain and river flooding, fire and high winds.
The relocation plan's implementation will not increase emissions in any way.
How much would government relocation cost Greater Boston?
How much would it cost new hosting communities?
What would be the impact on housing?
On density?
On democratic participation of distant communities?
On climate justice?
And other impacts and estimates.
The task force will have cooperation and assistance from other government agencies as needed.
The task force may also use assistance from non-governmental sources;
and hold public meetings as necessary.
Chapter 30A s. 11B sets rules regulating studies conducted by state governmental agencies.
Chapter 66 regulates use and treatment of public records.
Section 10 defines rules for public records access.
The task force will submit and publish a report including its resilience plan within 18 months of its first meeting, to government officials.
Within 18 months of that report, the task force will submit and publish its relocation plan.
The task force will then be dissolved unless requested to continue by the governor.
Cooperation with the task force from all participants will be mandated, subject to fines for non-cooperation.
Each member of the task force will receive annual compensation of $100,000.
A total of $5.1 million will be appropriated from the state’s General Fund for task force members’ salaries.

See Also

Climate Resilient Capital Testimony Filed to Address Flood Risk, Managed Retreat (2023 June)

External Links

Martha’s Vineyard home teetering on bluff’s edge will soon be demolished, official says (2023 Feb 24)

By Moving Flood-Prone School, Kentucky District Lowers Risk and Saves Money (2023 June 28)

As the climate changes, obsolete dams put Mass. at risk for flooding similar to Vermont (2023 July 14)

Damage assessments ongoing after western Massachusetts floods (2023 July 18)

The Boston Globe headline reads Nantucket oceanfront home condemned after erosion strips away 35 feet of dune since November, official says.

July 25, 2023

It's the land-side flooding that's a concern here in Rockport.

Why so many Vermonters were blindsided by July's flooding. Most people rely on FEMA's floodplain maps. But the agency's maps are outdated and based on past flooding, not future projects that take climate change into account.

WBUR ran this story August 8, 2023.

‘Catastrophic flooding’ damages hundreds of homes as a Massachusetts city [Leominster] engulfed in water is now at risk of dam failure 2023 Sep 12

Leominster assesses the damage after ‘catastrophic’ floods, cites 11 inches of rain in two days. 2023 Sep 12