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No longer hanging them out to dry? Clothesline bill picks up steam in Legislature

In the wake of President Trump’s decision to pull out of the Paris Climate Agreement, Massachusetts politicians have vowed to do their part to curb carbon emissions. Governor Charlie Baker signed onto a multi-state climate alliance, and Mayor Martin J. Walsh reaffirmed Boston’s commitment to becoming carbon neutral by 2050.

Now, the Legislature is once again considering a more modest proposal: clotheslines. (Or, as the bill calls it, “solar drying of laundry”).

Back in 2010, then-attorney general Martha Coakley overturned Concord’s “right-to-dry” law, which prohibited landlords and homeowner’s associations from banning clotheslines on their properties. In recent years, state Senator Michael J. Barrett, whose district includes Concord, has been on a crusade to safeguard clotheslines — and this bill marks his latest effort.


Barrett said constituent Peggy Brace, a staunch clothesline advocate, first brought the issue to his attention. For them, it’s about more than the liberty to choose how to do one’s laundry — it’s an important step toward combatting climate change.

“At first glance, you dismiss something like this as of too little consequence,” Barrett said. “But the more you learn about greenhouse gas pollution, the more you realize that a large number of small steps need to become part of a final solution.”

Electric dryers uses the same amount of energy as a refrigerator, clothes washer, and dishwasher combined, according to the Natural Resources Defense Council. It’s a fact Barrett said he shows skeptical colleagues to prove the legislation “is a little more legitimate than it looks.”

Earlier this week, the Joint Committee on Municipalities and Regional Government heard testimony on the bill — which would give towns the power to pass right-to-dry statutes — at a public hearing.

The bill’s prospects will likely depend on whether or not it dies in the House, Barrett said. A previous iteration passed in the Senate, before coming to an unremarkable end after failing to gain traction in the House.


But after state Rep. Brian Murray told the rest of the committee Tuesday that he had hung wet clothing on a clothesline that very morning, Barrett is optimistic.

“My hopes are a little higher this time,” Barrett said.

California, Florida, Utah, Hawaii, Maine, Maryland, Vermont, Colorado have already passed more sweeping laws prohibiting clothesline bans state-wide outright.

Whitney Ferguson, a spokesperson for House Speaker Robert A. DeLeo, wrote in a statement that DeLeo has a soft spot for clotheslines.

“The Speaker has fond memories of his family using clothes lines during his childhood in East Boston,” she wrote. “The bill will go through the normal committee process.”

Claire Parker can be reached at Reach her on Twitter @ClaireParkerDC.