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Massachusetts Gov. Charlie Baker vetoes climate bill that sets carbon emissions targets ahead of 2050

In a letter to lawmakers, Baker said he vetoed the bill in part because it would slow housing production, running contrary to the goals of the “housing choice” proposal within the economic development bill he signed into law Thursday. He also said the bill lacked tools local and state officials need to protect cities and towns against present-day natural disasters that can be traced back to climate change.

Massachusetts Gov. Charlie Baker vetoed a bill Thursday night that would update the state’s carbon emissions goals, seeking to make the state “net neutral” by 2050.

The Republican governor, like Senate President Karen Spilka and House Speaker Ron Mariano, says he’s committed to getting the state’s carbon emissions to fall by 100% of 1990 levels over the next three decades. But he and legislative leaders ultimately disagreed on how to get there.

In a letter to lawmakers, Baker said he vetoed the bill in part because it would slow housing production, running contrary to the goals of the “housing choice” proposal within the economic development bill he signed into law Thursday. He also said the bill lacked tools local and state officials need to protect cities and towns against present-day natural disasters that can be traced back to climate change.

“While my administration wholeheartedly supports the environmental justice goals of this bill, intent without the tools to address those issues are empty promises,” Baker wrote in a letter to lawmakers. “The bill does not have language or funding to address the ongoing... more [truncated due to possible copyright]  

Massachusetts Gov. Charlie Baker vetoed a bill Thursday night that would update the state’s carbon emissions goals, seeking to make the state “net neutral” by 2050.

The Republican governor, like Senate President Karen Spilka and House Speaker Ron Mariano, says he’s committed to getting the state’s carbon emissions to fall by 100% of 1990 levels over the next three decades. But he and legislative leaders ultimately disagreed on how to get there.

In a letter to lawmakers, Baker said he vetoed the bill in part because it would slow housing production, running contrary to the goals of the “housing choice” proposal within the economic development bill he signed into law Thursday. He also said the bill lacked tools local and state officials need to protect cities and towns against present-day natural disasters that can be traced back to climate change.

“While my administration wholeheartedly supports the environmental justice goals of this bill, intent without the tools to address those issues are empty promises,” Baker wrote in a letter to lawmakers. “The bill does not have language or funding to address the ongoing impacts of climate change faced by those communities.”

Because the bill passed a day before the two-year legislative session ended, Baker did not have time to send amendments back to lawmakers and strike a compromise. His options were to sign the bill, veto it or let it die unsigned after 10 days in what’s known as a “pocket veto.” On the 10th day, Baker chose to veto the bill.

“Had this bill been presented to me with more time while the Legislature was still in session, I would have returned it with amendments to address the concerns set out in this letter,” he wrote.

Mariano already said he plans to refile the climate conference report. Sarah Finlaw, the governor’s press secretary, said the governor looks forward to working with the Legislature once the bill is refiled.

Sen. Mike Barrett, one of the key negotiators of the bill that passed in early January, said he was perplexed by the governor’s reasoning. He said the bill is written in a way that gives the state flexibility in addressing concerns the energy stretch code may have on housing construction.

The Baker administration was consulted on the bill over several months of discussions behind closed doors. State officials never raised concerns about the five-year emissions goals, targets for transportation or building sectors or other issues Baker alluded to, Barrett said.

“The near-total absence of critical feedback from the administration for the entirety of 2020 makes me think the kerfuffle of the past two weeks is really about politics, not policy,” the Lexington Democrat said. “This is pushback, plain and simple and with a hint of panic, against the Legislature’s determination to see this governor, as well as future governors, act more boldly against climate change.”

The climate bill overhauls a 2008 climate law that commits Massachusetts to reducing carbon emissions by 80% of 1990 levels by 2050. Climate activists sued the state in 2015, arguing the state wasn’t taking steps to meet its interim target of dropping emissions by 25% in 2020.

The bill would have reduced the state’s carbon emissions by at least 85% below 1990 levels over the next three decades, aiming for a 100% reduction. The bill also set emissions targets every five years with mandates to create new regulations for renewable energy.

In vetoing the bill, Baker touted his own work on reducing emissions across Massachusetts.

In September 2016, he signed an executive order calling for a reduction of greenhouse gas emissions. He also noted his administration has invested $935 million in mitigation projects. After stating his goals to make Massachusetts net-neutral by 2050, Baker said his administration made the goal part of the state’s legal emissions limit.

Baker’s strategy culminated with the launch of his 2050 roadmap and his announcement that Massachusetts, two other states and Washington, D.C., were joining a compact to reduce vehicle carbon emissions known as the Transportation Climate Initiative. The multi-state compact started off smaller than Baker had anticipated years earlier as he vied from support from New Hampshire, Vermont and other East Coast states.

The climate bill set benchmarks within the state for trapping carbon through natural resources, boosting offshore wind energy and improving efficiency standards for appliances, among other requirements. The proposal also designated “environmental justice” communities, requiring that proposed projects that could hurt such a community’s air quality develop an environmental impact report.

The bill divided some industry leaders in the energy sector.

Dan Dolan, president of the New England Power Generators Association, said the bill favored off-shore wind projects by guaranteeing them contracts for 2,400 megawatts. He said power plants generating nuclear energy, natural gas and hydropower still had to compete within a wholesale market with a separate set of restrictions.

“To most efficiently drive carbon reductions, the Legislature should enact a meaningful, multi-sector price on carbon emissions,” Dolan said. “This focus on the actual cause of climate change can create a sustainable, and durable marketplace to meet our climate responsibilities. NEPGA urges the legislature to focus on this approach and not continue its reliance on decades-long contracts that undermine the innovation, competition, and consumer benefits of the New England-wide electricity market.”

But environmental activists say the veto only delays efforts to bring renewable, clean energy to homes and businesses as the state tries to reach its latest emissions goals.

“A veto merely delays the inevitable: Senate President Spilka and Speaker of the House Mariano have expressed unified support for the entirety of this bill,” said Ellen Tomlinson, communications manager of the Environmental League of Massachusetts, in a statement. “We are grateful to the Legislature for their commitment to passing this crucial bill and thank them for their pledge to refile and pass it promptly.”

Lawmakers and environmental activists are gearing up for another fight over the bill.

“Charlie Baker is not the first politician in the world to have responded to climate change by procrastinating,” Barrett said. “I’m deeply disappointed in him and his decision, but we should look at the positive side. Dozens of legislators and thousands of citizens have been energized by the battle to get this bill into law. We’re more motivated than ever. And we’re getting right back to work.”


Source: https://www.masslive.com/po...

JAN 14 2021
https://www.windaction.org/posts/52049-massachusetts-gov-charlie-baker-vetoes-climate-bill-that-sets-carbon-emissions-targets-ahead-of-2050
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