Mass. governor blocks sweeping renewable, climate plan

Source: By David Iaconangelo, E&E News reporter • Posted: Monday, January 18, 2021

Massachusetts Gov. Charlie Baker (R) has said he will not sign a clean energy and climate policy package passed by the Legislature, listing objections from the cost of carbon reductions to concerns that the bill doesn’t address adaptation.

The legislation would set a zero-emissions target for 2050, with an interim target of 50% reductions by 2030. It would also increase mandates for utilities to buy offshore wind and other renewable power sources.

One of the most contentious provisions would allow cities to require buildings to slash their emissions, opening the door to bans on the use of natural gas (Energywire, Jan. 5).

In a statement, the governor said electricity ratepayers would pay too high a price for cutting emissions. The net-zero building codes could slow development of affordable housing, he warned, citing comments from building trade groups.

Baker also noted that the 50% emissions reduction target for 2030 would spike costs by $6 billion compared with the 45% reduction recommended by the governor’s office. The bill also failed to address “essential issues like climate adaptation and resiliency” and contained “empty promises” for environmental justice, Baker wrote.

He also blamed lawmakers for passing the bill in the final hours of the legislative session.

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

Environmental groups said they were disappointed by the governor’s decision. Jacob Stern, deputy director of the Sierra Club’s Massachusetts chapter, accused Baker of siding with “big business, fossil fuel interests and real estate lobbyists over the needs of vulnerable residents.”

Michael Barrett, a Democratic state senator who led work on the bipartisan compromise bill, suggested the governor’s decision was motivated by “politics, not policy.”

Democratic leaders in both chambers pledged earlier this week to restart negotiations with the governor’s office if Baker rejected the bill.

“Should he not take this important step, the Senate and House are united in our intention to refile and pass the conference committee bill in its entirety and get it onto the governor’s desk in the coming days,” Senate President Karen Spilka and House Speaker Ronald Mariano said in a joint statement.