Press Release: 2021-01-15
The governor just vetoed the climate bill
Statement of State Sen. Mike Barrett upon Gov. Baker's veto of the climate bill
Charlie Baker is not the first politician in the world to have responded to climate change by procrastinating. 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.
We particularly appreciate the leadership of Senate President Spilka and House Speaker Mariano. As evidenced by their statements of yesterday, because of them the odds of ultimate success for this bill are excellent. Special tip of the hat, as well, to my other Senate and House colleagues, especially to Rep. Tom Golden, my House counterpart as Co-Chair of the Conference Committee and a tough but fair negotiator.
As for the governor's rationale for his veto, I am perplexed. The Senate passed its version of climate legislation in January 2020. The House passed its version in July 2020. Both before and after the Senate action - and certainly after the House followed suit - we went looking for input from the governor's people.
On the multiple occasions on which my staff and I solicited Baker Administration reaction, we did not hear a peep about emissions limits for 2025 or 2030. Not a word about separate targets for the transportation and building sectors.
With respect to a local option stretch energy code, two weeks ago, on Dec. 30, the very same idea became part of the Administration's own climate plan for 2030, on page 30.
The Legislature had already heard the construction industry's questions. Language in the vetoed bill gave the Administration all the flexibility it might desire to address any stretch code impacts on housing. Section 101 provides,
To develop the specialized stretch energy code ... the department of energy resources shall ... (ii) consider the development of a tiered implementation plan for the adoption of the stretch energy code including, but not limited to, phasing in requirements based on building type or uses. (emphasis added)
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. 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.
No question, the job is challenging and comes with political risk. Lots of cars, trucks, and buses need to go electric. Lots of buildings, too. There is a great deal to do.
But not so much on this governor's watch, if his people have anything to say about it. They're working to neutralize approaches that require strong action in the near-term.
In contrast to the document just vetoed, which would have had the force and durability of law, the climate promises of the Governor and the Secretary for 2030 and 2050 seem more than a little calculated -- a big agenda, to be sure, but with the heaviest lifting reserved for other governors and other secretaries.
In the Baker Administration blueprint, there is no emissions milestone or check-in for ten long years, until 2030; no obligation to produce comprehensive, clear, and specific roadmaps for implementation; and no accountability during the decade of the '20s to either the Legislature or the public.
It bears remembering that, absent an actual act of the Legislature, whatever climate pledges a governor makes can be cancelled by the next governor who comes along. As legal matters, pledges without the force of law are worth the paper they're written on, but not a dime more.