Metro

Advice for Charlie Baker: The environment

Governor-elect Charlie Baker takes office next month with a new environmental affairs secretary and a range of short- and long-term environmental challenges. Here, Globe Opinion writers offer him some advice.

Patch the pipes now

For cleaner skies, Baker can go underground, literally. In July, Governor Deval Patrick signed a bill to accelerate utilities’ repair of gas leaks. Baker should rigorously enforce that law — to stop methane from escaping into the environment, and to patch holes in our pocketbooks. Repairs may cost consumers $1 or $2 more per month on their bills, but a federal study, commissioned by Senator Edward J. Markey last year, found that consumers lost up to $1.5 billion in the last decade from escaped gas. Since the majority of the Commonwealth’s energy now comes from natural gas, Baker should pull out a magnifying class and become the Sherlock Holmes of pipelines. — DERRICK Z. JACKSON

Show the Mystic some love

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The forlorn Mystic River, which runs from north of Boston into the harbor, recently got a D from the EPA for its putrid water quality. It’s time that the waterway get the same sustained attention as the Charles River, which the state cleaned up in the 1980s and 1990s. Baker could piggyback on the planned privately funded cleanup of the Wynn casino site in Everett, which will remove one of the river’s biggest sources of pollution. Polluted water, a legacy of the river’s industrial past, scares off redevelopment and blocks recreational use. Cleaning up the Mystic could be Baker’s lasting legacy. — ALAN WIRZBICKI

Seize initiative in New England

In compact New England, most long-term energy and environmental challenges cross borders. But planning transmission lines or siting offshore wind turbines becomes complicated if the six states don’t coordinate their policies. As leader of the region’s most populous state and strongest economic engine, Baker should take the initiative — while recognizing that neighboring governors may be wary of a power grab, both literally and figuratively, on behalf of energy-hungry Massachusetts. Bonus: Closer cooperation among New England governors will pay dividends in other areas, such as improving rail transportation throughout the region. — DANTE RAMOS

Keep Massachusetts in RGGI

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Several years ago, Governor Chris Christie of New Jersey pulled his state out of the Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative, a multistate cap-and-trade program that was the first of its kind in the United States. Baker might feel pressure from the GOP to do the same, but he ought to keep Massachusetts in the program. In the years since New Jersey’s exit, Northeastern carbon emissions have dropped — though not quickly enough to approach long-term reduction goals — and the fees collected have proven a significant fund-raiser for energy-efficiency programs. The initiative remains a useful prod in an uncertain energy future — and a tool for experimentation, at a time when Congress has little appetite for that. — JOANNA WEISS

Related:

A roundup of Globe Opinion writers’ advice for Charlie Baker

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