The Globe sent 17 questions to each of the state’s gubernatorial candidates on environmental issues. Here are the answers provided by Independent candidate Jeff McCormick.
1. Do you believe that human beings are causing global climate change? Yes or no and why or why not? If you have changed your mind on the subject, can you explain why?
As someone who went to college and studied biology and the scientific method, I absolutely believe that humans are a significant cause of global climate change. If you look at all the research and data, the consensus among the scientific community is that this is really not a subject for debate. I pride myself on listening to experts, asking questions, and getting to the root causes of problems. I believe that in the case of climate change we need to listen to the experts.
2. Do you support the state’s current goals of cutting carbon emissions 25 percent below 1990 levels by 2020 and 80 percent by 2050? Do you think the state should be doing more or less to cut carbon emissions? Yes or no and why or why not?
According to experts, the increase in carbon emissions is a large factor in overall climate change. I support the state continuing on the path to reducing our carbon emissions. According to a report released in June, we are already 40 percent below 1990 levels for power plants and on track to cut power plant emissions by 50 percent by 2020. Overall statewide greenhouse gases have dropped 16 percent since 1990 so I am confident we can reach 25 percent by 2020. As Governor, I will continue to build on the success we have had in recent years in cutting emissions, it is good for the environment and overall public health.
3. Can you provide specifics as to how you would achieve the state’s goals of cutting carbon emissions in 2020 and 2050?
We are already 16 percent below 1990 levels and on track to meet the 25 percent goal by 2020. We lead the nation in overall energy efficiency and have relatively low consumption of energy. Somerset’s coal fired plant will be closing in the next few years and Salem has a power plant that is moving from coal to natural gas, which burns much cleaner than coal. So the nearer term goal looks eminently attainable. As Governor, I will support these developments while also looking at more investment in renewable clean energy like wind and solar. In addition, the Mass Save program has saved millions for consumers in lower energy bills and increased energy efficiency. I will continue to support these programs as Governor. As someone who invests in cutting edge technologies, I believe that we will see these technologies coming online and revolutionizing our energy portfolios. I believe that by 2050 technologies will make how we use fuel for transportation unrecognizable from how we use it today.
4. Do you support tax credits for renewable energy? Yes or no and why or why not?
I do support tax credits for renewable energy, but we always need to be conscious of how we are investing taxpayer dollars. As a businessman, I have looked at over a thousand of companies before deciding where to invest. We need to understand that we live in a global economy and make sure that when we decide to invest taxpayer dollars, that it is a sound investment for the Commonwealth.
5. As seas rise, what would you do to protect the state’s coast?
We first need to take a full inventory of our coastal infrastructure and evaluate what needs to
be replaced, removed, or adjusted. The Massachusetts Coastal Zone Management Agency has a comprehensive Ocean Management Plan that I would use to work with CZM, town officials, developers, scientific experts, and engineers about how we protect our coast line and residents who live near
the coasts. There needs to be a balance between property rights, long term environmental concerns, and how we proceed with development projects in the future. Having dealt with the Army Corps of Engineers in my past I fully understand the power of nature.
6. Do you support the Nuclear Regulatory Commission’s extension of the Pilgrim plant’s license? As governor, would you push to close Pilgrim or do you see it as a vital source of energy for the future? Yes or no and why or why not?
Big installations like Pilgrim, which was built decades ago with the same technology as Japan’s Fukushima plant, need to be regulated with constant oversight, especially since Pilgrim is located very close to residential areas and public beaches. Pilgrim generates about 14% of the power generated in the Commonwealth. My concern about closing Pilgrim is how do we make up the lost power production? Will this raise energy costs for consumers, adding to our already high energy costs? Nuclear power is a zero emissions source of energy, which we can all agree is the goal. The problem is the radioactive waste generated by the fission process which does not have an easy solution. I would support closing Pilgrim as cleaner, renewable sources of energy become economical.
7. Do you support Cape Wind? Yes or no and why or why not?
I have very real concerns that Cape Wind will increase energy prices for the people on the Cape. I support reducing carbon emissions, but I don’t believe a project like Cape Wind is the best solution for the residents of the Commonwealth. The power purchase agreements will cost consumers much more for energy and we can’t keep passing down the costs to the people because they just can’t afford it.
8. Do you support the extension of natural gas pipelines through Massachusetts? Yes or no and why or why not?
I support the extension of the Northeast Utilities and Spectra Energy pipelines but I do not support the Kinder Morgan pipeline. We have abundant natural gas resources have been discovered nationwide that could power the nation for 200 years. Unfortunately, Massachusetts has not benefitted from the lower cost of natural gas as other states have because of our location and access to this cheap fuel. Northeast Utilities and Spectra have a plan to build on current right of ways and existing pipelines. Kinder Morgan’s plan to build a new pipeline through Western Massachusetts will require land takings, extensive legal fees, and years of planning. Because this is an extremely expensive and long term decision we should look towards temporary energy infrastructure as a bridge to the day when renewables are at a high enough volume and more economical.
9. Do you support ballot Question No. 2 to expand the state’s bottle law? Yes or no and why or why not?
While I support expanded recycling programs to reduce waste, I do not support expanding the bottle bill. We need to think about creative solutions to our waste management. Right now, even though the majority of residents have access to recycling, our overall recycling rates are low. We need to look at existing technologies that offer expansive methods for capturing more of our recycling capacity.
10. Until recently, despite tens of millions of dollars spent and the availability of curbside recycling to nearly everyone, only about 37 percent of all municipal waste is recycled in Massachusetts. What would you do to change that?
We need to educate our residents on the benefits of recycling and work with cities and towns to get them the resources that they need to expand recycling programs across the Commonwealth. We should also look at best practices across the country and adopt the most effective programs.
11. Do you support the state’s Endangered Species Act? Yes or no and why or why not?
Yes. Growing up near an Indian reservation and vast open spaces in upstate New York allowed me to learn about the importance of respecting nature and preserving our natural world.
12. What would you do preserve the dwindling amount of open land in the state?
I will preserve the current conservation restrictions in place, support the Community Preservation Act, and ensure that we protect lands in trust from being converted to residential or commercial property.
13. Would you be willing to commit no less than 1 percent of the state’s operating budget to environmental issues, as Mitt Romney did? Yes or no, why or why not?
Being a strong proponent of environmental protection and protecting our resources, I have built companies in environmental space and solved problems like cleaning up organic waste and providing clean water. Climate change is real and we need to be prepared for more frequent and stronger storms that will adversely affect the Commonwealth. If Sandy had hit Boston, it would have caused major damage and we need to invest in the environment to minimize the damage. As Governor, if we need increased investment in this area, I would strongly consider it.
14. As governor, would you continue to have Massachusetts participate in RGGI? Yes or no and why or why not?
As Governor, I will continue our participation in RGGI. We need to be a leader in reducing greenhouse gases and we have to have a regional approach to addressing this issue.
15. If you become governor, what would your environmental priorities be?
My environmental priorities will be: continued investment in energy efficiency and renewables, long term planning for reducing our carbon footprint, driving down energy costs, remediation of brownfields sites, and holding polluters accountable.
16. Have any environmental groups endorsed you, and can you name them?
17. Can you tell us why voters should believe you would be a better governor on environmental issues than your opponent?
I have spent my career building companies that solve problems in various area like energy, biotech, software, and education. Each of these companies had a mission to solve a problem and rather than putting a band aid on the problem, we identify the root of the problem and come up with a solution.
We built the nation’s largest biodiesel company in Quincy in the 1990s, long before biodiesel, and most alternative fuel, was considered important. I have also worked with companies that have technologies that clean up water, clean up organic waste and petroleum hydrocarbons, and increase agricultural yields, all of which have amazing environmental impacts. I understand the issues around balancing what is best for the environment and what is best for business. My opponents have no experience in this space and don’t know what it takes to get results with so many competing factors.