Governor-elect Maura Healey has tapped Rebecca Tepper to become the chief of the state’s Executive Office of Energy and Environmental Affairs.
Currently, Tepper is chief of the energy and environment bureau at the Massachusetts attorney general’s office, serving as Healey’s chief advisor on energy and environmental policy and heading up the office’s energy transition and climate-related affairs.
“In my time working with Rebecca, I’ve known her to be a strong leader who cares deeply about our environment and also understands the great opportunity before us to partner with our workforce and businesses to drive our clean energy revolution and preserve our beautiful natural resources,” Healey said in a press release. “She’s smart, experienced, and committed to the cause, and I know that she will be a consensus builder and deliver the results we so urgently need.”
As Executive Office of Energy and Environmental Affairs secretary, Tepper will oversee the state’s six environmental, natural resource, and energy regulatory agencies, including the Department of Energy Resources, Department of Environmental Protection, Department of Conservation and Recreation, Department of Agricultural Resources, Department of Fish and Game, and Department of Public Utilities.
She will work closely with Melissa Hoffer — who Healey tapped earlier this month to be the state’s first climate chief — to deliver on the Healey administration’s promises to electrify buildings and transit systems while supporting climate innovation, technology, and investment across Massachusetts.
Tepper will take the helm at the Executive Office of Energy and Environmental Affairs at a challenging time. Massachusetts has committed to reducing greenhouse gas emissions by one-third compared to 1990 levels by the middle of this decade, and reaching net-zero emissions by 2050 — goals that will require the state to rapidly scale up its decarbonization plans.
“The challenge of this moment is not lost on me — we have enormous work to do to deliver relief to Massachusetts residents and businesses who are struggling with rising energy bills and aggressively move forward on our climate goals,” said Tepper in a press release. “Our transition to a clean energy economy will create good paying, sustainable jobs and deliver health, environmental, and equity benefits to all Massachusetts residents.”
In her new position, Tepper will also have to hear out competing interests, something John Buonopane, a Milford-based staff representative for the United Steelworkers, said he trusts her to do.
“She’s willing to listen and work with us,” said Buonopane, who said most workers he represents are in the gas sector. “While somebody else may barrel forward full steam ahead, regardless of any consequences that might take place with different stakeholders or people who may be impacted by a transition, she definitely wants to address all the potential impacts of the energy transition.”
He recalled Tepper’s compassion during the seven-month National Grid lockout of 2018 and 2019. “She definitely understood the concerns that we had during that very tenuous time,” he said.
State Senator Michael Barrett, a lead author of Massachusetts’ major 2021 and 2022 climate laws, said Tepper was a “shrewd” choice for EEA secretary.
“She knows the advocates. She knows the business community. She knows lots of legislators. She can make things happen for the Healey-Driscoll team,” he said.
He noted that Katie Theorides, who served as EEA secretary under Governor
Charlie Baker from 2019 through mid-2022, didn’t come into state government with the same extensive contact list.
“She brought some serious tools with her, but started from zero in terms of personal relationships and friendships in the legislative branch,” he said. “Tepper has the know-how and the contacts. That’s a very rare combination.”
María Belén Power, who leads the Chelsea-based community organization GreenRoots, said that in the attorney general’s office, Tepper has been an “incredible ally” to environmental justice communities who are most impacted by climate change and pollution.
“She has been extremely accessible,” Power said.
She said the attorney general’s office’s environmental bureau has worked closely with environmental justice advocates, and worked to give such advocates and communities a greater voice.
“Rebecca Tepper is a big reason for that,” Power said.
Deb Pasternak, director of the Sierra Club Massachusetts chapter, also applauded the Tepper pick, noting that in the attorney general’s Ooffice, Tepper advocated for better governance, energy market reforms, and better electricity transmission planning from regional grid operator ISO-New England.
“This was remarkable in itself, but Ms. Tepper went further, using her office to create and publicize webinars to teach the public about the importance of these issues,” said Pasternak.
Former state senator Ben Downing, who is now vice president of public affairs at The Engine, a venture firm and startup program founded by MIT, also noted that Tepper is “intimately aware of how the governor-elect thinks about these issues.” But her new role, he said, is much broader than her previous one, and it will require her to balance many competing priorities.
“In a one-party setting, there is an overwhelming pressure towards trying to find the kumbaya space on policy and that too often doesn’t lead to ... action,” he said. “The bias needs to be toward action on emissions reduction.”
Before joining the attorney general’s office in 2015, Tepper was general counsel to the state’s Department of Public Utilities. Prior to her role there, she served as director of the Massachusetts Energy Facilities Siting Board. Before she entered state government in 2009, Tepper worked in the private sector for 15 years as a partner at Rubin and Rudman LLP.
Tepper is a graduate of the University of Wisconsin Madison and Boston University Law School. She lives in Lexington with her husband and twin sons.
Dharna Noor can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow her on Twitter @dharnanoor.