The Globe sent 17 questions to each of the state’s gubernatorial candidates on environmental issues. Here are the answers provided by Independent candidate Evan Falchuk.
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?
Yes. Research supporting the conclusion that human beings are causing global climate change is clear and indisputable.
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?
Yes, I support these emission reduction goals, but we must do more. As it stands now we are on track to miss these important reduction goals by 5% in 2020 and by a wide margin in 2050. What’s needed is a comprehensive and aggressive strategy to combat climate change that will increase production of renewable energy and lead to the creation of an energy infrastructure that is distributed, renewable and resilient. In addition, the implementation of “smart growth” initiatives can not only help foster sustained economic growth but also reduce carbon emissions by reducing reliance on automobiles and increasing use of public transit. The next governor of Massachusetts has an opportunity to re-frame the dialogue on climate change towards the important opportunities tackling this problem present to us all.
3. Can you provide specifics as to how you would achieve the state’s goals of cutting carbon emissions in 2020 and 2050?
My Administration’s plan to meet 2020 and 2050 targets involves a comprehensive set of policies designed to create “smart growth” in Massachusetts by channeling private investment and leveraging public infrastructure spending to plan for and build thriving communities that are mixed-use, walkable, close to public transit, reasonably priced, and reflective of modern living preferences. The need for this kind of development -- and its impact on the environment -- is well understood. What has been lacking is leadership at the state level to implement policies that will make it a reality. My Thriving Communities Action Plan -- which will drive economic growth while changing and reducing our patterns of carbon use -- represents a bold plan for this purpose.
4. Do you support tax credits for renewable energy? Yes or no and why or why not?
Yes. We must extend tax credits, net metering of solar installations and our investments in wind, small-scale hydro and other more localized, distributed and diverse mechanisms for power generation. The urgency to act must be seen not only in environmental terms but also in the economic opportunity presented by building one of the world’s most modern, diverse, resilient and distributed energy generation infrastructures.
5. As seas rise, what would you do to protect the state’s coast?
Given the global scale of carbon emissions, it is clear that the state’s coastline will be impacted in many ways. We are already seeing this impact in the new flood maps produced by FEMA that are directly affecting so many people living in those newly designated flood zones. We must take steps to harden infrastructure and ensure that we are best able to mitigate the impact of rising sea levels, while supporting families and businesses impacted by these changes. The state’s comprehensive Ocean Management Plan was an important first step, and additional efforts in this regard will be required. Last, the impact on rising sea levels on fishermen and lobstermen must be part of this process.
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?
I am concerned about the safety issues at Pilgrim, and the difficulty in evacuating people in the event of an emergency. At the same time, because of retirements of power plants in New England in 2017, over 4,000MW of energy will be leaving the market. That number will hit over 8,000MW by 2020. Since there is not yet any alternative to the significant amount of power Pilgrim produces I support keeping it open until we are able to meet our energy needs elsewhere.
7. Do you support Cape Wind? Yes or no and why or why not?
Yes, I support the Cape Wind project. Massachusetts has played a leading role in expanding the market for renewable energy and should continue to do so by supporting projects like Cape Wind, which contribute to a more diverse, reliable and modern energy generation infrastructure.
8. Do you support the extension of natural gas pipelines through Massachusetts? Yes or no and why or why not?
No. I do not support the extension of natural gas pipelines through Massachusetts, such as that proposed by Kinder Morgan. While burning natural gas generates fewer greenhouse gases than other fossil fuels, Massachusetts is already overly reliant on natural gas. The cost of construction will be borne by rate-payers and taxpayers, and involves substantial takings of private land. This is a bad deal for the people of Massachusetts and I oppose it.
9. Do you support ballot Question No. 2 to expand the state’s bottle law? Yes or no and why or why not?
Yes. Expanding this common-sense law has been the legislature’s job for 14 years now. Despite this being the case, lawmakers have not even brought it up for a vote. Like a lot of other issues, due to continuing inaction this issue was forced to a ballot initiative when it should not have been had lawmakers done the jobs they’re responsible for. This bill will benefit many cities and towns by reducing litter and increasing recycling. Updating the bill to reflect the many new kinds of bottled beverages on the market is common-sense.
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?
The state must provide cities and towns the tools they need to enact strong recycling programs. Updating the bottle bill would help. Putting waste into landfills or burning it in incinerators should be seen as a failure to find good recycling options. The state has a role to play in helping limit the use of that kind of disposal. Unfortunately, as state budgets have tightened, however, funding for recycling efforts has been cut.
11. Do you support the state’s Endangered Species Act? Yes or no and why or why not?
Yes. Protecting our biological diversity is an important function of government.
12. What would you do preserve the dwindling amount of open land in the state?
The next Governor has an important responsibility to protect open land -- particularly land housing precious habitats -- and work actively with the state’s Land Trusts to be sure we’re doing everything in our power to responsibly manage our land and conservation efforts. More broadly, a policy of smart growth - as described in our Thriving Communities Action Plan - will lead to more sensible and intensive uses of land that do not involve the creation of sprawl or the loss of open land.
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?
One percent seems reasonable, but I do not believe we should pick arbitrary targets. What’s needed is a comprehensive and aggressive policy to protect our environment. A strategy like this may require 5% of the budget, or 2% or a half a percent. We should commit to that goal, and have the dollar amounts follow the identified need, which is substantial.
14. As governor, would you continue would you continue to have Massachusetts participate in RGGI? Yes or no and why or why not?
Yes. RGGI is an important response to the problem of climate change and we have a responsibility to continue to participate in it.
15. If you become governor, what would your environmental priorities be?
First, we must harden our infrastructure to ensure it is resilient enough to withstand stronger and more frequent storms, as well as other natural and man-made disasters.
Second, we must reduce our reliance on fossil fuels – particularly natural gas – by pursuing aggressive goals to generate more than 25% of the state’s energy from renewable sources by 2020. A diverse mix of energy sources – such as wind and solar – is a critical part of responsible planning given the environmental, political and other uncertainties this century brings.
Third, the strategic, statewide implementation of smart growth initiatives of the kind envisioned in the state’s Chapter 40R zoning methodology – coupled with significant increases in education funding – is a meaningful and strategic approach to the problem of climate change. As transportation is one of the largest contributors to CO2 emissions in Massachusetts, addressing the underlying cause of these emissions by ensuring people have the opportunity to live in communities that reflect modern lifestyles is critical.
16. Have any environmental groups endorsed you, and can you name them?
My campaign at this point has been focused on connecting with the millions of voters who will be voting to put the next Governor of Massachusetts into office. Through these efforts, I’ve been honored to have earned the support and endorsement of many of these people from across the Commonwealth. While we have not received the endorsement of any organizations so far, we wholly anticipate we will earn the support of many in the near future, so long as their priorities match those of the United Independent Party, which is based on a set of core beliefs: everyone is equal, everyone’s civil rights must be protected, and the government must spend our money wisely.
17. Can you tell us why voters should believe you would be a better governor on environmental issues than your opponent?
Climate change is, unfortunately, a fact of life for us and for our children. My three children will grow up in a world with an increasingly unpredictable and dangerous climate. The establishment, driven by the combination of big monied interests and the political parties, use important issues like this as political fodder to maintain their grip on power. This is the reason why we see leader after leader talking in nice-sounding, vague platitudes about climate change, but not taking truly meaningful action. The establishment has shown that it does not take people seriously, or treat important issues seriously.
The only way to bring about this kind of change is to challenge the establishment, and replace it. It is easy to mouth vague platitudes, or to try to deny the existence of climate change. Indeed, there seems to be a kind of bipartisan agreement to have these arguments, as it perpetuates a predictable status quo for those in power. I founded the United Independent Party to build a coalition of people who know they and their issues are not being taken seriously, and to redistribute power in the service of these important causes. In that effort, I would be tremendously grateful for your support.