The Globe sent 17 questions to each of the state’s gubernatorial candidates on environmental issues. Here are the answers provided by Martha Coakley.
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. I believe the evidence is clear that human activity is driving unprecedented changes in our climate, including more instances of severe weather. Unfortunately, when my opponent ran in 2010 he said he was unsure. It is important for the next Governor be crystal clear about the science behind this issue so Massachusetts can continue to be a leader in combating climate change.
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 strongly support the goals established by Governor Patrick for reducing our greenhouse gas emissions. I believe we can always do more to reduce greenhouse emissions and that it will be necessary to develop innovative strategies in order to reach our 2050 goals.
3. Can you provide specifics as to how you would achieve the state’s goals of cutting carbon emissions in 2020 and 2050?
For 2020, I believe we need to focus on energy efficiency, which is one of the most basic things we can do to have a profound impact on greenhouse gas emissions. That is why I have committed to ensuring that every home and business in Massachusetts undergoes an energy audit within 8 years. Beyond 2020, I believe it is important to set interim benchmarks, so that we can effectively gauge our progress towards our much more aggressive 2050 goals.
In order to reach those goals, I will prioritize increasing the RPS standard in Massachusetts, decreasing the amount of CO2 allowances under the Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative, and implementing a clean energy performance standard to decarbonize our power supply. These are strategies that will continue to put pressure on the gas and electric utilities to invest in energy efficiency and support clean energy development.
4. Do you support tax credits for renewable energy? Yes or no and why or why not?
Yes. I believe targeted tax credits for renewable energy can provide a powerful incentive for individual consumers and businesses to increase the share of their energy they get from renewable sources.
5. As seas rise, what would you do to protect the state’s coast?
I believe that one of the keys to protecting the Massachusetts coastline is protecting and preserving naturally occurring barriers, including marshes and barrier beaches. Protecting these resources from development and degradation is critical to limiting the impact of rising sea levels and, as Governor, I would place a premium on protecting them .
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?
My office fought aggressively against the relicensing of Pilgrim, because federal authorities failed to consider adequate safety measures, especially in light of the tragedy at Fukushima. It is incumbent on our state and federal officials to ensure that Pilgrim is safe; otherwise, it should close. As Governor, I will hold Entergy and federal authorities accountable for ensuring the safety of Pilgrim, or will call on the NRC to close the plant.
7. Do you support Cape Wind? Yes or no and why or why not?
Yes. I believe that offshore wind is a critical element of building a clean energy future in Massachusetts. My opponent strenuously opposed it when he ran in 2010.
8. Do you support the extension of natural gas pipelines through Massachusetts? Yes or no and why or why not?
I do not support the current proposal for the extension of the Kinder Morgan natural gas pipeline through western and northern Massachusetts to Dracut. I believe the current proposal fails to strike the correct balance balance between providing affordable energy, protecting fragile environmental resources, respecting the rights of homeowners, and helping us reach our long-term energy goals. I am open to future proposals that expand capacity on existing pipelines as a way to use natural gas as a bridge fuel to cleaner energy sources in the future.
9. Do you support ballot Question No. 2 to expand the state’s bottle law? Yes or no and why or why not?
Yes. I support the current ballot initiative to update Massachusetts’ bottle bill to include bottled water, sports drinks, and other bottled beverages, in additional to carbonated drinks. This expansion is critical to promoting recycling and keeping millions of bottles out of landfills every year.
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?
I believe we need to explore a range of potential strategies for increasing the percentage of solid waste that is recycled, including single-stream recycle, Pay as You Throw programs, and targeted education programs. I also think that performance-based grants for municipalities – to incentivize cities and towns to develop comprehensive recycling plans – is an idea we should look at.
11. Do you support the state’s Endangered Species Act? Yes or no and why or why not?
Yes. Biodiversity is necessary for maintaining sustainable ecosystems, and the state has a vested interest in protecting all species in Massachusetts. I support the Endangered Species Act and I would opposed efforts to strip the legislation of its power to serve the purpose it was intended for.
12. What would you do preserve the dwindling amount of open land in the state?
Protecting our natural spaces is a critical element of ensuring that we hand our children a state that is healthy and sustainable; I applaud Governor Patrick for his tremendous commitment to preserving our environment, even when budgets were often stretched to the limit. As Governor, I will remain committed to making substantial investments in preserving our state’s open spaces; ensuring that every resident has access to the outdoors is beneficial, not only to the environment, but in terms of public health and overall quality of life.
In addition, I will support smart-growth development, which creates dense neighborhoods that can help prevent sprawl. Encouraging smart-growth development, and giving cities and towns the tools to implement it, is critical to preserving open space that might otherwise be gobbled up by development. By reforming Massachusetts’ outdated zoning laws, and providing incentives like chapter 40R and 40S, the state can push communities and developers to focus on smart growth.
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?
Yes. I have publicly stated my commitment to devoting at least 1% of our state’s budget to our environmental priorities.
14. As governor, would you continue to have Massachusetts participate in RGGI? Yes or no and why or why not?
Yes. RGGI has proven to be an effective strategy for reducing overall greenhouse gas emissions and I will support Massachusetts continued participation.
15.If you become governor, what would your environmental priorities be?
• Ensuring that we meet our 2020 and 2050 GHG reduction goals
- Ensuring that every home and business in Massachusetts undergoes an energy audit within the next eight years.
- Increasing regional investments to expand access to public transit, and supporting the expansion of electric and other alternative fuel vehicles.
- Incentivizing smart-growth development, which combines housing, business development, and transit.
• Developing new clean energy technologies
- Building a strong clean energy workforce, including expanding clean energy curriculum in secondary and post-secondary education.
- Modernizing our grid and utility regulation to ensure that electric and gas utilities have the right rules and incentives to more rapidly deploy energy efficiency and renewable energy.
• Protecting our environmental resources
- Increasing the funding for environmental agencies to at least one percent of the total state budget.
- Continuing significant investment in the preservation of land and water resources and the reclamation of brownfields.
- Improving sustainability at properties owned and managed by the Commonwealth; with the goal of making all new state buildings zero net energy.
16. Have any environmental groups endorsed you, and can you name them?
Yes. I am proud to have the endorsement of the Sierra Club and Massachusetts Clean Water Action.
17. Can you tell us why voters should believe you would be a better governor on environmental issues than your opponent?
As Attorney General, I have led the fight against climate change. We went all the way to the Supreme Court to make sure our clean air regulations were enforced. And we have enforced our state’s environmental protection laws to promote clean water and protect our wetlands.
While I have led the way to reduce greenhouse gas emissions and address climate change, my Republican opponent has questioned whether climate change was even man-made and was a strong opponent of Cape Wind. How can you be trusted to lead on climate change if you’ve spent a significant amount of time questioning whether it was even a problem, and worked to stop what could be America’s first offshore wind farm off the coast of Massachusetts?
The next Governor must bring climate change and environmental protection to the forefront of the public discussion, build on the progress we have made, and articulate an expansive vision for what’s next. She must also continue to work to bring down energy costs and expand our use of clean, renewable energy sources. That’s exactly what I will do.