The Baker Plan on the Climate Minute Podcast

First, we give pause to stand in solidarity with the people of Charlottesville, VA and to take a moment to honor the life and sacrifice of Heather Heyer.

With guest host Regina McIntyre, we investigate Baker’s true climate motives, which are heroic in comparison to the clandestine efforts to sabotage the EPA that Scott Pruitt is undertaking. We salute a conservative Texas Mayor whose city runs on renewables. Tune in for those details.

According to an Associated Press article, Governor Baker released a series of policy proposals aimed at bringing Massachusetts into full compliance with the 2008 GWSA. Included among the policy proposals are new fuel efficiency standards for the state’s fleet of passenger vehicles, which would take effect in January of 2018. Some say it is strong and others say there is more we could be doing to comply with Paris and the GWSA. Charlie Blandy of BlueMass Group  suggests the following:

  • A two percent yearly renewable portfolio standard increase
  • Instituting a carbon fee/dividend
  • Stopping a new gas pipeline infrastructure
  • Plugging gas leaks
  • Pledging 100 percent renewable energy by 2050

Blandy further asserts that if the administration is serious about reducing transportation emissions, they need to update the public transportation sector in addition to the above measures. Constituents are piling heat on the Baker administration to walk the walk as well as talking the talk. The environmental advocacy group 350 Mass said that the regulations fail to address 85% of what contributes to climate change. To really cut emissions Massachusetts should set standards to strongly encourage the purchase of electric vehicles. We spoke in our podcast last week about biomass and the controversies swirling around Baker’s inclusion of it as a renewable fuel.   

Massachusetts has good reason to work to stall climate change. WBUR’s Morning Edition ran a feature about how destructive sea level rise or a storm surge could be for the food supply for New England. Chelsea would be hit hard with rising waters, which jeopardizes a vital food distribution center.

We love this story from Al Gore’s Inconvenient Sequel: Truth to Power and on NPR about Georgetown, Texas’s conservative mayor, Dale Ross who pushed Georgetown to become one of the first American cities to be entirely powered by renewables. Why did he do it? Because he loves “green rectangles,” i.e. money. For the city of Georgetown, it was a smart business decision – wind and solar are more predictable than fossil fuels from a financial standpoint.

Too bad more conservative leaders don’t share Mayor Ross’s vision, however. In particular, Scott Pruitt, the Head of the Environmental Protection Agency, is so radical with his anti-environmental regulations/pro fossil fuel policies that even members of the fossil fuel industry feel his is going too far, according to an article in Politico. Coral Davenport and Eric Lipton wrote a story for the New York Times indicating that career employees have trouble reaching the floor where Pruitt’s office is. It is often locked, and employees need an escort to gain entrance. Some employees are told to leave behind their cellphones and are sometimes told not to take notes. Pruitt has round-the-clock armed guards escorting him, the first head of the agency to have such protection. In a survey of forty EPA  employees, they reported a feeling of hostile takeover and paranoia—with the guy in charge treating them like enemies. It seems he is trying to keep the internal destruction away from the public as much as possible.

David Roberts for Vox wrote that Pruitt’s approach to obscure his activities highlights two trends in the GOP, “an agenda that no one likes is better kept hidden,” and “the base will always push too far.” This approach is in line with Obamacare; if it is done in secret, then there will be less public attention called to actions that virtually no one likes and that don’t have a coherent policy case for them.

In Davenport and Lipton’s NYT article, they highlight that William D. Ruckelshaus, former E.P.A. director under two Republican presidents said this type of secrecy is “antithetical to the mission of the agency.” He further asserts that reforming the regulatory system would be good if it was an honest, open process but the way Pruitt is progressing is “taking a meat ax to the protections of public health and the environment and then hiding it.” Ruckelshaus said that this type of secrecy could allow for another disaster like the contamination of drinking water in Flint, MI. 

The state of CA is taking Pruitt to court to make sure that his rule making remains impartial. As discussed in Bloomberg, California Attorney General Xavier Becerra wants the EPA to respond to his state’s April 7th Freedom of Information Act request that shows what steps EPA took to ensure Pruitt’s compliance with ethics rules and who would take over for him if he is disqualified or recuses himself.

Because we recognize the necessity of personal accountability for our actions, because we accept responsibility for building a durable future and because we believe it is our patriotic duty as citizens to speak out, we must insist that the United States put a price on carbon.

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