Gov. Charlie Baker vetoes sweeping climate change bill

January 15, 2021 GMT

BOSTON (AP) — Gov. Charlie Baker vetoed a sweeping climate change bill Thursday, just days after top Democratic lawmakers on Beacon Hill vowed to immediately refile and pass it again if the Republican refused to sign the legislation.

The bill had been approved earlier this month in the waning days of the prior legislative session.

Baker’s press secretary said the administration supports many parts of this bill but was unable to try to improve on the legislation through the use of amendments because of how late it passed in the session.

“As currently written, this bill could increase the cost of housing, possibly prevent the construction of affordable developments and potentially impact large sectors of the economy just as the Commonwealth is beginning to recover from the pandemic recession,” Sarah Finlaw, Baker’s press secretary, said in a written statement.

“The Governor hopes to address these issues quickly now that the Legislature is committed to revisiting the bill so soon,” she added.

Senate President Karen Spilka and House Speaker Ronald Mariano issued a joint statement Wednesday saying they would push ahead with the bill and swiftly pass it again in the new Legislative session, which has already begun.

“Climate change is the greatest existential threat facing our state, our nation, and our planet, and so Governor Baker should sign the climate change bill that is now on his desk,” the two Democrats said in a written statement.

“Should he not take this important step, the Senate and House are united in our intention to refile and pass the conference committee bill in its entirety and get it onto the governor’s desk in the coming days,” they added.

There was little opposition to the bill, which passed by near unanimous votes in the House and Senate, suggesting lawmakers could pass it over any Baker objections.

Baker’s veto drew swift criticism from a range of environmental groups.

The Environmental League of Massachusetts issued a statement faulting Baker, saying the bill had broad support among environmental activists, business leaders, unions and others.

“We cannot go back to the drawing board after two years spent crafting what would have been the strongest climate bill in the nation,” the group said in a statement. “Stalling these critical advances is excruciating, particularly when there is vigorous agreement between the Legislature and the Administration on most of the key elements.”

The bill would overhaul the state’s climate laws, reduce greenhouse gas emissions, create renewable energy jobs and protect poorer communities that can be at higher risk from pollution.

A highlight of the bill is the goal of attaining a net-zero greenhouse gas emission limit by 2050 in part by setting new statewide limits every five years to help the state reach the goal.

The bill would also increase requirements for purchasing offshore wind energy and write into state law the criteria used to define “environmental justice populations” — communities with lower incomes, larger numbers of non-English speaking adults, or with a nonwhite population of 25% or more.

Baker has also released a plan that seeks to eliminate greenhouse gas emissions by 2050, includes a requirement that all new cars sold in the state be electric by 2035 and converting 1 million homes from fossil fuel to electric heat.