Maura Healey Has a Climate Plan: Is It Too Ambitious Or Not Ambitious Enough?

Take my predictions with a grain of salt, because I still remember saying that Ronald Reagan would never fool enough voters to get elected, but it seems very likely at this point that Maura Healey will be the next Governor of Massachusetts.  That makes her release of a climate plan a matter of some significance. 

My take is that it is extremely ambitious, but rightly so.  We need to be ambitious.  The level of ambition does make implementation critical, and I note some of those tensions below.  Here are some of the important aspects of the plan.  First, it includes a number of specific commitments:

  • The Commonwealth will reach net-zero for its own operations by 2030.
  • Installation of one million heat pumps by 2030.
  • School buses and MBTA buses will be all electric by 2030
  • All public transportation will be electrified by 2040.
  • Sale of fossil-fuel cars and light duty trucks will end by 2035.
  • Massachusetts will have a 100% “clean electricity supply by 2030.” I assume that this means zero-carbon, but that’s not clear in the plan.
  • There is also a significant commitment to new levels of various kinds of carbon-free electrical generation, including:
    • More than 10,000 MW of offshore wind by 2035
    • More than 10,000 MW of solar by 2030
    • Quadrupling of energy storage deployment by 2030 (no mention of what they think the baseline is)

Did I mention that the plan is ambitious?

Notwithstanding its ambition, and notwithstanding the plan’s own statement that “kicking the can down the road will not be acceptable”, the plan still leaves a lot of elements to be filled in later.  It also fails to acknowledge some hurdles to attaining some of her underlying goals.  For example:

  • There is no mention of the Transportation Climate Initiative or any effort to implement regulations limiting emissions from vehicles, beyond the commitment to cease sales of certain types of vehicles with internal combustion engines by 2035.
  • The plan acknowledges the need to regulate emissions from buildings, but says only that “she will work with the Legislature to establish building emission standards like the new ordinance in effect in Boston….” If CO2 is a pollutant, would a Governor Healey need legislative authority?  Why couldn’t she just direct MassDEP to promulgate regulations limiting CO2 emissions from existing buildings over a certain size?  This issue is too big and important to leave to local municipal regulation.
  • The plan makes clear that a modern transmission grid will be necessary to “electrify everything”. However, it does not begin to explain how Governor Healey will reform our environmental assessment and permitting processes to streamline siting of the renewable energy facilities and the transmission lines necessary to carry all of the new renewable energy supplies to the ultimate end users, while also making good on her commitment to bring more public participation into those same assessment and permitting processes.

It is a sign of the scope of the problem that the plan is as ambitious as it is, while still leaving so much still to do.

Good luck, Governor-presumptive Healey.

2 thoughts on “Maura Healey Has a Climate Plan: Is It Too Ambitious Or Not Ambitious Enough?

  1. How to reform the permitting process may be easier than we imagine – if there is the political will.. it was done in Santa Barbara California in the mid 1980s, ironically, to expedite the permitting of fossil fuel extraction, transmission and processing. Instead of a lengthy sequence of Siting Board, MEPA, MADEP and Coastal Zone consistency reviews, a combination of nine Federal, State and County agencies formed Joint Review Panels which directed expedited ( one year duration) reviews and permitting of all offshore and onshore facilities at Applicant expense. And, there was no shortage of formal and informal public ( including Tribal) participation.

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