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Berkshire Activists, Politicians Frustrated With Baker’s Climate Bill Veto

Massachusetts Governor Charlie Baker stands at a podium in front of a marble building with a row of people standing on either side of him
Josh Landes
Massachusetts Governor Charlie Baker giving a press briefing in March 2020 on the steps of Pittsfield City Hall.

Berkshire County activists and politicians are expressing dismay at Governor Charlie Baker’s veto of a climate bill passed by the Massachusetts legislature last week.

The Republican struck down the extensive climate policy measure from the Democrat-controlled House and Senate on Thursday, prompting criticism from environmentalists across the state.

“One of the things we were most pleased about was it really included environmental justice, and it set a net zero limit for 2050, with interim limits for our carbon emissions, so that we really had a solid roadmap that was in legislation, so, had regulatory authority — if this bill had not been vetoed by Governor Baker," said Jane Wynn, co-founder and Executive Director of the Berkshire Environmental Action Team. “I'm frustrated with him. He's all talk, no action. He talks as if he's doing great things for the climate. I do not believe we met our 2020 climate goals. And there's just not data available yet to prove one way or the other. But we certainly were, in my opinion, not on track. And this just is more of his, he'll say one thing, and doesn't help the climate at all with his actions.”

While Baker has his own plan to reach net zero carbon emissions by 2050, Wynn isn’t moved.

“I go back to all talk, no action," she told WAMC. "He's got his plan without regulatory authority. What he should have done was allowed this bill to actually become law. It just again, points to the fact that he likes to say something that sounds good on climate, but he doesn't actually follow through and do it.”

The governor cited concerns around the bill increasing the cost of housing and possibly preventing the construction of affordable housing developments – an explanation Wynn doesn’t buy.

“I think he's in the pocket of certain industries," she said. "I think that this actually is really good for the housing industry. One of the things we really want to see is housing built that's energy efficient. So the people who can least afford to waste their money on heating and cooling a building or electricity don't waste their energy. If you have good strong building codes, things are built in a way where you're not wasting energy for needlessly heating or cooling your space.”

The bill passed the House and Senate almost unanimously with the full support of the all-Democratic Berkshire County delegation.

“This is an absolute travesty at a moment when we need to be doubling down, becoming far more aggressive in our approach to confront climate change. To have any delay- we don't have that luxury," said State Senator Adam Hinds, who represents the Berkshire, Hampshire, Franklin and Hampden district. “The Speaker of the House and the Senate President have committed that we would immediately refile and move through the process with the same bill which goes considerable distances to accelerate our movement towards net zero here in the Commonwealth and a range of other issues, to make Massachusetts a leader again, in confronting climate change. And so we're dedicated to be doing that, regardless of these actions.”

Studies show that people of color are disproportionately at risk from the effects of climate change in the United States.

Josh Landes has been WAMC's Berkshire Bureau Chief since February 2018, following stints at WBGO Newark and WFMU East Orange. A passionate advocate for Western Massachusetts, Landes was raised in Pittsfield and attended Hampshire College in Amherst, receiving his bachelor's in Ethnomusicology and Radio Production. His free time is spent with his cat Harry, experimental electronic music, and exploring the woods.
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