Baker refuses to disavow new pipeline capacity

Says all options for meeting energy needs should remain on table


DEFENDING HIS ADMINISTRATION’S COMMITMENT to developing clean energy sources, Gov. Charlie Baker on Thursday responded to activists who are aggressively pressing him to take steps to halt new fossil fuel infrastructure, saying all options should remain on the table and that he doesn’t “take a backseat to anybody” on renewable energy.

“As a general rule our strategy on this stuff has been to make sure we don’t take options off the table,” Baker told reporters when asked about protesters who filled his office lobby Wednesday and returned to Beacon Hill on Thursday. “There are always options and possibilities that are not foreseen, and we shouldn’t be painting ourselves into a corner, especially in a sector like this where the changes are coming fast and furious.”

Baker continued, “I mean if you think about where electric vehicles were five years ago and you think about where electric vehicles are now, and where electric vehicles are going to be five years, or six years or seven years from now, I think the idea of painting ourselves into a one-size-fits-all approach to dealing with any of this stuff doesn’t make any sens

Massachusetts has aggressively pursued energy efficiency measures and is gradually moving toward additional renewable energy sources, such as solar, wind and hydro power, but its carbon-free nuclear power plant in Plymouth is scheduled to close in 2019. The state remains heavily dependent on natural gas, and pipeline and other infrastructure projects necessary to expand capacity continue to rile neighborhoods, energy activists, and policymakers.

About 30 peaceful protesters gathered in Baker’s office lobby Wednesday, urging him to oppose construction of new fossil fuel infrastructure that they say is contributing to climate change, rising sea levels, and more frequent severe weather events. Six protesters who did not leave the office by the end of the day were hit with criminal citations for trespassing on state property and unlawful assembly.

“The police indicated a strong preference to skip the paperwork and hassle on their end of having to cuff us, drag us to jail, process us, and then release us. We agreed to save them that hassle, and us as well, but the legal consequences for us will not differ,” protester Craig Altemose told the News Service.

Susan Donaldson, a protester from Cambridge, said Wednesday that she spent her life working as a doctor to save people but retired two years ago to focus full-time on climate activism because she believes she can affect the lives of people displaced by droughts and flooding.

Climate-related migration, she said, is often one of the causes of war. “The more I read about this the more scared I got,” said Donaldson, adding that she believes Baker is “talking a much better game than he’s acting.”

While activists disagree with Baker on fossil fuel infrastructure, several protesters acknowledged steps the governor has taken to boost clean energy.

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On Thursday, Baker touted the state’s growing footprint in the clean energy sector.

“This administration has been a national leader in continuing to reduce our carbon footprint,” the governor said. “I could just start with the very complicated but hugely important piece of legislation that we spent two years working on to make it possible for Massachusetts to develop what will be the first major offshore wind platform on the East Coast of the United State, and the most significant investment that this Commonwealth and this region – New England – has made in hydroelectric power. We continue to make investments that have made Massachusetts for seven years in a row the most energy-efficient community in the country. We’ve continued to make investments that have made Massachusetts the largest LEED-certified per-capita state in America. I don’t take a backseat to anybody on our commitment to continue to chase renewable sustainable energy and transportation options.”