Gov candidates vague on electricity rate spike
Differ on gas tax indexing, bottle bill
The candidates for governor differ sharply on ballot questions dealing with the gas tax and the bottle bill, but on the most pressing environmental issue facing the region – what to do as coal power plants close and electricity prices climb into the stratosphere – they are all sticking to generalities.
Four of the five candidates appeared one after another on Wednesday at a forum at Suffolk University sponsored by a host of environmental groups. The candidates were all given the questions in advance, so there were no surprises.
One of the questions noted electricity prices are expected to spike 37 percent this winter, and asked how the candidates planned to respond. Would they favor expanding natural gas pipeline capacity coming into the region or would they favor reducing the state’s heavy reliance on natural gas?
Attorney General Martha Coakley, the Democrat in the race, said she would bring stakeholders to the table to discuss the issue, but offered no specifics. She said her goal was a diversified energy portfolio that offered consumers and businesses reasonable prices.
Baker said he lamented the fact that Patrick administration officials years ago did not move to expand the capacity of existing natural gas pipelines coming into the region. He claimed it was well known then that coal-fired power plants would soon be retiring.
Jeff McCormick, an independent candidate, said he is a fan of hydroelectricity and other forms of renewable energy, although he said officials need to be mindful that energy represents a key business cost. McCormick said a short-term solution to the state’s energy needs could be trucked-in natural gas. “It is a step in the right direction. It is not a permanent solution,” he said.
Evan Falchuk, another independent candidate, said he opposes construction of a proposed natural gas pipeline from the New York border to Dracut and, if elected, would do everything in his power to block federal efforts to take land for it. He said he favored a more diverse energy supply by increasing the development of wind, solar, and hydro power. He also lamented the Legislature’s failure during the last session to pass legislation that would have responded to the looming energy shortage.
Here’s how the candidates responded on other issues:
Environmental funding – All four candidates said they favor spending 1 percent of the state budget on environmental agencies.Bottle bill – Coakley and Falchuk said they favored expansion of the bottle bill to include containers for noncarbonated beverages. Baker said he opposes the expansion. McCormick wasn’t asked the question.
Gas tax indexing – Baker and McCormick said they oppose gas tax indexing because they believe taxes should be raised only if the Legislature votes to raise them. Coakley and Falchuk said they support indexing the gas tax to inflation. Falchuk said indexing would make the gas tax more like the income and sales taxes, which are percentage-based and rise and fall as income or sale prices move. Coakley said the state needs the money an indexed gas tax would bring in.