Oil and water don’t mix for Stephen Lynch

If the Massachusetts Senate race shapes up as the first US election where the environment is a decisive factor, Stephen Lynch could be in for a very rough ride.

Lynch is the target of a provocative ultimatum from California billionaire Tom Steyer, founder of Farallon Capital, a massively successful hedge fund: Drop your support of the Keystone XL pipeline by high noon Friday or I will unleash the force of my megadollars upon you.

Lynch sees the pipeline as a jobs creator and a way to bring new energy resources to the US. Environmentalists see it as the last gap of the fossil fuel industry that will deliver nothing but environmental degradation, with no guarantees that the oil would be consumed in the US.

Lynch better get busy if he wants to shore up his environmental record. His Democratic primary opponent Ed Markey has released a new ad focused on his own response to the 2010 BP oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico. He already possesses the kind of credentials that warm the collective hearts of environmentalists, so much so that a Mother Jones headline proclaims, “The Way Green Groups Are Swooning, You’d Think Ed Markey Is Justin Bieber.”

Mixed up in this environmental conundrum is the People’s Pledge, which both Lynch and Markey have agreed to. Though the Pledge precludes using outside dollars to fund ads over the airwaves or online, Steyer has threatened to fund a grassroots campaigning and other strategies to defeat Lynch.

A Boston Globe editorial suggests that Steyer, a Markey supporter, is a “bully” who should stay out of the Bay State Senate race. But Steyer’s involvement in the race is far more complex than mere bullying.

Globe columnist Joanna Weiss points out that Steyer, who describes himself as a “clean energy philanthropist,” parachuted into the Massachusetts race at the behest of Craig Altemose, a Massachusetts climate advocate, and three students, one each from Tufts University, the University of Massachusetts Amherst, and Buckingham Browne and Nichols, a private pre-K-12 school in Cambridge. If those students haven’t already aced any US politics courses they may be taking, they should get a pass on the final exam.

It’s not hard to connect the dots of the myriad of dangers that millions of dollars plus student activism might mean for Lynch. Few issues motivate politically-minded students like the environment and, specifically, the role fossil fuels play in climate change. Mother Jones reports that climate change could mean “seven times as many Katrinas” in our future and Massachusetts is way overdue for one of them.

Even the snowy winter of 2013 can be linked to atmospheric changes, a message that local meteorologists like Harvey Leonard and Pete Bouchard have been hammering home. And, don’t forget, Superstorm Sandy was the October surprise that helped nudge Mitt Romney into oblivion.

Oil and water don’t mix for a congressman representing a chunk of coastal Massachusetts. All Lynch needs to do is tour Scituate and other areas hard hit by the recent barrage of winter storms to get a feel for how his support for Keystone XL linked to climate change fears could hurt his campaign. And he may want to get there before Ed Markey does.

–GABRIELLE GURLEY

BEACON HILL

Freshman state Rep. Alan Silvia of Fall River is calling for the Gaming Commission to open up a commercial casino license in southeastern Massachusetts, saying it’s unfair to make the region wait to see if the Mashpee Wampanoag tribe gets federal approval. A Herald editorial urges state gaming commissioners to at least revisit commercial casinos in the region, as even with yesterday’s new compact with the Mashpee, a tribal casino in Taunton “could still be years off.”

The former director of the state board that regulates physicians may have violated public records law by deleting email, the Globe reports.

Immigration advocates rally at the State House for legislation to curtail deportations, WBUR reports.

MUNICIPAL MATTERS

Worcester was the snowiest city in the United States this winter at 108 inches, NECN reports.

The New Bedford City Council approved a new mandatory background check ordinance after a city worker was found to have a lengthy criminal following an arrest.

Braintree and Weymouth officials want to continue their trash disposal partnership even though Quincy has opted out of the tri-city compact.

Stoughton leaders will once again try to come up with a downtown redevelopment plan, at least the ninth time the town has tried since 1957 with no results.

NATIONAL POLITICS/WASHINGTON

Colorado passes three new gun laws, the Denver Post reports.

The New York Times examines the intra-party jockeying between Sens. Rand Paul and Marco Rubio.

A Wall Street Journal column says Capitol Hill warfare is taking steam out of economic growth, which might be fine if the budget battles were fixing the deficit. They aren’t.

ELECTIONS

City Councilor John Connolly launched his bid for mayor of Boston last night before a packed room at the Omni Parker House, pledging to upend a status quo that “takes a deep toll on our future.” The Herald’s write-up is here.

Suzanne Lee, who nearly defeated incumbent Bill Linehan in the 2011 race for the District 2 Boston City Council seat covering South Boston, Chinatown, and the South End, will take another run at the Southie pol this year. After Lee’s narrow loss, Herald columnist Peter Gelzinis predicted that rapidly changing demographics in Linehan’s neighborhood would soon sweep him out of office: “In another two years, it’s unlikely any map he might draw can save him from the tidal wave of change — even if the map began at Andrew Square and ended at City Point.”

Keller@Large says tough foreign policy questions to the candidates for Senate are a good and necessary test for them.

BUSINESS/ECONOMY

The new owners of Twinkies suggest a healthier version may be in our future, Time reports.

Three-quarters of single-parent households in the state headed by females don’t earn enough to pay their bills and raise children, according to a new report being issued today.

Despite an improving economy, the Fed says it will continue to buy mortgage securities and maintain the near-zero interest rates until the jobless rate improves.

The Red Sox purchase a Lansdowne Street garage that’s most notable for the gun-control billboard affixed to its side. CommonWealth’s winter issue examined the billboard, and previewed the Sox purchase.

EDUCATION

A honors night is nixed at an Ipswich middle school and replaced with an end-of-year assembly that all students will participate in, the Salem News reports.

HEALTH CARE

Pittsburgh asks a court to remove the tax-exempt status of the University of Pittsburgh Medical Center, the Wall Street Journal reports.

ENERGY/ENVIRONMENT

Environmentalists and drilling companies agree on new standards for fracking, the Associated Press reports.

The EPA has canceled a hearing for the end of the month on the New Bedford harbor cleanup over uncertainty caused by the federal budget cuts.

CRIMINAL JUSTICE

A 34-year-old man sues the Pike School in Andover and a former female teacher there for allegedly sexually abusing him when he was 15, the Eagle-Tribune reports.

Stolen car rates in Massachusetts have plummeted by an astounding 88 percent over the last four decades, the Globe reports.

Meet the Author

Gabrielle Gurley

Senior Associate Editor, CommonWealth

About Gabrielle Gurley

Gabrielle covers several beats, including mass transit, municipal government, child welfare, and energy and the environment. Her recent articles have explored municipal hiring practices in Pittsfield, public defender pay, and medical marijuana, and she has won several national journalism awards for her work. Prior to coming to CommonWealth in 2005, Gabrielle wrote for the State House News Service, The Boston Globe, and other publications. She launched her media career in broadcast journalism with C-SPAN in Washington, DC. The Philadelphia native holds degrees from Boston College and Georgetown University.

About Gabrielle Gurley

Gabrielle covers several beats, including mass transit, municipal government, child welfare, and energy and the environment. Her recent articles have explored municipal hiring practices in Pittsfield, public defender pay, and medical marijuana, and she has won several national journalism awards for her work. Prior to coming to CommonWealth in 2005, Gabrielle wrote for the State House News Service, The Boston Globe, and other publications. She launched her media career in broadcast journalism with C-SPAN in Washington, DC. The Philadelphia native holds degrees from Boston College and Georgetown University.

MEDIA

The governor’s joke that he was running for a third term wasn’t all that funny, particularly after NECN took it seriously and Tweeted it. NECN’s Jim Braude talks about the dangers of social media and joking.