Baker irked by undersecretary’s climate remarks

Says ordinary people will be affected by emission goals

DAVID ISMAY, the Baker administration’s undersecretary for climate change, got into hot water with the governor on Friday after a video surfaced in which he appeared to say Massachusetts residents are going to be squeezed financially as the state tries to reduce emissions.

In a panel discussion with the Vermont Climate Council on January 25 that is available on YouTube, Ismay said the numbers facing the state are daunting. He said 60 percent of the state’s emissions come from residential heating and passenger vehicles. To meet the state’s goal of net zero emissions by 2050, Ismay said, 3 million homes need to transition to clean energy and 5 million vehicles need to be replaced with zero emission cars.

Ismay said Massachusetts doesn’t have many big sources of emissions left to target, and is left with changing the lifestyles of ordinary people. “There is no bad guy left, at least in Massachusetts, to point the finger at, turn the screws on, and break their will so they stop emitting,” he said. “That’s you. We have to break your will. I can’t even say that publicly.”

David Ismay, the Baker administration undersecretary for climate change.

Ismay also referenced the challenge of getting offshore wind farms permitted and transmission lines built to carry electricity to where it’s needed. He indicated there are always competing interests – the fishing industry has concerns about offshore wind turbines and state residents are worried about transmission lines running through their communities.

“We can’t have no offshore wind, no transmission, no solar, and have clean energy,” Ismay said. “Something has to give. There has to be some mechanism we trust to find a place to site a transmission line.”

The video was highlighted in a press release issued by the Massachusetts Fiscal Alliance, which opposes many of the governor’s climate change policies. “It’s frightening to think an official so high up in the Baker administration is bragging to an out-of-state group about the economic pain he wants to inflict on the very people who he’s supposed to work for,” said Paul Craney, a spokesman for the alliance. “Remarks like this have no place in state government. Ismay should be dismissed from his position in state government, as he’s clearly demonstrated he does not have the best interests of the residents of Massachusetts at heart.”

At his State House press conference, Baker said he had seen the video and followed up with Kathleen Theoharides, the secretary of energy and environmental affairs and Ismay’s boss.

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Bruce Mohl

Editor, CommonWealth

About Bruce Mohl

Bruce Mohl is the editor of CommonWealth magazine. Bruce came to CommonWealth from the Boston Globe, where he spent nearly 30 years in a wide variety of positions covering business and politics. He covered the Massachusetts State House and served as the Globe’s State House bureau chief in the late 1980s. He also reported for the Globe’s Spotlight Team, winning a Loeb award in 1992 for coverage of conflicts of interest in the state’s pension system. He served as the Globe’s political editor in 1994 and went on to cover consumer issues for the newspaper. At CommonWealth, Bruce helped launch the magazine’s website and has written about a wide range of issues with a special focus on politics, tax policy, energy, and gambling. Bruce is a graduate of Ohio Wesleyan University and the Fletcher School of Law and Diplomacy at Tufts University. He lives in Dorchester.

About Bruce Mohl

Bruce Mohl is the editor of CommonWealth magazine. Bruce came to CommonWealth from the Boston Globe, where he spent nearly 30 years in a wide variety of positions covering business and politics. He covered the Massachusetts State House and served as the Globe’s State House bureau chief in the late 1980s. He also reported for the Globe’s Spotlight Team, winning a Loeb award in 1992 for coverage of conflicts of interest in the state’s pension system. He served as the Globe’s political editor in 1994 and went on to cover consumer issues for the newspaper. At CommonWealth, Bruce helped launch the magazine’s website and has written about a wide range of issues with a special focus on politics, tax policy, energy, and gambling. Bruce is a graduate of Ohio Wesleyan University and the Fletcher School of Law and Diplomacy at Tufts University. He lives in Dorchester.

“First of all, no one who works in our administration should ever say or think anything like that, ever,” Baker said. “Secondly, Secretary Theoharides is going to have a conversation with him about that. And third, one of the main reasons we didn’t sign the climate bill when it got to our desk was because we were specifically concerned about the impact it was going to have on people’s ability to pay for many of the pieces that were in it, which means it also doesn’t represent administration policy or position.”

The Legislature has sent Baker the same climate change bill he pocket-vetoed at the end of the last session. Baker, who has until Sunday to act on it, is expected to send the measure back with a series of amendments related to many of its key provisions.