Climate change brain drain in Baker administration

Gov. Charlie Baker lost another key aide on the climate change front, as Energy and Environmental Affairs Secretary Kathleen Theoharides said she is leaving the administration next week. 

Theoharides has been an emerging star in the Baker administration, the face of its efforts to build out the offshore wind industry and address climate change. She stepped into the job exactly three years ago after first joining the administration in 2016. She declined to say where she is headed, but departures like hers are not unusual in an administration in its final year on the job.

Beth Card, the undersecretary of environmental policy and climate resilience, is stepping in to fill Theoharides’s shoes. Card joined the administration last year after David Ismay, the then-undersecretary for climate change, left following comments he made to the Vermont Climate Council suggesting that Massachusetts residents were going to be squeezed financially as the state tries to meet its emission reduction targets.

In a video on YouTube, 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.”

Ismay also expressed frustration at the challenge of getting offshore wind farms and transmission lines built. “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.”

Some thought Ismay was only stating the obvious, but his comments irked the governor and Ismay submitted his resignation.

Card came to the administration from the Massachusetts Water Resources Authority, where she served as director of environment and regulatory affairs. Prior to joining the MWRA, she worked at the Massachusetts Department of Environmental Protection for over six years as deputy and assistant commissioner.

 BRUCE MOHL

 

FROM COMMONWEALTH

W. Mass makes its case: After years of indecision, the East-West rail project seems to be gaining some momentum and western Massachusetts seems to be finding its voice on transportation issues. The plan for East-West rail calls for a new independent authority to oversee the construction and operation of the project and key officials from the western part of the state are suggesting it should be funded with the sales taxes collected from the region that are currently going to the MBTA. Read more.

South Coast struggle: New state data indicate residents of the South Coast of Massachusetts (primarily New Bedford and Fall River) have the hardest time obtaining health insurance and health care. Read more.

Forum becomes debate: Sen. Sonia Chang-Diaz turns a gubernatorial forum on climate change with Attorney General Maura Healey into a debate about campaign contributions from fossil fuel interests, transit investments, and looking out for people of color. Read more.

LeBoeuf arrested for DUI: Rep. David LeBouef of Worcester is arrested in Milton for drunken driving with a blood alcohol level four times the legal limit. Speaker Ron Mariano says LeBouef told him he will seek recovery help, while Republican Party chair Jim Lyons demands to know where the rep was drinking after the House budget debate concluded. Read more.

Mount Ida idea: The House budget includes a provision calling for a study of turning the UMass Mount Ida campus into a health sciences school. Early reception to the idea is positive. Read more.

 

FROM AROUND THE WEB

 

BEACON HILL

The House passes a $49.7 billion budget for fiscal 2023 after three days of debate. (State House News Service)

Whether to allow betting on college sports is one of the key debates that must be resolved before lawmakers agree on a final bill legalizing sports betting. (MassLive)

The idea of a state-operated bank that would help level the lending playing field for groups that have had trouble accessing capital, once a fringe idea on the left, is gaining momentum on Beacon Hill. (Boston Globe)

Law enforcement officials representing unions and associations sue the Peace Officer Standards and Training Commission for violating the open meeting law. The commission says it has complied with the law. (GBH)

MUNICIPAL MATTERS  

The Mass and Cass Engagement Center operated by the city to serve homeless people and those dealing with addiction issues in that troubled area of Boston is temporarily closing because of safety concerns after a spate of violence “in and around it,” the Boston Herald reports. 

The Easthampton City Council calls Mayor Nicole LaChapelle’s remarks to a high school civics class “racist and unacceptable” in a letter to parents. (Daily Hampshire Gazette)

HEALTH/HEALTH CARE

Anthony Fauci says the US is no longer in the “full-blown explosive pandemic” phase of dealing with COVID-19. (Washington Post

WASHINGTON/NATIONAL/INTERNATIONAL

David Ferriero, who is set to retire after 12 years as the archivist of the United States, credits his childhood in Beverly for setting him up for success. (Salem News)

EDUCATION

Boston schools Superintendent Brenda Cassellius is recommending closure of the Mission Hill K-8 School, which has been the focus of allegations of overlooking sexual abuse and bullying by students and neglecting students with disabilities. (Boston Globe)

ARTS/CULTURE

A $5 million grant to the Zeiterion Performing Arts Center to fund its renovation and expansion was among the highlights of New Bedford Mayor Jon Mitchell’s State of the City address yesterday, delivered in-person for the first time since 2019. (New Bedford Light

TRANSPORTATION

The Dorchester Reporter digs in on the challenges of electric vehicle charging in an urban environment. 

CRIMINAL JUSTICE/COURTS

Two Springfield police officers convicted of assault for beating civilians after a fight in a bar are spared jail time. (MassLive)

PASSINGS

Eric Pope, a former New Bedford School Committee member who was the youngest person ever elected to the board at age 21, dies at 41 after being punched by a bouncer outside a Philadelphia night club. (Standard-Times)