The environmental community in Massachusetts has a big problem: Everyone says they agree with us. When we ask candidates for office if they will fight to protect the environment, they all say yes. Should we recycle more? Sure. Keep pollution out of our water and air? Of course
And yet, even as we elect politicians who claim to support the environment year after year, the priorities of the environmental community get passed over for shinier objects and issues that seem more pressing. This year, the Environmental League of Massachusetts Action Fund is aiming to pump up a more muscular and politically effective environmental community. On the statewide level, we are particularly interested in the races for Governor and Attorney General. Gov. Patrick has been a champion for the environment and we are going to do everything we can to make sure that his successor will continue his legacy. The road to the Corner Office will go through the environmental community.
For the environmental community, the choice for Attorney General is clear. Warren Tolman has a long record of leading the fight to protect the environment. When Warren pledges to crack down on companies that pollute our rivers and oceans through civil and criminal enforcement, ensure that Massachusetts’ environmental laws are enforced fairly across industries and support conditions where green industries and jobs can flourish, I know he is not just talking the talk because he has a long, long record of walking the walk.
The Attorney General serves as the Commonwealth’s chief regulator of utilities and advocate for ratepayers and is responsible for reviewing the performance and costs utilities pass on to consumers. Warren understands the importance of this role and he understands that investment in energy efficiency and renewable energy is critical and cost effective. He understands consumers in the Commonwealth deserve a 21st century electric grid because today’s aging transmission lines waste energy and dollars, waste which is paid for by all of us as consumers. And Warren understands the Attorney General’s critical role enforcing the Green Communities Act requiring utilities to increase their energy efficiency and their portfolio of renewable energy.
Warren also understands the importance of investment in renewable energy. While natural gas derived from fracking may sometimes be cheaper than power from renewable sources like wind and the sun, the long term benefits of reducing pollution and greenhouse gas emissions include lowering the costs of treating ailments like childhood asthma and preventing the devastation of the next SuperStorm Sandy. The renewable energy industry is also among the fastest growing segments of our economy, having created 80,000 new jobs and 5500 new businesses in the last few years.
If we understand the cost-effective nature of these investments and keep pressing the utilities to increase their clean energy portfolio, we will make Massachusetts the clean energy industry leader attracting even more start-ups and jobs. On the other hand, the ‘lowest cost’ energy approach threatens that budding industry and props up Big Oil. Warren gets it.
But it is not just that Warren understands the important role the Attorney General can play in our energy future – anyone can make promises. His longstanding record of commitment to energy and the environment throughout his public life show me that he not only believes in our mission, he has been a leader for our cause:
- Protecting our Rivers: A sponsor of the Clean River Bill, Warren has worked to protect rivers and ponds from the threat of extinction caused by overgrowth of weeds and other plants. Warren won funding to create a flag warning system on the Charles River to provide river users with warnings when pollution levels become unsafe, a model that was replicated on rivers throughout the state. Warren also supported legislation to limit the use of phosphates that pollute our water. As a private citizen, Warren started the Charles River cleanup program, a public-service event that attracts thousands on Earth Day every year.
- Promoting Recycling: Warren was chief sponsor of the updated Bottle Bill when he was in the legislature.
- Encouraging Alternative Transportation: Warren has worked to encourage alternative means of transportation. He was the chief Senate sponsor of a measure to require new highway projects to include bike access. Warren also sponsored legislation to provide incentives for the use of cleaner, alternatively fueled vehicles.
- Protecting Trees: Warren was the chief sponsor and won passage of the law that requires cities and towns to hire qualified arborists.
- Fighting for Safe Drinking Water: A founding member of the Massachusetts Water Resources Authority (MWRA) caucus, Warren led the fight for safe drinking water. As Chair of the MWRA subcommittee of the House Post Audit and Oversight Committee, he worked with the MWRA Advisory Board to prevent additional and unnecessary building, which resulted in close to $1 billion in savings.
- Cleaning up Boston Harbor: Warren traveled to Washington to Lobby for funding for the Boston Harbor cleanup, and fought for legislation that established the sate’s safe drinking water projects revolving fund.
The ELM Action Fund was impressed by Maura Healey’s strong commitment to the environment, but endorsed Tolman based on his longterm and forceful leadership on a range of environmental protection issues. In the next weeks and months, we will continue to evaluate the candidates for governor and the legislature to find more environmental champions. Until then, I hope you will join us in supporting Warren Tolman.