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Wednesday, February 06, 2019

Governor Charlie Baker Testifies Before House Committee on Natural Resources

Governor Charlie Baker Testifies Before House Committee on Natural Resources

WASHINGTON – Today, Governor Charlie Baker testified before the House Natural Resources Committee in Washington, D.C. to discuss what Massachusetts is doing to address climate change at the first congressional hearing on climate change in over eight years. He shared the Commonwealth’s bipartisan record of addressing climate change, urging Washington to work across all levels of government in a similar fashion and highlighted some of the Baker-Polito Administration’s bipartisan initiatives and cost-effective projects put in place to prepare for the effects of a changing climate and to promote renewable energy.

Submitted written testimony can be found here. Live video of the hearing can be found here.

Remarks as prepared for delivery:

“Chairman Grijalva, Ranking Member Bishop, and members of the Committee, thank you for inviting me to testify today on the approach Massachusetts has taken to the very real challenge of climate change.

“In Massachusetts, climate change is not a partisan issue – while we sometimes disagree on specific policies, we understand the science and know the impacts are real because we are experiencing them first-hand.

“Shortly after I took office in 2015, the snow started falling – hard – and it didn’t end for months. Last winter we saw four major Nor’easters, setting record flood levels and causing significant damage to natural resources and property.

“Rising temperatures have led to warmer winters, impacting weather-dependent industries like skiing and agriculture. Climate change is also warming our coastal waters and threatening some of the nation’s most important commercial fisheries.

“While many of these challenges are not new, they are more frequent and more damaging than ever. 

“While rising temperatures and warmer winters have impacted weather-dependent industries like skiing, local businesses like Berkshire East have adapted to these challenges by diversifying their business to include non-winter activities, which now account for 60% of the mountain’s revenue. Berkshire East has also become the first ski mountain in the world to be 100% powered by renewable energy.

“The magnitude of the impacts from climate change requires all of us – at the federal, state and local levels - to put politics aside and work together. That is the path we have taken in Massachusetts.

“Massachusetts, via bipartisan legislation, was one of the first states in the nation to establish a long-term requirement to reduce carbon emissions by at least 80 percent below 1990 levels by 2050, while also setting interim targets. We are well on our way to reaching our 2020 goal of a 25 percent reduction in emissions.

“The Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative, a cap-and-trade program encompassing large electric generators across nine Northeast states, also provides a stable policy to reduce emissions and allows states to invest in cost-effective energy efficiency programs. The investments from this initiative have saved ratepayers across the RGGI states an estimated $8.6 billion.

“We have also developed regional partnerships with New England states, the Canadian provinces and the federal government. Utilizing the comparative strengths of different regions allows us to obtain competitive pricing on projects like hydropower from Quebec.

“In 2016, we competitively-bid and selected an offshore wind project on a federal lease area that will save ratepayers money. This would not have been possible without our partnership with the federal government. I applaud Congress for providing a predictable investment tax credit for this industry, and also the Trump Administration’s Bureau of Ocean Energy Management for working with us to quickly review the project and build a new industry in the United States.

“We have also been preparing for the ongoing impacts of climate change.

“Our administration recently completed a State Hazard Mitigation and Climate Adaptation Plan. Leveraging Federal Emergency Management Agency money, the plan is the first in the nation to fully integrate federal hazard mitigation planning requirements, with a proactive approach to addressing the impacts of climate change.

“Our administration has also sought to work closely with our local communities. Our Municipal Vulnerability Preparedness program provides grants and technical assistance to municipalities so they can assess their vulnerabilities, and plan for and implement climate change adaptation projects. Importantly, the program allows communities the flexibility to design solutions that work for their unique circumstances.

“Based on our experience in Massachusetts, I would like to share four themes I believe will help further reduce greenhouse gas emissions and increase resiliency across the country.

“First, states and local communities need support from the federal government.  Many federal incentives are only available after a disaster occurs; incentives similar to our MVP program would help communities address resiliency issues before the next disaster. Expanding programs like FEMA’s new resilient infrastructure grants and increasing funding available to states would accelerate existing efforts and galvanize new ones.

“Bipartisan interest in infrastructure funding also holds tremendous promise to not only repair and modernize our deteriorating infrastructure, but also make it resilient to changes in weather. Any federal infrastructure legislation should incorporate consideration of climate change emissions, vulnerability, and design standards that reflect a changing climate.

“Both state and federal governments also need to develop public-private partnerships to bring private-sector dollars into our communities while leveraging the knowledge and strategic thinking the private sector can bring to this challenge.

“Second, we need strong federal leadership and a bold bipartisan vision on climate change that prioritizes practical, market-driven and cost-effective solutions, while affording states the flexibility to design strategies that work for their unique challenges.

“We believe it is essential to establish federal targets for emissions reductions that can vary by state or region. In our state’s experience, setting an aggressive target for reducing greenhouse gas emissions provides the foundation for clean energy policy, sends a clear signal to industry, and enables long-range planning.

“Third, strong federal leadership should also include making impactful investments in research around both emission reductions and climate change adaptation.

“Federal research and development gave us the Internet and GPS – technologies that changed our lives forever. I believe the federal government could bring its resources to bear on developing the next breakthrough battery cell or other technological advances that could help dramatically reduce emissions and radically transform our energy future.

“Fourth, the federal government should incorporate climate risk and resilience in future federal spending and planning decisions to ensure taxpayer dollars are used wisely. Our own Boston Harbor Islands, managed through a partnership between state and federal government and a non-profit, are already threatened by sea level rise and storm surge.

“Governors around the country are seeing and responding to the effects of climate change in our states and communities. This is not a challenge any one of us can solve alone; we need collective action from federal, state and local governments, working with the private sector, to aggressively reduce our greenhouse gas emissions and adapt to the changes that are already in motion. I thank the committee for the invitation to speak, and I thank my colleague Governor Cooper.

“I have submitted written testimony which goes into more detail. I look forward to working together on this challenge and am happy to answer any questions from the committee.”

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