Governor Baker Gets a "C" on Environmental Protection

Tuesday, June 12, 2018

Coalition rates the Commonwealth’s lackluster performance in annual report

BOSTON – For the third year in a row, the Baker administration has received a poor grade for its work on critical environmental issues. A report issued today grades the administration’s progress on a wide variety of crucial measures of environmental protection, including: the environmental budget, energy, water, environmental justice, preserving public rights in public trust lands, land conservation, toxics, and solid waste.

Grades ranged from a high of “A” for great work on a food waste ban to a low of “F” on the attempt to transfer authority for water permitting from U.S. EPA to the state and for allowing the expansion of a dangerous ash landfill facility in Saugus.

“Any parent hopes that when their child gets a poor grade that there will be improvement over time. It’s deeply disappointing that we are not seeing the administration up their game and do better as we near the end of the Governor’s first term. Each new administration takes time to set priorities and get up to speed, but after three years, the lack of movement on issues like solid waste and environmental justice, just to name two, is unacceptable,” said Nancy Goodman, Vice President for Policy at the Environmental League of Massachusetts.

Most notably, the deep budget and staffing cuts over the past decade are hurting the agencies’ ability to get the job done on environmental and public health protection. With continued inadequate funding for state environmental protection agencies -- despite a commitment from the Governor when he was a candidate to increase environmental spending -- the administration has declined from C to a D on the environmental budget.

As we release this report, the FY 19 budget is still being finalized, but the administration’s FY 19 budget proposal included only a very slight increase in environmental spending and nowhere near the 1% the Governor committed to. We spend less than a penny (0.55%) of every state dollar on environmental protection.

The results of this lack of spending are clear, and many issues are not getting the attention they deserve. For example, how we handle our solid waste is critically important, yet we are limping along. We need action to modernize our electric grid to better integrate renewables, but we’re not moving quickly enough. Transportation accounts for 40% of our greenhouse gas emissions, yet we see very little happening to address this critical issue.

The report evaluates the Administration’s progress and on-the-ground results, and offers a set of policy recommendations for each program area and a proposed path back to environmental leadership for the Commonwealth. The report was issued by Charles River Watershed Association, Clean Water

 

Action, Conservation Law Foundation, Environmental League of Massachusetts, Environment Massachusetts, Massachusetts Rivers Alliance, and Massachusetts Sierra Club, representing thousands of residents of the Commonwealth.

Additional quotes:

"Massachusetts should be a national leader on environmental progress, but this report card shows us that the Commonwealth has not brought its A-game. With a federal government set on climate and clean energy rollbacks, our communities deserve more than a mediocre C average. It’s time for states to take action and step up. We stand ready to work with Massachusetts officials to come up with real solutions to the critical issues our most vulnerable communities are facing.” -- Alyssa Rayman-Read, Vice President and Director of CLF Massachusetts 617-850-1704; arayman-read@clf.org

"With the federal government stepping back from its commitment to protect our environment, our state must step up. More than half our rivers are polluted, one-fifth run dry when they shouldn't, our water infrastructure is falling apart, and on top of that we've got droughts and floods from climate change. The administration can do much more to tackle these problems that threaten not just the environment, but public health and safety as well.” -- Julia Blatt, Executive Director, Massachusetts Rivers Alliance 857-445-0208, juliablatt@massriverslliance.org

"When it comes to protecting our air, our water, and our climate, the Baker administration's performance is sub-par once again. Our environmental agencies are suffering from years of underfunding, too many of the environmental protections on the books are going unenforced, and we're not moving nearly fast enough on clean energy. We need to do better to ensure a safe, healthy environment for our children." -- Ben Hellerstein, State Director, Environment Massachusetts 617-747-4368, ben@environmentmassachusetts.org

"Now more than ever Massachusetts must be an environmental leader among states. While we are doing well in certain areas, this report card shows we are falling far short of true leadership." -- Emily Norton, Director, Massachusetts Sierra Club 508-397-6839, emily.norton@sierraclub.org

"In this third year of the Baker Administration, it is frustrating to see largely modest steps forward and many issues showing no improvement. Most significantly, the decision to allow an expansion at the unlined Wheelabrator incinerator ash landfill in Saugus is a true violation of environmental justice and a slap in the face to neighboring communities who have felt this burden for decades." -- Cindy Luppi, New England Director, Clean Water Action 617-338-8131 ext. 203, esaunders@cleanwater.org

“Water is critical for the well being of every Massachusetts resident, business and institution, and for the environment. It is time for the Baker administration to adopt a coherent water policy for our freshwater resources -- one that integrates climate change and builds in resiliency. -- Robert Zimmerman, Executive Director, Charles River Watershed Association 781-788-0007, rzimmerman@crwa.org

Elizabeth Saunders
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