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Gubernatorial candidates discuss climate change, environmental justice at WBUR forum

Governor Forum on environmental justice
State Senator Sonia Chang-Díaz and Attorney General Maura Healey, Massachusetts Democratic gubernatorial candidates, speak at a WBUR CitySpace forum April 27. The candidates discussed energy, climate change and environmental justice during the forum. TAYLOR COESTER/DFP STAFF

Massachusetts Democratic gubernatorial candidates State Senator Sonia Chang-Díaz and Attorney General Maura Healey addressed climate change and environmental concerns at a forum held at WBUR CitySpace April 27. 

The event was hosted by WBUR’s Tiziana Dearing. Republican gubernatorial candidates Geoff Diehl and Chris Doughty were invited to the forum but did not attend for separate reasons.

“We are woefully behind target already in this decade when it comes to transitioning our built environment to zero carbon,” Chang-Díaz said at the forum.

On April 22, Extinction Rebellion Boston held a “Fossil Fuel Freedom Tour” through the city, advocating for a transition to renewable resources and divestments from fossil fuels by large financial institutions in Massachusetts.

Chang-Díaz said fossil fuel industries and executives are “slow walking” the shift toward carbon neutrality, for example, by subsidizing new fossil fuel equipment and infrastructure. 

“We have allowed that [influence] to penetrate into our decision-making as a state too much,” she said.

At the forum, Chang-Díaz announced her pledge to reject campaign donations from fossil fuel executives, lobbyists and political action committees. She invited Healey to join her and return the alleged $50,000 the Attorney General received from the fossil fuel industry since her last election.

Healey said she was not sure what the State Senator was talking about and instead spoke about her legal battles with ExxonMobil. 

“I don’t think the fossil fuel industry likes me too much,” Healey said. “ExxonMobil took me to court no less than three times in three different states to shut down my investigation. I am not on their holiday card list.”

Switching gears, both Chang-Díaz and Healey said the state has a lot of potential when it comes to offshore wind power.

“You can have the wind, but if you can’t transmit it, and if their utilities and others are delaying the time and and adding to the cost of that, that is a problem,” Healey said.

Healey also said she was in favor of eliminating kickbacks to utility companies that accept state contracts for offshore wind power. 

“We should be getting rid of those kickbacks and instead [be] giving rebates, as I propose, to residents here so that they can actually purchase electric vehicles so that they can meet my goal of a million electric vehicles on the road by 2030,” Healey said.

Both candidates touched on environmental justice and equity when it comes to new opportunities created by the shift to carbon neutrality.

“With the enormous economic opportunities that are going to come with this transition to a green economy … we have to make sure that those communities that have been at the front of the line for the negative impacts, are in the front of the line for the jobs and, not just the jobs, but the wealth creation,” Chang-Díaz said. 

Healey spoke about aligning climate-focused jobs with vocational, technical and general high schools. 

 “It’s a huge opportunity for empowerment, it’s a huge opportunity for wealth creation, it’s a huge opportunity for jobs,” Healey said.

Healey added she is committed to looking through issues through an “equity lens” as governor.

Both candidates are gearing up for gubernatorial elections this year, starting with a primary on Sept. 6 and the final election on Nov. 8.

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