Source: State House News Service
Sam Drysdale, 12/19/22 4:11 PM
DEC. 19, 2022....Massachusetts will become the first state in the nation to create a climate chief in the governor's Cabinet, according to Gov.-elect Maura Healey, who plans to fill that slot with EPA Principal Deputy General Counsel Melissa Hoffer.
The position described by Healey's team on Monday as "cabinet-level" will be responsible for overseeing climate policy across every state agency and "ensuring that climate change is considered in all relevant decision-making."
The chief will report directly to the governor and Healey plans in January to issue an executive order that will feature additional detail about the new position, an aide said.
House Speaker Ron Mariano of Quincy said the Cabinet position will help the state meet its climate goals.
"As the destructive potential of our changing climate continues to be one of the most pressing challenges facing Massachusetts and the world, the governor-elect's decision to name the state's first ever Cabinet-level climate chief will help bolster the effort to meet the commonwealth's climate goals," Mariano, who has been trying to help propel the offshore wind energy sector, said in a statement.
Prior to her appointment in the Biden administration's Environmental Protection Agency, Hoffer was chief of Attorney General Healey's Energy and Environment Bureau. She joined the office in 2012 as chief of the Environmental Protection Division.
While in the AG's office, Hoffer led litigation against ExxonMobil over what the office said was misleading information to Massachusetts investors and consumers about the impacts of fossil fuel products on climate change. Hoffer also oversaw the work of the Energy and Environment Bureau's attorneys on matters including prosecuting civil and criminal enforcement of environmental laws and energy policy, according to Healey's team.
Before transitioning to the public sector, Hoffer was vice president of the Conservation Law Foundation, director of the CLF Healthy Communities and Environmental Justice Program, and director of the CLF New Hampshire Advocacy Center. Over nearly six years, she oversaw the strategic planning and budget for the New England group and launched its Sustainable Farm and Food System Initiative, according to her LinkedIn.
Previously, Hoffer practiced at WilmerHale and clerked for Judge Joyce London Alexander in Boston Federal District Court. In 2020, Hoffer was inducted as a fellow into the American College of Environmental Lawyers; she received a 2020 Meritorious Service Award from the National Association of Attorneys General, a Massachusetts Lawyers Weekly Top Women of Law award in 2013, and a Boston Bar Association President's award in 2007, according to a press release from the EPA.
"Melissa Hoffer is unstoppable. I'm thrilled to welcome her back to Massachusetts as our first ever Climate Chief," Healey said. "The creation of this position sends a clear message that Massachusetts is a global leader in the fight against climate change and that it will be central to all of the work we do across the administration. We're going to partner with our workforce each step of the way to deliver critical investments in cleaner energy, transportation, infrastructure and housing."
As Massachusetts' first climate chief, Hoffer will have to keep the state on track to meet its climate goals over the next few decades.
The Department of Environmental Protection officially set a target last year to cut down waste disposal in the state by 30 percent by 2030 and 90 percent by 2050 as part of its Solid Waste Master Plan. Meanwhile, Gov. Charlie Baker committed the state to net-zero emissions by 2050 by signing a major climate bill into law last spring.
Also likely to be on Hoffer's plate is working with the 10 municipalities that applied to participate in the state's pilot program limiting or banning the use of fossil fuels in new construction, which was part of a larger clean energy bill signed into law this summer.
"I implore the Legislature and the next Administration to take a good, hard look at what that 10-town policy concerning natural gas does to the cost and availability of housing that working people can afford before they consider offering this exclusionary zoning policy to other communities," Baker, who said the pilot project gives him "agita," said in August after he signed the clean energy law.
Hoffer will play an integral role in putting Massachusetts on track to meet the new governor's personal climate goals as well, including achieving 100 percent clean electricity supply by 2030 and electrifying public transportation with clean power by 2040, according to Healey's team.
"By creating a Climate Chief position, Governor-elect Healey is positioning Massachusetts to lead the fight against climate change. Building a healthier and cleaner Commonwealth requires a coordinated effort across all of government and I know that Melissa Hoffer is up to the challenge," said Gina McCarthy, a former White House national climate advisor and EPA administrator.
Hoffer said she is "honored" and "thrilled" to take on the role.
"The climate crisis is one of the biggest challenges we face, but it also presents an unprecedented opportunity for us to build a better, healthier, more equitable future," she said. "Climate change is not just an environmental issue -- it’s a public health issue, an energy security issue, an issue inextricably linked with emergency preparedness, land use, agriculture, workforce development, clean tech innovation, transportation, housing, education and more. With this new office, we’re establishing a governance structure that reflects that reality and ensures our actions are aligned with the science."
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