Baker Applauds South Coast Rail, Addresses Offshore Wind Concerns
WESTPORT — Governor Charlie Baker was the featured guest in Westport Tuesday night at an event hosted by the SouthCoast and Bristol County chambers of commerce. The event, entitled “A Dinner with Gov. Charlie Baker," was held at White's of Westport, and featured area business leaders as well as local and state politicians.
Baker spoke to the packed house about the economic accomplishments of his administration and the work being done to continue the success of small business in the Commonwealth. The governor also touched on political issues on the SouthCoast, specifically the South Coast Rail project and offshore wind energy being developed in commercial fishing waters.
When it comes to the concerns raised by area fishermen in reaction to the state's plan to install wind turbines in the same waters used for commercial fishing, Baker promised those in attendance that it will not negatively impact the local seafood industry, one that rakes in billions of dollars annually for the state.
“The fishing industry is incredibly important to this region, it's incredibly important to other regions of Massachusetts, and incredibly important to me!” stated Baker in excitement. “I promise you that whatever we do to make this wind stuff work is not going to come at the expense of a billion-dollar industry that has served this community and so many others for so long, and so well.”
Baker went on to argue for the benefits of offshore wind as well, saying, “We need to do something about our carbon footprint but we ought to do it in a way that doesn't cripple us competitively.”
The governor also provided an update on South Coast Rail, as the Draft Supplemental Environmental Impact Report for Phase I of the project was approved by Secretary Matthew Beaton of the Executive Office of Energy and Environmental Affairs on April 3. Baker took the opportunity to provide reassurance to area residents and business owners that the project will be completed, and says that his administration “listened to a lot of people who had a lot of points of view, and we got really worried about the fact that the date kept moving farther and farther back.”
“So we said 'there's got to be a better way to at least create something,' which led to the whole conversation about Phase I and Phase II,” Baker continued. “We now have the environmental approval to go ahead with Phase I, and we're going to start spending serious money. You folks are going to start to see something that people have talked about for years, but for one reason or another just never got it done.”
Baker has received criticism by some in the media for his decision to skip a Republican National Committee fundraiser in Boston, an event that was expected to raise $500,000 for President Donald Trump's re-election campaign and welcomed Vice President Mike Pence as the featured guest.
Baker said he was already committed to the event at White's, and therefore did not have the time to meet with Pence.