Healey and Driscoll Head Climate Roundtable at UMass Dartmouth
Newly-inaugurated Massachusetts Governor Maura Healey and Lt. Governor Kim Driscoll visited UMass Dartmouth Tuesday for a climate roundtable where participants discussed how the Commonwealth can move forward to address the ongoing climate crisis.
The roundtable marked the very first out-of-office visit by the Healey-Driscoll Administration. It was also the gubernatorial tandem's second visit to the region in two weeks, following their participation in a food and school supplies drive in Taunton last Tuesday before their inauguration.
The roundtable was comprised of Healey-Driscoll Admin cabinet secretaries, Senator Mark Montigny (D-New Bedford), State Rep. Paul Schmid (D-Westport), State Rep. Chris Markey (D-Dartmouth), New Bedford Mayor Jon Mitchell, Fall River Mayor Paul Coogan, and Chancellor Mark Fuller, as well as UMass Dartmouth administrators, faculty and students.
Among the cabinet secretaries at the roundtable was Climate Chief Melissa Hoffer.
On Healey's first day as governor, she issued an executive order creating the Office of Climate Innovation and Resilience and establishing the cabinet-level position of Climate Chief. The position of Climate Chief is first cabinet office of its kind in the country. Hoffer left her position at the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency to take the job.
The roundtable first heard from graduate students who are researching and attempting to develop innovative ways to address climate change.
Chiefly among the topics of discussion for participants was the role that climate action and sustainability can play in facilitating economic development.
Though alternative energy production such as wave energy conversion was discussed, offshore wind dominated the conversation.
"This is an incredibly important industry," Healey told reporters after the discussion. "We know that Massachusetts has an opportunity to make its mark. Not only nationally, but globally in this space. We want to grow a climate corridor all across this state."
Driscoll emphasized the importance of establishing a network of public and private partnerships for the Commonwealth to meet its climate goals.
"You've just heard us talk about building out an education pipeline, a workforce pipeline," she said. "We're harnessing a whole new industry and the only way you do that is being a partner, and that's what we intend to do."
During the roundtable, Montigny argued that Greater New Bedford has established itself as a hub for marine economic development and offshore wind, and as a result, should get the largest share of state investments that will be earmarked for climate resilience.
"We have a $100 million wind state facility. We have a port right on Buzzards Bay. We have the wind. We have the workforce. So we're now saying, 'Don't spend the wealth evenly," Montigny told WBSM after the roundtable.
"We're saying if you want to do as you said, Governor, which is to maximize the potential (of climate and economic development), you have to pick regions that actually are experts," he said. "Through the University we're clearly an expert on this connection of economic development and the environment. Both in wind, and on the water."
When asked by reporters about Montigny's comments, Healey didn't rule out the possibility of New Bedford and the SouthCoast getting a greater share of state climate investments.
"One of the things that we're going to do as we set up the first budget is make the strategic investments that we need to make that are in the interest of this entire Commonwealth," she said. "And you can imagine scenarios where some projects and regions may do more than others."