Boston — As Governor of Massachusetts, Mitt Romney tried to dismantle his signature environmental accomplishment as he made plans to seek the 2008 Republican presidential nomination. The complete turn-around in both his actions and his statements appears to be based purely on political considerations, according to Public Employees for Environmental Responsibility (PEER).
After he was elected governor, Romney hired Doug Foy, a noted New England environmentalist, to draft the Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative (RGGI, pronounced “Reggie”), the country's first interstate compact to reduce greenhouse gases. Romney had several staff dedicated to RGGI and spent more than two years working on it, costing taxpayers of more than half a million dollars, according to press reports.
In late 2005, RGGI was complete and lacked only Romney's signature. He pulled out of the agreement at the last minute, citing concerns regarding the cost of cap-and-trade to businesses. One week later, Romney allowed power plants to pay a fee for emitting toxins (like mercury) instead of cleaning them up. This announcement coincided with his decision not to seek a second gubernatorial term and to run for president.
Just days before his reversal, Romney told a clean-energy conference in Boston in November 2005:
“I’m convinced it is good business. We can effectively create incentives to help stimulate a sector of the economy and at the same time not kill jobs.”
In his 2010 book, "No Apology: The Case for American Greatness,” Romney wrote:
“I believe that climate change is occurring – the reduction in the size of global ice caps is hard to ignore. I also believe that human activity is a contributing factor.”
At a campaign event in Pittsburgh in late 2011, however, Romney said:
“My view is that we don’t know what’s causing climate change on this planet. And the idea of spending trillions and trillions of dollars to try to reduce CO2 emissions is not the right course for us.”
“On climate change, Romney had the chance to be a truly transformational bipartisan national leader but the dynamics inside his party led him to devolve into an ecologically reckless know-nothing,” stated New England PEER Director Kyla Bennett, a former scientist and enforcement attorney with the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency. “Nowhere does Romney explain what facts caused him to drop his once strongly-stated convictions, then become uncertain and finally regain certainty in the complete opposite direction. It would appear that Mitt Romney never met a core environmental belief.”
Two months after Romney refused to sign onto RGGI, Doug Foy quit. Upon becoming Massachusetts Governor, Deval Patrick signed RGGI. In a November 2011 report, the Boston consultant, the Analysis Group, estimated that RGGI created 16,000 regional jobs and injected $1.6 million into the economy.
Although originally envisioned as a ten-state compact, the RGGI cooperative now extends to only the nine states of Connecticut, Delaware, Maine, Maryland, Massachusetts, New Hampshire, New York, Rhode Island, and Vermont. New Jersey was also a participant but was yanked from the market-based regulatory program this year by its Governor Chris Christie, another Republican with seemingly national ambitions.