Scuttling what looked to be a major session-ending accomplishment for the Massachusetts Legislature, Gov. Charlie Baker on Thursday said he would veto ambitious climate legislation over his concerns that key pieces of the bill could stymie housing construction.
Baker said he supports much in the bill, but believes key components fly in the face of another legislative victory - the passage of his "housing choice" proposal - that he is poised to sign before the end of the week.
The veto sets up an early confrontation in the new year between the governor and the Legislature, where Democratic leaders have signaled a lack of willingness to budge on a bill that was negotiated over the past five months and overwhelmingly approved by the last Legislature.
The bill would have locked the state into a goal of becoming carbon neutral by 2050, with interim benchmarks for reducing carbon emissions every decade. It would have also directed utilities to purchase more offshore wind power, set efficiency standards for appliances and increased the number of renewable sources that feed the state's electricity supply to 40% by 2030.
On the surface, Baker's energy priorities look to be in harmony with the legislation. He used his executive authority last year to set his own goal of net-zero emissions by 2050, and believes wind power will be key to reaching that goal.
He objected, however, to several components of the bill, including one piece that would have allowed municipalities to update their building codes to require new construction to be "net-zero."
"One of my big concerns is I've gotten a lot of incoming from a lot of folks who are in the building and home construction business who have said that certain pieces of this bill, which remember I can't amend and send back, literally may just stop in its tracks any housing development in the commonwealth and those words get my attention," Baker said.