On Saturday, I noted Mitt Romney’s partnership with Obama science adviser and long-time Malthusian crank John Holdren in creating the “toughest” CO2 emissions limitations in the nation, and the resultant need for Massachusetts to import more of their energy in the years that followed. However, Holdren wasn’t Romney’s most significant appointment for environmental issues. Douglas Foy served as Secretary of Commonwealth Development in Romney’s cabinet for most of his term, and demonstrates Romney’s complicated — and contradictory — record on climate change.
Foy came to the Romney administration in Massachusetts with a solid record on environmental activism as head of the Conservation Law Foundation for the previous 25 years. Under his direction, the CLF used the courts to block the building of the Seabrook 2 nuclear plant and stop off-shore drilling in the Georges Bank region. Romney picked him in 2003 with this record in order to bridge the gap between environmentalists and Republicans and to craft a reasonable approach to environmental issues.
How did that work out? Foy’s name doesn’t get a mention in the 2005 memo that praises Holdren as a partner in the CO2 regulations, although it’s hard to imagine that Foy didn’t take part in the regulatory effort. Foy did produce, along with Romney, the “Massachusetts Climate Protection Plan” of 2004, which proposed a regional cap-and-trade carbon-trading system as well as an interstate “CO2 Registry” partnership that would have pressured businesses to “disclose their greenhouse gas emissions inventories and reduction programs.” Was that voluntary? Well, read this and determine for yourself just how voluntary it sounded:
By recording emissions and reductions in a consistent format, the registry will ensure that Massachusetts’ sources receive all appropriate consideration for verified emissions reductions under any existing or future greenhouse gas regulatory regime[.]
Basically, Foy wanted to tell businesses that by self-reporting immediately ahead of the coming cap-and-trade system, they could establish a more reasonable baseline for reduction targets. A rush to compliance would have given Romney’s team some political cover on the imposition of a cap-and-trade system by saying that the early participation showed that the business sector was on board the plan.
How did that work out? In the end, Romney ended up reneging on his 2004 plan and hanging Foy out to dry about the same time Romney started thinking about a presidential run, as the Observer related in 2006:
Take the case of Douglas Foy, a former president of the Conservation Law Foundation. Mr. Romney, upon winning the governorship in 2002, deputized Mr. Foy to develop an environmentally friendly “smart growth” blueprint for the commonwealth.
It seemed a perfect illustration of why the state’s independent suburbanites had flocked to Mr. Romney: A machine Democrat would have made a patronage pick, while a right-winger would have sought out a James Inhofe clone.
Mr. Foy didn’t disappoint, promptly teaming with counterparts throughout the Northeast to create the Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative, a miniature Kyoto Accord aimed at stemming carbon-dioxide emissions.
Then Mr. Romney made up his mind to go national—and suddenly, Mr. Foy’s work reeked of Al Gore–ism. So the governor, unlike his five fellow governors, refused to sign onto the agreement and pushed Mr. Foy out.
The Boston Globe also noted Romney’s reversal:
Then, in December, Romney decided not to partake in the Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative, a first-in-the-nation plan to limit carbon dioxide emissions from Northeast power plants. Despite Foy orchestrating last minute negotiations and concessions, Romney still rejected it.
Yesterday, Foy said he was still proud of his effort with the pact and expects Massachusetts to embrace it one day. Romney, meanwhile, has proposed a far weaker program to limit carbon dioxide at the state’s dirtiest power plants.
Romney has been a staunch opponent of the proposed wind farm in Nantucket Sound, while Foy backed the idea.
In 2011, Romney’s plan calls for drilling for oil in the US and building nuclear plants. In 2003, Romney appointed a man to his Cabinet who had successfully blocked both, and Romney abandoned Foy’s cap-and-trade regime in 2006 after backing it publicly slightly less than two years earlier. The question that arises from these memos, proposals, and regulations is which Mitt Romney we’re seeing right now, and which we’ll get if he wins the nomination and the election.
Updates: I’d like to answer a couple of points from the comments. First, there seems to be confusion between the cap-and-trade proposal and the CO2 emission regulations in the first post. Those regs did go into effect, as Romney’s 2005 memo made clear; Romney backed away from the regional cap-and-trade system.
Next, a few Romney defenders claim that it’s unfair to criticize Romney on these because either (a) it was only a state issue, or (b) Romney eventually rejected some of these proposals. Both are absurd. Governors run on their records, and if Romney appointed people as Governor who are Malthusian cranks and lawsuit-happy enviros that kill nuclear power and oil drilling projects, then that’s absolutely germane to both his judgment and his policy leanings. Furthermore, as the Observer pointed out, the retreat on Foy’s proposal came curiously close to the time when it appears Romney began thinking about a run at the Presidency in 2008. That goes to credibility.
Finally, for those who gripe that I’m doing Obama’s work for him … please. We’re not supposed to vet our primary candidates, especially on their records? Why not just go straight to the swimsuit competition?