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Mitt Romney worked to combat climate change as governor

His gubernatorial record on the environment has little in common with his positions in the presidential race, those who knew him in Massachusetts say.

June 13, 2012|By Neela Banerjee, Washington Bureau

Foy's appointment by a pro-business Republican like Romney heartened environmentalists, who had eyed the new governor skeptically at first. Foy was the chief executive of the Conservation Law Foundation and known for his aggressive stance against polluters. Romney chose him to foster economic development with a close eye on the environment.

Foy's team crafted the 2004 Climate Action Plan, and with Romney's blessing led the effort to draft the country's first interstate compact to reduce greenhouse gases, called the Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative, or RGGI.

But by late 2005, when the compact awaited his signature, Romney decided Massachusetts would not participate. Romney determined that RGGI's cap-and-trade system to reduce greenhouse gas emissions could be onerously expensive for state businesses, Cass said.

Massachusetts did later join RGGI when Deval Patrick succeeded Romney as governor, and it went on to create 16,000 regional jobs and pump $1.6 billion into the economy, according to a November 2011 report by the Analysis Group, a Boston consultancy.

A week after his RGGI decision, Romney's administration adopted a provision that let power plants pay a low fee for emitting harmful toxins like mercury, rather than cleaning them up. Both decisions occurred just as Romney announced he would not seek a second term and began preparations for the 2008 presidential race.

"It was almost as if a switch was flipped in December 2005," said Rob Sargent, Boston-based energy program director for Environment America. "We always suspected he might have higher aspirations, and that's when his constituents started saying he must be trying to appeal to people other than Massachusetts voters."

If Romney is elected president, he might govern as he did early in his Massachusetts tenure, some analysts say. But in the fog of the campaign, some find it hard to say what is the truer reflection of Romney — his past or the present.

"We thought his record in Massachusetts was quite good," said David Jenkins, vice president of ConservAmerica, a Republican environmental group, who added that he had found some of Romney's more recent statements worrisome. "We have heard a lot of campaign trail stuff. We have heard whatever a particular group wants to hear from him, and when you do that, you get yourself into what I call the panderers' box."

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