• Democrat Chris Gabrieli, right, makes a point to independent Christy Mihos during a forum on environmental issues for Massachusetts gubernatorial candidates held July 12 at MIT's Kresge Auditorium.

    Photo / Daniel Bersak

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  • Massachusetts gubernatorial candidate Deval Patrick, a Democrat, shakes hands with Green-Rainbow Party candidate Grace Ross at MIT July 12 during a forum focused on environmental issues.

    Photo / Daniel Bersak

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Mass. candidates share views at MIT

Four governor hopefuls spar on environment


Four gubernatorial candidates representing two political parties and an independent view agreed on a vision for Massachusetts' future -- clean air, clean water and better public health -- but disagreed on how to realize that vision in a forum held at MIT on July 12.

About 1,000 people filled Kresge Auditorium for the 60-minute event, which was sponsored by the Massachusetts League of Environmental Voters and focused on environmental issues.

During their brief remarks, Democrats Deval Patrick and Chris Gabrieli, independent Christy Mihos and Green-Rainbow Party candidate Grace Ross notably disagreed on the effectiveness and benefits of the Cape Wind project, a controversial proposal to site 130 wind turbines in Nantucket Sound to generate electricity.

The controversial offshore energy proposal rippled the surface of an otherwise calm exchange among candidates and reporters Beth Daley of the Boston Globe, John Monahan of the Worcester Telegram and Jon Brodkin of the MetroWest Daily News.

Patrick, a lawyer, said he supports the Cape Wind project because it "serves our energy and environmental needs" and promises both symbolic and economic value to Massachusetts.

Mihos, a businessman, characterized the proposed offshore wind turbines as a private development that would launch a "land grab." He advocated publicly funded onshore wind turbines.

Moderator Steve Curwood, host of National Public Radio's "Living on Earth," guided the four through questions on environmental issues, including, "What is the impact of global warming and what steps would you take to mitigate it?" and "How can state government get businesses to comply with environmental regulations?"

All four candidates advocated the state's joining the Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative and international environmental efforts, such as the Kyoto Protocol.

In other instances, the four focused on different areas. Ross blamed climate change for increasing pollen counts and asthma rates and advocated green energy production on behalf of conservation and job creation; Gabrieli, a venture capitalist, recommended investing in green technologies; Mihos wanted onshore wind power; and Patrick vowed to invest in alternative renewable energy sources.

As for getting companies and citizens to comply with environmental protection laws, Gabrieli noted, the "challenge is in educating people and in establishing incentives for builders and buyers so that energy efficiency is a priority."

Reporters also probed the candidates' thoughts on where to locate liquid natural gas (LNG) terminals. The candidates agreed that LNG terminals do not belong near populated areas. Ross called for investigating safety issues related to LNG terminals, in view of the relatively greater health risks already borne by poor and minority citizens in urban areas.

Mihos and Gabrieli emphasized the need to site LNG terminals offshore, suggesting the Gloucester area. Patrick was tepid on siting an LNG terminal on Outer Brewster Island, a national park.

An anonymous question elicited the candidates' most personal and reflective responses about the importance of urban green space. Asked to describe a park "special to you when you were growing up," Patrick named Washington Park on Chicago's South Side; Mihos named DW Field Park in Brockton, Mass.; Gabrieli named Central Park in Buffalo, N.Y.; and Ross named Central Park in New York City.

Attorney General Thomas Reilly and Lt. Gov. Kerry Healey were invited but unable to attend the July 12 debate in Kresge, which was also sponsored by the Environmental League of Massachusetts, the Massachusetts Sierra Club and the Appalachian Mountain Club, among others.


Topics: Political science, Cambridge, Boston and region, Special events and guest speakers

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