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On first day, Massachusetts Gov. Healey names climate chief

BOSTON (AP) — Massachusetts Gov. Maura Healey marked her first full day on the job Friday by issuing an executive order creating what she says is the nation’s first cabinet-level state climate chief.

Healey said the climate chief will be charged with working with state officials and city and town leaders to help Massachusetts meet its climate goals. She named Melissa Hoffer to serve in the role.

The Democrat said Hoffer will be responsible for driving climate policy across executive department agencies under Healey’s control and ensuring climate change is considered in all relevant decision-making.

Hoffer has served as principal deputy general counsel for the Environmental Protection Agency and as chief of the Energy and Environment Bureau at the Massachusetts Attorney General’s Office.

The executive order also creates an Office of Climate Innovation and Resilience within the governor’s office.

“It is our greatest challenge,” Healey said of the threat posed by climate change. “But it is also our greatest opportunity. Massachusetts can and will be a global leader in the fight against climate change.”

Hoffer will be required to present initial recommendations within 180 days, Healey said at a press conference in the governor’s office.

Healey said her goal is to build a “climate corridor” of research, innovation and manufacturing across the state.

That includes accelerating the deployment of clean energy technologies, expanding the state’s electric charging infrastructure, building a “modern, consumer-oriented clean energy grid,” upgrading transmission for off-shore wind power, and ensuring broader access to public transportation.

She has likened the project to an initiative by former Democratic Gov. Deval Patrick to make the state a biotech hub.

In 2008 Patrick, committed Massachusetts to spending $1 billion over 10 years to jump-start the life sciences sector.

Healey’s executive order is part of a larger effort to build on climate initiatives by former Republican Gov. Charlie Baker — who ended two terms in office this week — to expand the state’s reliance on renewable energy sources like solar, wind and hydropower.

Baker last year signed into law a major climate change initiative meant to bring the state closer to its goal of net-zero greenhouse gas emissions by 2050.

The law is designed to spur the development of offshore wind and solar energy, encourage cities and towns to limit the use of fossil fuels in building projects, mandate that all new vehicle sales be zero emission starting in 2035 and require the Massachusetts Bay Transportation Authority’s entire transit fleet to transition to zero emissions by 2040.

At the end of the press conference Healey was also asked how she could assure residents that companies, unions, lobbyists and others who contributed to her inaurgual committee fund — some with donations up to $25,000 — won’t have influence in her decision making as governor.

Healey declined to answer the question directly.

“So today is about the administration of government. I’d be happy to talk the inaugural committee about anything related to last night’s event,” Healey said referring to her inaugural celebration.

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