Presidential candidate and former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney (R) told members of a New Hampshire town hall last week, “I don’t think carbon is a pollutant in the sense of harming our bodies.” His campaign further explained his remarks, saying that “Gov. Romney does not think greenhouse gases are pollutants within the meaning of the Clean Air Act, and he does not believe that the EPA should be regulating them.”
Romney’s recent position not only contradicts that of the Obama administration, but that of his own administration when he served as governor.
While in office, Romney pushed state regulations aimed at enforcing emissions standards on power plants for four “pollutants,” including carbon dioxide. Here is an excerpt from the regulation, 310 CMR 7.29, as it stood in May of 2004, over a year after Romney took office:
The purpose of 310 CMR 7.29 is to control emissions of nitrogen oxides (NOx), sulfur dioxide (SO2), mercury (Hg), carbon monoxide (CO), carbon dioxide (CO2) and fine particulate matter (PM 2.5) (together “pollutants”) from affected facilities in Massachusetts. 310 CMR 7.29 accomplishes this by establishing output-based emission rates for NOx, SO2 and CO2 and establishing a cap on CO2 and Hg emissions from affected facilities.
After the Department of Environment instigated the broader regulation 310 CMR 7.29 to clean up the state’s “Filthy Five” power plants in 2001, the Romney administration took the initiative on developing the emission limits and implementation schedule for carbon dioxide. Romney’s advisers included Harvard University professor John Holdren, now Obama’s top science adviser.
At a 2003 press conference at Pacific Gas and Electric’s power plant in Salem, Massachusetts, Romney publicly promised that he would “enforce without compromise” the emissions regulations. While announcing his decision to deny PGE’s request for more time to comply with the new standards, he attacked the power company for dragging its heels with regards to 310 CMR 7.29: “I will not create jobs or hold jobs that kill people. And that plant kills people.”
In his 2004 Climate Protection Plan, Romney promoted his anti-pollution scheme:
With their strong advocacy and support, Massachusetts became the first state in the nation to finalize four-pollutant (“4P”) regulations in 2001, requiring reductions in nitrogen oxides, sulfur dioxides, mercury, and carbon dioxide for our older power plants.
In 2005, Romney proudly announced “strict state limitations on carbon dioxide (CO2) emissions from power plants” using a cap-and-trade plan:
Massachusetts continues to be committed to improving air quality for all our citizens. These carbon emission limits will provide real and immediate progress in the battle to improve our environment. They help us accomplish our environmental goals while protecting jobs and the economy.”
After environmentalists criticized Romney for his stance on a wind farm project, former press secretary Julie Teer defended her boss’ environmental record in a 2005 email by citing “his aggressive enforcement of the Filthy Five regulations.”
Romney is now painting himself as a anti-regulation skeptic, but his record on carbon pollution is practically indistinguishable from Obama administration policy.