Gov.-elect Healey taps EPA's Melissa Hoffer as state's first climate chief

Democratic Massachusetts Governor Elect Maura Healey celebrates victory and delivers a speech during a watch party at the Copley Plaza hotel on election night in Boston, Massachusetts on Nov. 8, 2022. (Joseph Prezioso/AFP via Getty Images)
Democratic Massachusetts Governor Elect Maura Healey celebrates victory and delivers a speech during a watch party at the Copley Plaza hotel on election night in Boston, Massachusetts on Nov. 8, 2022. (Joseph Prezioso/AFP via Getty Images)

Gov.-elect Maura Healey announced Monday that she'll appoint Melissa Hoffer to become the state's first "climate chief." Hoffer currently serves as the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency's principal deputy general.

According to the Healey administration, Massachusetts is the first state in the country to establish a cabinet-level "climate chief" position like this. In this job, Hoffer will be responsible for overseeing climate policy across every state agency and "ensuring that climate change is considered in all relevant decision-making," according to Healey's team.

Hoffer is no stranger to the climate and environmental challenges in Massachusetts, and shortly after her appointment was announced, praise from advocacy groups around the state came pouring in.

“Melissa Hoffer has an incredible track record as a fierce climate advocate,” said Kyle Murray, the Acadia Center’s Massachusetts senior policy advocate. “She has proven again and again that she has what it takes to both listen and lead, and she knows the urgency of the climate crisis. I am confident that she will hit the ground running immediately and help guide our Commonwealth toward our decarbonization goals.”

"We are thrilled," Elizabeth Henry, president of the Environmental League of Massachusetts, wrote in an email. "We have a climate czar! This was part of Governor Elect Healey’s climate plan and is essential for bringing an all-of-government response to the challenges and opportunities of climate."

Henry added that Hoffer's "breadth of processional experience" makes her a strong fit for what will inevitably be a very challenging role.

From powering the electrical grid with more renewables to electrifying public and personal transportation, Massachusetts has ambitious short- and long-term climate goals. During the campaign, Healey promised to address them quickly and with an eye towards equity and environmental justice. This work will now fall under Hoffer’s responsibilities.

Logan Malik, interim director of the Massachusetts Climate Action Network, said he applauds a government-wide “holistic” approach to tackling climate change. He hopes the appointment of a new climate chief leads “to an increased effort to prioritize equity and substantively engage with communities” across Massachusetts.

“In the recent past,” he added, “communities have been shut out of or ignored in critical proceedings and discussions relating to energy projects and climate mitigation.”

Prior to her appointment in the Biden administration's Environmental Protection Agency, Hoffer was chief of Attorney General Healey's Energy and Environment Bureau. Hoffer joined the AG's office in 2012 as chief of the Environmental Protection Division after working at the Conservation Law Foundation for six years. During her time at CLF, Hoffer oversaw the group’s advocacy work in New Hampshire and served as director of Healthy Communities and Environmental Justice Program.

Brad Campbell, CLF president, praised Healey's decision to tap Hoffer, calling her a "formidable choice" and a strong climate advocate.

"She's a terrific person. Varied in her talents [with] wide experience," he said. "And someone who I think will be extremely effective in terms of getting good policy done."

Cambell also said that during Hoffer's tenure at CLF, he was consistently impressed by her commitment to bringing lower income residents and communities of color into conversations about environmental policy.

"I think that's going to be critically important to the design of climate policy and making sure that we have not just a transition to clean energy, but a transition that is just and takes into account the communities that have been hit first and worse," he said.

Prior to her work at CLF, Hoffer practiced law at WilmerHale and clerked for Judge Joyce London Alexander in Boston Federal District Court.

In 2020, Hoffer was inducted as a fellow into the American College of Environmental Lawyers; she received a 2020 Meritorious Service Award from the National Association of Attorneys General, a Massachusetts Lawyers Weekly Top Women of Law award in 2013, and a Boston Bar Association President's award in 2007, according to a press release from the EPA.

"Melissa Hoffer is unstoppable. I'm thrilled to welcome her back to Massachusetts as our first ever Climate Chief," Healey said. "The creation of this position sends a clear message that Massachusetts is a global leader in the fight against climate change and that it will be central to all of the work we do across the administration. We're going to partner with our workforce each step of the way to deliver critical investments in cleaner energy, transportation, infrastructure and housing."

This article was originally published on December 19, 2022.



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