Energy & Environment

Baker’s climate official resigns after controversial statements: ‘Turn the screws’ on ‘seniors on fixed income’

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David Ismay, the Undersecretary for Climate Change within Massachusetts Governor Charlie Baker’s Executive Office of Energy and Environmental Affairs, resigned his post Wednesday evening after coming under fire for harsh statements he made during a recorded virtual meeting of the Vermont Climate Council last month.

The Massachusetts Fiscal Alliance issued a press release last week containing a link to the organization’s YouTube channel where a 40-second clip of Ismay can be found. In the video, Ismay says he wants to “break their will” and “turn the screws” on ordinary citizens who emit carbon in the course of their daily activities, to achieve the Baker administration’s climate goals. Earlier this week the organization said the clip had been viewed more than 15,000 times.

“So let me say that again, 60% of our emissions that need to be reduced come from you, the person across the street, the senior on fixed income, right … there is no bad guy left, at least in Massachusetts, to point the finger at, to turn the screws on, and you know, to break their will, so they stop emitting. That’s you. We have to break your will. Right, I can’t even say that publicly…”

The clip of Ismay’s remarks can be found below:

Massachusetts lawmakers were quick to condemn Ismay’s comments. A bipartisan group of lawmakers called for Ismay’s immediate dismissal from the administration on Tuesday, according to the Boston Herald.

“Let us be perfectly clear: these comments are callous, insensitive, and point to a major, insurmountable disconnect between this appointed member of your administration and the public he is supposed to be serving. The last thing this administration should… be doing is ‘turning the screws’ on the ‘senior on fixed income’ and ‘the person across the street,’” the lawmakers wrote in a letter to the Baker Administration. “Undersecretary Ismay’s position as a public servant is completely untenable and we call for you to immediately dismiss him.”

Baker did not dismiss Ismay following the public condemnation, but did tell reporters that “no one who works in our administration should ever say or think anything like that,” and said Secretary Kathleen Theoharides of the governor’s energy and environmental affairs office would have a conversation with Ismay about his comments.

“I would like to apologize, again, for my comments at last month’s Vermont Climate Council Meeting,” Ismay wrote in his resignation letter addressed to Theoharides. “My inability to clearly communicate during that discussion reflected poorly on the Governor, on you, and on our hardworking staff. Although my comments were interpreted by some as placing the burden of climate change on hardworking families and vulnerable populations, my intent was the opposite. In the entirety of my remarks, and as I have elsewhere, I was urging caution in order to minimize such impacts out of a sincere concern that overly aggressive emissions targets may have unintended and harmful consequences on those we most need to protect.”

Ismay’s comments are a perfect example of a “Kinsley gaffe” – he conveyed an obvious truth that isn’t supposed to said aloud, especially not in recorded statements. Unfortunately, too many officials in energy and environmental executive offices throughout the country are so out of touch with the average American that they see no folly in their actions to curb carbon emissions.

Ismay made the unfortunate mistake of telling the truth: there are no more boogeymen left for the climate activists to go after. There’s only you and I, the average citizen, left to be punished for heating our homes and driving to work.

About Jacob Posik

Jacob Posik, of Turner, is the director of communications at Maine Policy Institute and the editor of The Maine Wire. He formerly served as a policy analyst at Maine Policy. Posik can be reached at jposik@mainepolicy.org.

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