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Foy quits state's development post

Official sparred with Romney on key projects

Douglas I. Foy, the embattled development secretary for Massachusetts, resigned yesterday, ending a three-year tenure that at times placed him in the firing line of his environmentalist friends and his pro-business Romney administration peers.

Foy gave no detailed explanation for leaving and said he had no immediate plans. His resignation came only two months after Governor Mitt Romney rejected a landmark nine-state agreement Foy helped broker to limit greenhouse gas from power plants. Foy has also sparred with Romney on other issues, from the proposed wind farm off Cape Cod to a proposed liquefied natural gas terminal on Outer Brewster Island in the Boston Harbor Islands National Recreation Area.

''It's time to leave . . . but we've had a terrific run with a lot of important achievements," Foy said at a news conference. The 59-year-old attorney and former Olympic athlete said it was a privilege to serve in government. With Romney not running for reelection as he weighs a presidential bid, Foy said it was time he too looked for new opportunities. He is the ninth high-ranking official in the Romney administration to leave in the past year.

In many ways, Foy was a wild card when Romney picked him to become the first secretary of the State Office of Commonwealth Development, with the task to link agencies as diverse as transportation, environment, and housing. For 25 years Foy was president of the Conservation Law Foundation, a powerful regional environmental group, and observers saw his appointment as Romney's attempt to ''green" his administration. Industry groups were fearful he would push an anti-automobile agenda. Environmental groups were happy to have influence.

Foy turned out to be a lot harder to predict.

Romney and Foy's supporters credited the development chief yesterday with creating a legacy in parts of the state through environmentally conscious development, touted by the administration as smart growth. They also praised Foy for creating a blueprint to start fixing the state's roadway infrastructure, and for his work on transportation issues, including getting the MBTA Green Line extended into Somerville and the Greenbush commuter rail line in the South Shore.

But some environmentalists said his tenure was marked by a lackluster performance on key issues -- such as getting more communities involved in smart growth -- although it was not always his fault. Land conservationists have disagreed with his vision for public open-space funding, and other environmentalists have aired suspicions about the role he played in the proposal to place an LNG terminal in the Boston Harbor National Park Area.

''I think Doug ought to be commended in getting the conversation going in Massachusetts about issues of growth and sprawl, but I don't think either the governor or Legislature provided the tools or resources to make much progress on those issues," said Jim Gomes, president of the Environmental League of Massachusetts.

Energetic and known for his unflagging persuasive powers, Foy won early praise for helping secure air pollution reductions from the state's filthiest power plants, for encouraging development of public property near transit stops, and for streamlining communication between the state agencies he oversaw.

''Foy has made an incredibly positive impact," said Mayor Joseph A. Curtatone of Somerville, who worked closely with him on the Green Line extension and other issues. ''He was accessible to us and gave us great guidance on smart, sustainable development."

But as time went on, Foy drew criticism from the environmental community, which had expected more from him. Last year, the CLF sued his agency in part over it not including an MBTA connector between the Red and Blue lines in the state's Big Dig transit package.

Foy managed a state agency in a time of severe funding cuts, especially to environmental programs, and drew criticism from land preservationists for rewarding communities that embraced smart growth ideas, such as building affordable housing, by giving them priority in distributing the state's land protection funds.

Foy studied engineering and physics at Princeton and geophysics at Cambridge University before graduating from Harvard Law School. He was a member of the four-man US rowing team at the 1968 Summer Olympics.

Although Foy was well known in the administration, he largely worked behind the scenes to forge alliances and move his ideas forward. But in November, he abided by a request from Romney that he recuse himself from any discussions about the proposed liquefied natural gas terminal on Outer Brewster Island in Boston Harbor because Foy owned stock in the energy company. Yesterday, Foy called the situation a ''non-issue" and pointed out that the State Ethics Commission did not think he had to recuse himself. Still, the episode created a chasm between the governor's office and Foy, and fueled suspicions among some environmentalists who questioned his involvement with the project.

Then, in December, Romney decided not to partake in the Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative, a first-in-the-nation plan to limit carbon dioxide emissions from Northeast power plants. Despite Foy orchestrating last minute negotiations and concessions, Romney still rejected it.

Yesterday, Foy said he was still proud of his effort with the pact and expects Massachusetts to embrace it one day. Romney, meanwhile, has proposed a far weaker program to limit carbon dioxide at the state's dirtiest power plants.

Romney has been a staunch opponent of the proposed wind farm in Nantucket Sound, while Foy backed the idea.

Romney yesterday acknowledged disagreements with Foy, but said he welcomed their discussions. He said Foy has made enormous contributions to the state.

''We disagree all the time," Romney said. ''He's been a one-man whirling dervish."

Stephanie Pollack, a former associate of Foy's at the Conservation Law Foundation, said he had a tough job.

''He didn't accomplish as much as some would have hoped, but he got more done than anyone could have in that position," said Pollack, who attended Foy's resignation speech at the State House.

Foy will stay on the job until next month, when Romney is expected to name a replacement.

Beth Daley can be reached at bdaley@globe.com.

 RELATED: Recent departures
Douglas I. Foy after his resignation yesterday.
Douglas I. Foy after his resignation yesterday. (Erik Jacobs for the Boston Globe)
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