Environment

Four things to know about Massachusetts’ first-ever ‘climate chief’

Melissa Hoffer was appointed climate chief of Massachusetts Monday by Governor-elect Maura Healey.

Melissa Hoffer.

Melissa Hoffer was appointed climate chief of Massachusetts Monday by Governor-elect Maura Healey and Lieutenant Governor-elect Kim Driscoll. Healey created this position, and Hoffer will be the first person to serve in it. 

Here’s what you need to know about her, the position she’ll hold, and the impacts it will have.

Who is it?

Hoffer is currently the principal deputy general counselor at the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and previously served as the chief of the Energy and Environment Bureau at the office of the Massachusetts attorney general.

“The climate crisis is one of the biggest challenges we face, but it also presents an unprecedented opportunity for us to build a better, healthier, more equitable future,” said Hoffer. “Climate change is not just an environmental issue – it’s a public health issue, an energy security issue, an issue inextricably linked with emergency preparedness, land use, agriculture, workforce development, clean tech innovation, transportation, housing, education and more.”

What is the position?

Healey created this new cabinet-level position and Hoffer will be the first person to serve in it. Massachusetts is the first state to establish a cabinet-level position of this kind. The job will entail ensuring that climate change is being considered in all relevant decision-making and that climate policy is progressing across every agency. 

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 “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,” said Healey. “We’re going to partner with our workforce each step of the way to deliver critical investments in cleaner energy, transportation, infrastructure and housing.”

Why is Hoffer qualified to be leading Massachusetts on climate change?

Hoffer was a Day 1 political appointee of the Biden administration, when she joined them serving as the acting general counsel and then principal deputy general counsel at the EPA. With professional roots in Massachusetts, she joined the AG’s office back in 2012 as the chief of the Environmental Protection Division and was the chief of the Energy and Environment Bureau, which Healey created when she was AG, in 2015. 

In that position, Hoffer led the litigation against ExxonMobil for deception about the risk climate change poses to Exxon’s business and global financial markets, as well as the impacts of its fossil fuel products on climate change. She also oversaw attorneys who were prosecuting civil and criminal enforcement of environmental laws, proceedings before the Department of Public Utilities, energy policy, and defensive cases.

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Before joining the AG’s Office, she held senior roles at the Conservation Law Foundation and spent years as a litigator and environmental lawyer at WilmerHale. 

Educationally, Hoffer is rooted in Massachusetts, having received her J.D. from Northeastern University School of Law, a Certificate in Environmental Management from Tufts University, her M.Ed. from the University of Massachusetts, and her B.A. from Hampshire College. 

What are the goals of the position?

Healey has set ambitious climate goals for Hoffer to help the state reach. Healey’s goals include reaching 100% clean electricity supply by 2030 and electrifying public transportation with clean power by 2040. 

Hoffer, reporting directly to Healey as governor, will monitor the progress of the administration’s climate work across agencies, especially as these efforts intersect with Healey’s other efforts investing in transportation, infrastructure, housing, and workforce development. 

“Melissa Hoffer is unstoppable. I’m thrilled to welcome her back to Massachusetts as our first ever climate chief,” said Healey.

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