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Thursday, June 27, 2019

No statewide ban on single-use plastics this year

By TIM FAULKNER/ecoRI News staff

art plastic bag GIF
Mattiello kills plastic bag ban, says "no consensus,"
even though there was plenty of consensus.
The 2019 session of the General Assembly won’t be remembered as a standout year for environmental bills.

Two days before the expected finish of the 2019 legislative session, House Speaker Nicholas Mattiello’s office said via e-mail that two notable bills, a statewide bag ban (S0410, H5671) and the so-called “straw law” (S0202, H5314) won’t be advancing this year.

Both bills had strong prospects for passing this year, as they were the culmination of a broad-based coalition launched by Gov. Gina Raimondo, called the Task Force to Tackle Plastics.

The Senate already passed each of the bills with little objection from groups that have opposed past bills, such as the American Chemistry Council. The bills also had support from the Rhode Island Hospitality Association and the Greater Providence Chamber of Commerce.

The bag ban in particular had the endorsement of wholesale bag distributors such as Central Falls-based Packaging & More.

Both bills, however, were scratched from the agenda for the House Committee on Environment and Natural Resources on the day of their scheduled hearings, June 26.

In an e-mail, Larry Berman, spokesman for Mattiello, wrote “no consensus was reached and the bills will not be further considered this year.”

No other reasoning was offered other than the House didn’t suspend its rules this year, meaning that bills have to be posted for 48 hours prior to a hearing. Therefore there won’t be sufficient time remaining in the session to hold additional hearings.

Several other bills that passed the Senate appear to be suffering the same fate: a bill (S0661) establishing statewide standards for solar-energy development and a controversial bill (S0760) to expand net metering for so-called “community” or “remote” renewable-energy projects.

Gasification A bill opposed by environmentalists was abruptly revived then scuttled. H5448/S0408 advances pyrolysis, the process of turning plastics into fuels and other chemical feedstocks for manufacturing. Also known as gasification, it is often considered a form of incineration and is opposed over health risks caused by emissions. 

The American Chemistry Council supports the bill because it sees gasification as reducing plastics waste while increasing raw materials for manufacturing such as diesel and gasoline blends and feedstocks for industrial lubricants. 

The bill amends the state designation of a gasification plant from a solid waste facility to a manufacturing classification. 

The House bill was dormant after a hearing in February but was abruptly switched from the Environment and Natural Resources Committee to Finance Committee on June 25 and scheduled for a hearing on June 27. 

The hearing was postponed. A future hearing would require two days notice and with only two days remaining in the legislative session there is not sufficient time to hold a hearing.