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Thursday, October 27, 2022

Kalus says "Act on Climate" plan is not realistic

McKee, Kalus Tackle Environmental Issues at Annual Audubon Meeting

By Colleen Cronin / ecoRI News staff

Gubernatorial candidates Ashley Kalus and Gov.
Dan McKee spoke at the Audubon Society of
Rhode Island's annual meeting. Each candidate
outlined their environmental agenda.
(Joanna Detz/ecoRI News)
Gov. Dan McKee and Ashley Kalus had the chance to share their climate policy ideas at the Audubon Society of Rhode Island’s 125th annual meeting Sunday.

The gubernatorial candidates made pitches to members of the environment-focused education and advocacy group and fielded questions from ecoRI News Editor Bonnie Phillips.

Incumbent Democrat McKee used his 10-minute speech to discuss his record over the past 20 months as governor and the value of building on that work in a new term, while Kalus, a Republican, took her allotted time to pinpoint areas of environmental policy that she said could use improvement, including the 2021 Act on Climate law.

McKee rattled off a list of some of his environmentally focused accomplishments, including:

“We balance … the economic opportunities for our families with the environment,” he said.

McKee also mentioned signing the Act on Climate legislation, which sets a 2050 deadline for the state to reach net-zero carbon emissions.

Kalus listed different climate goals and priorities for a potential tenure as governor:

  • Preserving watersheds, coastline, meadows, and woodlands to help maintain habitat for wildlife.
  • Expanding offshore renewable energy, including floating solar kinetic power from wave technology and offshore wind power.
  • Updating Rhode Island’s infrastructure to support more electric cars.
  • Recycling tax credit for companies that recycle.
  • Implementing resiliency plans on the municipal level.

Kalus also said she did not believe that the goals set by Act on Climate will be met by the target deadlines.

“We need a realistic plan. I don’t believe that we have that right now,” she said. “I don’t think there’s a way that we can get there in the time frame that we need, and we also do need to be focusing on mitigation.”

Both candidates said they support expanding offshore wind facilities and solar energy to help reduce carbon emissions.

When asked about forest loss related to solar development and whether he would support legislation that tries to protect forests and open space, McKee said, “We’re balancing those two issues in a way that we actually are going to achieve … all the goals that we want.

“We have to make sure that we’re on renewables, and at the same time protecting our environment.”

Kalus said she does not support “cutting down open land for additional solar farms” and wants to utilize brownfields and roofs for solar arrays. She suggested using tax breaks rather than negative reinforcement to incentivize those locations for solar development rather than forest or other open space.

Both also agreed that efforts to advance toxic plastic-burning legislation undermine efforts to protect environmental justice communities.

Election day is Nov. 8.

Colleen Cronin is a Report for America corps member who writes about environmental issues in rural Rhode Island for ecoRI News.