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Saturday, July 19, 2014

Environment RI tallies 2014 legislative wins

Some exciting environmental victories at the Rhode Island State House in 2014.
HomeBy Rob Sargent, Energy Program Director, Environment Rhode Island

In the final whirlwind weeks of the lawmaking session, Environment Rhode Island and our allies helped pass several important initiatives, from giving a boost to solar power to cutting global warming pollution. We couldn't have done this without the action and support of people like you.

To highlight some of the key victories:   

  • Helping Rhode Island go solar: Solar development will create good green jobs in Rhode Island while displacing polluting fossil fuel energy. Environment Rhode Island has been leading the grassroots push for an expansion in Rhode Island's solar programs, including a bill we just helped pass: the Renewable Energy Growth Program, which will quintuple the size of our cornerstone solar program and expand it to more residents and small businesses. [1]
  • Cutting global warming pollution: Global warming poses a particular threat in a low-lying coastal state like Rhode Island, where we are already seeing the consequences of increased extreme weather events and sea level rise. Years ago, Environment Rhode Island began calling for Rhode Island to cap its global warming pollution to levels recommended by the science. This spring, we were proud to have been part of the successful effort to finally make this happen. [2]
  • Forward-thinking waste management: In a small, densely state, we have to think carefully about how we deal with our trash. Environment Rhode Island testified against legislation that could have laid the road to open up our state to trash incineration, a toxic and costly waste management practice that pollutes the air and water with dangerous ash. This shortsighted legislation didn't move forward. Meanwhile, we were glad to see a pilot program pass that moves us in the right direction: taking the first steps for the composting of organic waste like food scrap.

This doesn't mean we won on everything. For instance, lawmakers didn't move forward on the bill to protect Narragansett Bay from plastic pollution by banning single-use plastic bags.

It just makes sense: Nothing we use for five minutes should pollute the Bay for hundreds of years, and banning plastic bags is a no-brainer policy that will keep the Bay and our beaches clean while protecting wildlife from plastic trash. 

That's why our campaign staff is out there right now working to build the grassroots support we'll need to ban plastic bags once lawmakers are back for their next session.

But while we have plenty of work left to do, this has been a landmark spring, and we have every reason to celebrate these exciting victories for Rhode Island's environment.

[1] Advocates laud R.I. Assembly’s passage of bill to expand development of solar power 
[2] R.I. Senate bill makes climate change mitigation a state government priority
[3] Senate committee recommends cesspool replacement bill