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Friday, August 22, 2014

A+ for our local lawmakers on the environment

By ecoRI News staff

PROVIDENCE — The Environment Council of Rhode Island (ECRI) recently released its biennial Green Report Card for the 2013 and 2014 General Assembly sessions. The report issues letter grades to state legislators based on environmental votes and bill sponsorships during the two most recent sessions.

Recent leadership on climate change, renewable energy and other issues helped earn lawmakers higher marks on average than two years prior, with the Senate receiving a mean grade of B+ and the House receiving a B average.

“Rhode Island lawmakers are beginning to connect the dots in an important way between the environment and the economy,” said Jamie Rhodes, president of ECRI, a coalition of some 60 organizations and businesses with a common mission of protecting and enhancing the Ocean State’s environment. 

“While the General Assembly unfortunately missed certain opportunities to protect water quality and special places like Narragansett Bay, lawmakers should overall be commended for accomplishing some impressive legislation these past two years — at the same time that they allowed little to pass in the way of environmental rollbacks.”

Key votes considered in the report include the Resilient Rhode Island Act, to comprehensively address climate change; the Renewable Energy Growth bill, to expand Rhode Island’s cornerstone renewable-energy program; Food Residuals Recycling, to implement a composting program for large food-waste generators; and budget amendments to bolster funding for water quality and open space.

Environmental priorities that didn’t receive votes in 2013 and 2014 included bills to phase out outdated cesspools, ban disposable plastic shopping bags, and restore tax credits for residential renewable-energy installations.

To calculate grades, lawmakers were assessed on how often they voted with the pro-environment position on an array of ECRI priority issues; they were then assigned additional points for sponsoring important environmental bills — or docked points for sponsoring anti-environment bills.

Top-scoring A+ lawmakers included: Catherine Cool Rumsey, Adam Satchell and Sue Sosnowski in the Senate; and Edith Ajello, Maria Cimini, Art Handy, Joy Hearn, Deb Ruggiero, Teresa Tanzi, Larry Valencia and Donna Walsh in the House.

Only one senator, Elizabeth Crowley with a C+, failed to at least earn a B-. The House featured 11 representatives with grades lower than a B-, including Brian Newberry with an F and Antonio Giarrusso with a D-.

The Green Report Card comes as Rhode Island voters approach the 2014 primaries on Sept. 9, with most current General Assembly members seeking re-election.

“We hope that both voters and candidates can use this report card as a tool to build a dialogue around environmental issues this election season,” Rhodes said. “In the next two years, we expect to see even more progress to safeguard our land and water resources, build a clean-energy future, and ensure the resilience of our communities.”