Lawmakers Receive Mixed Grades on Environmental Report Card

Thursday, November 01, 2012


State lawmakers received a “B-minus” on the biennial Green Report Card released Wednesday by the Environment Council of Rhode Island (ECRI).

The report highlights critical environmental issues that were considered by the General Assembly during the 2011 and 2012 legislative sessions. State lawmakers were graded on 14 pieces of legislation that covered a broad host of environmental issues, ranging from matters on clean water to state energy policies. {image_1]

“The bills that are highlighted in this report card are priorities on which many ECRI members worked hard to ensure passage or defeat,” said Tricia Jedele, President of ECRI. “These pieces of legislation have a lot to do with determining the health of Rhode Island’s communities for future generations.”

The report praises the General Assembly for making “tremendous progress in renewable energy and conservation police” but also suggests that there were many missed opportunities, especially on the public transit front.

According to the ECRI, the Transit Investment and Debt Reduction Act of 2012, legislation that would have created a sustainable funding mechanism for the Rhode Island Public Transit Authority (RIPTA), had broad support from the environmental, business, and labor communities, but it was never brought a vote.

“Because of a failure to provide stable and predict-able funding for RIPTA, budget shortfalls are pre-dicted early in 2013,” the report states. “This issue will need to be re-visited immediately in the next legislative session.”

With Rhode Island’s many fiscal challenges being a factor to the hindrance of key environmental issues, the report also lays out the roles that a healthy environment plays in a strong economy. Additionally, ECRI outlines its strong opposition to the Rhode Island Public Expenditure Council’s (RIPEC) proposal to place the Department of Environmental Management (DEM) under a Commerce Secretariat.

“Environmental protection is the lynchpin to any robust and sustainable economy,” Jedele wrote in a letter to Governor Lincoln Chafee earlier this month.

The Green Report Card also praises Chafee for being an advocate for land and water conservation and for signing several environmental bills into law and for vetoing a proposal to halt mandatory sewer tie-in in Warwick (the legislature overrode the veto).

“Governor Chafee has demonstrated a commitment to environmental issues by taking the simple, yet important, step of signing most of the conservation and environmental bills passed by the General Assembly,” the report states. “Highlights include a package of renew-able energy bills, legal protection for conservation easements, and product stewardship for unused paint. Past governors allowed environmental policies to go into effect without a signature, demonstrating a lack of commitment.”

Dan McGowan can be reached at [email protected]. Follow him on Twitter: @danmcgowan.


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