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Environment Council of Rhode Island

...building an ecologically healthy future in a sustainable economy

2005-2006 Green Report Card

 2005-2006 RI General Assembly Green Report Card Summary

General Assembly Earns “B” for Environmental Legislation in 2005 and 2006.

The Assembly passed seven top priorities of the Environment Council of Rhode Island during this time. These are listed below with their Senate and House sponsors.

 

Key Environmental Legislation for 2005 - 2006

The Mercury Free Vehicle Act ~ Prevents mercury from auto parts from entering into the environment (Ruggerio, Handy, Ginaitt).

Energy Legislation ~ A package of energy legislation to increase energy efficiency and conservation, reduce energy bills and cut pollution from power plants (Walaska, Fox, Roberts, Handy).

MTBE Legislation ~ A bill which bans toxic MTBE from gasoline, which has been found in the groundwater of 23 cities and towns across Rhode Island (Felag, Ginaitt).

The Anti-Idling Act ~ Eliminates unnecessary diesel engine idling and requires DEM to asses strategies for a further reduction in diesel pollution (Alves, Sullivan).

The Electronic Waste Prevention, Reuse and Recycling Act ~ Creates an e-waste disposal ban that begins in 2008. (Sosnowski, Handy).

Kent County Water Authority Joint Resolution ~ A joint resolution to study all aspects of the Kent County Water Authority (Lenihan, Sullivan).

Ballot Campaign Expenditures Legislation ~ Clarifies procedures for advocacy groups to participate in ballot advocacy (Pacheco).


2006 Green Honor Roll

The Environment Council is proud to count as environmental heroes, the legislators earning a spot on our Green Report Card Honor Roll. These leaders not only consistently voted in support of environmental bills, but also sponsored key bills and worked both publicly and behind the scenes on behalf of the environment.

Rep. Ray Gallison Sen. Walter Felag
Rep. Paul Moura Sen. Michael Lenihan
Rep. Amy Rice Sen. Rhoda Perry
Rep. Ray Sullivan Sen. Elizabeth Roberts
Rep. Bruce Long  

We also want to commend the legislative leadership, which worked with us to win our environmental victories. Special thanks go to Speaker Murphy, Majority Leader Fox, Senate President Montalbano, and Senate Majority Leader Paiva-Weed.

    Energy Stars

This year, we would like to bestow a special honor of Energy Star upon several legislators who, over the past several years, have helped Rhode Island adopt one of the nation's best overall energy policies. Through these members' leadership, the General Assembly has passed the Clean Energy Act which will require 16% of Rhode Island’s energy to come from clean renewable sources by 2020; passed and strengthened the Energy and Consumer Savings Act to require stronger energy efficiency standards for common appliances than the federal government; and passed the Comprehensive Energy Conservation, Efficiency and Affordability Act to promote renewable energy projects and direct the state to consider energy efficiency and other long-term costs and savings when purchasing energy.

Majority Leader Gordon Fox Senate President Joseph Montalbano
Rep. Peter Ginaitt Majority Leader Teresa Paiva-Weed
Rep. Art Handy Sen. Susan Sosnowski
Rep. Brian Patrick Kennedy Sen. William Walaska
  Sen. David Bates

General Assembly ~ Missed Opportunities for Environmental Protection

Despite the laudable list of accomplishments, the General Assembly also passed several antienvironmental bills and missed several opportunities to fund key environmental programs and pass additional legislation.

The Environment Council is disappointed that a bill which specifies the amount of water Kent County Water Authority must supply to Amgen passed (Alves). While Amgen does need water for its processes, the bill sets a dangerous precedent of passing legislation to guarantee a specific corporation a specific amount of water. This approach does not promote a sustainable water use policy.

The Environment Council was also disappointed that the Senate passed legislation allowing out-of-state medical waste to be dumped in Rhode Island’s Central Landfill (Badeau). This bill raised concerns over public health, landfill capacity, and the prospect of adopting legislation that blatantly violates planning documents adopted by the Rhode Island Resource Recovery Corporation.

In addition, despite vehement objections from the Environment Council and several Senate champions, legislation was passed that would have allowed development in the Big River Management Area (Raptakis). This legislation would have set a dangerous precedent of allowing development on land that the Department of Environmental Management is currently managing as open space.

The General Assembly failed to pass legislation bringing the Narragansett Bay Commission and the Coastal Resources Management Council into compliance with the Separation of Powers amendment. Instead, an ill-advised effort to regionalize NBC was floated until the end of the session. Additionally, ECRI opposed a House Resolution asking the Rhode Island Supreme Court to find that legislators can continue to sit on the CRMC.

On funding and budget issues, the Environment Council was dismayed over continued budget cuts at the Department of Environmental Management and the House Finance Committee’s decision to remove a $25 million clean water bond from the FY 07 budget that would have funded clean water infrastructure upgrades. In addition, ECRI was displeased that after two years, needed bay monitoring programs have yet to receive adequate funding.

The General Assembly also missed several opportunities to pass legislation that was important to the Environment Council. Notably, legislation that would have phased out high risk cesspools and the danger they pose to public health and our waterways failed to get a vote in 2005 and was voted down on the House floor in 2006 (Long, Gibbs).

In addition, important legislation that would have set a state-wide goal to reduce diesel pollution had a good hearing, but failed to pass out of committee (Ginaitt).

We look forward to those issues being addressed in the next legislative session.