Environment Council of Rhode Island

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

2007-2008 Green Report Card

2007-2008 RI General Assembly Green Report Card Summary

The Rhode Island General Assembly Receives a “B” for the 2007-2008 Legislative Session.

The report card also graded legislators individually on their environmental voting record and leadership. The grades are based on a variety of environmental bills regarding clean air, clean water, protecting open space lands, clean and renewable energy, wildlife habitat, sustainable land use, transportation, toxic chemicals, recycling or resource recovery/landfill and open accountable governance.

 “The environment won on several key issues this session, with bills promoting renewable energy as well as bills protecting Rhode Islanders from toxic diesel pollution from school buses, electronic waste, and water pollution resulting from unsafe cesspools. We are encouraged that our state legislators are taking action on important environmental issues,” according to ECRI President Denise Parrillo.

The report card highlights six of the Environment Council's priority bills or packages of bills that passed the General Assembly over the past two years. The bills, along with their sponsors, were:

  • The Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative Act to implement the nation's first regional agreement to cap and reduce global warming pollution from power plants. (Sosnowski, Handy)
  • A package of renewable energy legislation approved over two years to encourage the development of small-scale and utility-scale wind, solar and other renewable energy projects in Rhode Island. (Montalbano, Miller, Fox, Rice, Segal)
  • The Electronic Waste Prevention, Reuse and Recycling Act to prevent toxic pollution from electronic waste by requiring television and computer manufacturers to pay for the collection and recycling of their products. (Sosnowski, Handy)
  • Other new recycling laws to require each municipality that contracts with the Rhode Island Resource Recovery Corporation (RIRRC) to recycle 35% and divert 50% of the Waste collected at the Central Landfill (Sosnowski, Malik) and move Rhode Island toward consideration of bottle deposit legislation. (Paiva Weed, Walsh)
  • A package of public transit legislation to strengthen the Rhode Island Public Transit Authority, move toward efficient bus rapid transit models (Connors, Pacheco), and encourage state employees (Gibbs, Segal) and students of state colleges (Miller, Handy) to use buses.
  • The Cesspool Phaseout Act to reduce water pollution by eliminating cesspools along the coast and near public water supplies. (Gibbs, Walsh)
  • The Diesel Emissions Reduction Act of 2007 to reduce diesel pollution from school buses. (Moura, Ginaitt)

According to the 2007 - 2008 Green Report Card, the General Assembly did not receive an ‘A’ on this report card because it failed to:

  • Pass legislation to bring the Narragansett Bay Commission and Coastal Resources Management Council into compliance with the Separation of Powers amendment.
  • Pass legislation to protect communities from toxic pollution by requiring higher fines for polluters.
  • Pass legislation that would have placed RI on the path to reduce global warming pollution 20% by 2020 and 80% by 2050.
  • Pass legislation to effectively manage RI's water supply.
  • Pass legislation to protect workers from diesel pollution (the Senate unanimously supported this bill, but it did not come to a vote in the House).
  • Protect the budget of the Department of Environmental Management.
  • Support a $30 million clean water and $5 million open space bond in the FY2009 budget.

“The General Assembly missed some good opportunities to move forward on key environmental protection issues this session. We urge the members of the General Assembly to continue with the momentum of the environmental leadership they took this year and pass these bills next year,” Parrillo said.

The Green Report Card provides an analysis of Governor Carcieri's performance as well. The Governor's environmental record is inconsistent, leaving room for improvement in some key areas.

“We congratulate the Governor for finally signing Rhode Island onto the Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative (RGGI), a framework for reducing greenhouse gas emissions from power plants, as well as making wind energy a priority. However, there is still much more work to be done,” said Parrillo.

Among the areas for improvement, the report card notes that in spite of his call for more renewable energy in the state, the Governor vetoed an important bill passed by the General Assembly this year that would have created incentives for the construction of renewable energy projects through long-term contracts. Also, in spite of skyrocketing gasoline prices and growing concerns about emissions, in 2007 Governor Carcieri vetoed a bill to update and strengthen the Rhode Island Public Transit Authority's enabling statute.