Opinion

Raimondo Isn’t Even Trying to Give Rhode Island’s Environment a Fair Hearing

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Despite flowery talk about protecting the environment and mitigating the climate crisis, Gov. Gina Raimondo’s actions have never aligned with her words when it comes to the natural world.

Her nomination of Thomas A. DiLuglio to serve as hearing officer for the Rhode Island Department of Environmental Management’s Division of Administrative Adjudication proved yet again how little she seems to care about the environment. The choice of the underqualified DiLuglio for the position doesn’t rank up there with her brash cheerleading for a fossil fuel power plant in a Burrilliville forest, but it’s no less appalling.

His resume, a mashup of lawyering and developing, noticeably lacks a background in environmental law. His main qualifications are, unsurprisingly, his political connections. The former state senator is the son of former Lt. Gov. Thomas R. DiLuglio. Senate President Dominick Ruggerio, as the Providence Journal reported, worked as an aide for the senior DiLugio for five years.

The nomination of the younger DiLuglio to a high-paying DEM post that settles disputed permits and penalties assessed by the agency was a continuation of Raimondo’s quest to turn the Ocean State’s top environmental defender into a chamber of commerce branch office.

The governor’s blatant efforts to set up her next political move by, in part, sacrificing the state’s environmental integrity have become increasingly troublesome. She has curried favor from powerful outside forces — e.g., the Chicago-based developer with a long global reach that wanted to build a natural-gas power plant in the wooded northwest corner of the state — and has banked political and corporate support by nominating a fellow Clear River Energy Center cheerleader to be the director of the Office of Energy Resources, a former National Grid attorney to be chair of the Public Utilities Commission, and an ethically challenged attorney to mete out environmental justice.

The most disturbing aspect of DiLuglio’s nomination, however, is what appears to be a total lack of vetting by the Raimondo administration. It appears the governor made no real effort to fill the important environmental position with a competent candidate. It’s as if someone whispered to her, “Do me a favor.”

Raimondo ended up nominating a white guy who proudly listed in his Senate questionnaire under “Published Writings” his own blog, DILULUIS, King of Troy. His online pontifications are littered with racism. His nomination was pulled, a few days before he was scheduled to be interviewed by the Senate Committee on the Environment and Agriculture, because of his racist rants.

He describes black people as “a social subspecies;” calls them ignorant; writes that, “Here is a segment of society that appears to tread a worrisome path towards self-destruction. It would seem on a daily basis;” blames the black community for the disproportionate amount of police violence unleashed upon it; and wonders if African American reparations are “An American Thing Or An African Thing?”

When it comes to ethics, DiLuglio seemingly views them like he does African Americans, with disdain.

Katherine Gregg’s June 2 Providence Journal story quotes from an April 17, 1997 story that began, “Former Town Solicitor Thomas A. DiLuglio has paid $350,000 to the Town of Johnston to settle lawsuits accusing him of legal malpractice, with the bulk of the settlement involving a sexual discrimination case he lost.”

The lead to Gregg’s own story notes that DiLuglio “famously waged a losing 13-year legal war against the state’s then-Conflict of Interest Commission over a $5,000 fine for a ‘revolving-door’ violation.”

That case was finally settled in 1999 by the state Supreme Court, backing a Superior Court ruling from three years earlier that found DiLuglio guilty of arranging dinners at the iconic Federal Hill restaurant, the Blue Grotto, for members of the House and Senate and the Rhode Island Soft Drink Association, an industry group that, at the time, was fighting a bill to reduce litter and increase recycling.

The Soft Drink Association retained DiLuglio’s services shortly after he left the Senate to represent the group in its attempt to derail the bill.

Raimondo isn’t even trying to give the environment a fair hearing.

Frank Carini is the ecoRI News editor.

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