Government

Committee Moves Transportation Emissions, School Recycling, Environmental Justice Bills to Full Senate

PROVIDENCE — A bill to cut Rhode Island’s transportation emissions through a cap-and-invest program gained approval from a Senate committee, along with legislation to establish environmental justice areas and require adherence to school recycling and composting regulations.

The Senate Environment and Agriculture Committee voted to move the trio of environmental bills to the full Senate for consideration in a short hearing June 16.

The Transportation Emissions and Mobile (TEAM) Community Act (S0872), the School Waste Recycling and Refuse Disposal Act (S0104) and the Environmental Justice Act (S0105) all were approved with amendments and without additional discussion.

The eight-member committee — Sen. Stephen Archambault, D-Smithfield, was absent — unanimously approved moving the school recycling bill to the full Senate, while Sen. Gordon Rogers, R-Foster, opposed the transportation and environmental justice bills.

The TEAM Act, sponsored by Sen. Alana DiMario, D-Narragansett, would be Rhode Island’s first step in implementing the Transportation & Climate Initiative (TCI). DiMario’s bill, which would provide funding for cleaner transportation and emissions reduction, has companion legislation in the House (H6310), filed by Rep. Terri Cortvriend, D-Portsmouth.

TCI is an eastern regional effort to lower vehicle emissions 26 percent by 2032 through carbon pricing that would ostensibly decrease gasoline and diesel use. TCI is expected to generate more than $3 billion over 10 years for participating governments, with Rhode Island’s annual revenue projected at about $20 million. Rhode Island signed a memorandum of understanding in December to join the cap-and-invest program with Connecticut, Massachusetts and the District of Columbia, although Connecticut Gov. Ned Lamont recently announced TCI funding would not be in his annual budget proposal.

Other states expressed backing for the initiative have included Delaware, Maryland, Maine, New Jersey, New York, North Carolina, Pennsylvania, Virginia and Vermont.

Following the hearing, DiMario said the TEAM Act is the next step in building the state’s “off ramp” from fossil-fuel dependence.

“By putting the responsibility on the oil and gas companies to fund a revenue stream that will help us build a better transportation infrastructure while slowly dialing down the amount of allowable carbon emissions, Rhode Island will benefit from reduced health-care costs, increased job opportunities and increased community mobility options,” DiMario said.

She credited representatives from the environmental, business and labor sectors for pushing to make TCI and the TEAM Act “an equitable, impactful and market-based solution to the problem of transportation emissions.”

The transportation sector accounts for nearly 40 percent of Rhode Island’s greenhouse-gas emissions.

The school recycling and disposal bill sponsored by Sen. Bridget Valverde, D-North Kingstown, focuses on reducing food and paper waste by requiring K-12 public schools, charter schools and career and technical high schools to comply with recycling and composting laws and donate unspoiled, nonperishable food within their communities. Schools would be required to generate audit reports on their waste management programs in cooperation with the Rhode Island Resource Recovery Corporation.

The environmental justice bill sponsored by Sen. Dawn Euer, D-Newport, would require the state to designate environmental justice areas in which permits will not be issued for new or existing facilities without first assessing environmental and public health impacts. An amendment to the original bill would shift responsibility for determining the areas from the Department of Environmental Management to the Division of Statewide Planning.

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  1. I’m so glad I found this article. I now have the names of the people to contact so I can support their bill, in particular the school recycling act.
    Thanks!

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