Government

Senate Passes Environmental-Justice Zones, Transportation Emissions Bills to the House

PROVIDENCE — The Senate approved two pieces of environmental legislation in a single session with passage of bills to establish environmental protections for vulnerable neighborhoods and to reduce transportation-sector emissions.

The full Senate passed amended versions of the Environmental Justice Act (S0105 Substitute A) and the Transportation Emissions and Mobile (TEAM) Community Act (S0872 Substitute A) during its session June 22.

The House of Representatives is scheduled to hear versions of both pieces of legislation. Rep. Karen Alzate, D-Pawtucket, filed the Environmental Justice Act’s companion (H6383) and Rep. Terri Cortvriend, D-Portsmouth, introduced the TEAM Act’s House version (H6310).

Under the Environmental Justice Act, the Division of Statewide Planning would designate areas throughout the state with additional protections against environmental hazards resulting from development. The measure would prevent permits from being issued for new or existing facilities without environmental and public health impact assessments.

The measure aims to protect low-income residents and people of color who frequently bear the burden of infrastructure changes. The planning division would use census data to designate and update focus areas based on income levels, minority population and/or the number of households without English-language proficiency.

“Far too often, neighborhoods that are already suffering more than their share of pollution-producing infrastructure are targeted with proposals for more of them,” bill sponsor Sen. Dawn Euer, D-Newport, said in a statement. “Often it’s the poorest neighborhoods, partly because people with more means don’t want to live in such areas, and partly because such neighborhoods are often viewed as having less ability to fight back against environmental hazards proposed in them.”

The TEAM Act, sponsored by Sen. Alana DiMario, D-Narragansett, would provide funding for cleaner transportation and emissions reduction. The legislation is the first attempt by state legislators to implement the Transportation & Climate Initiative, a regional cap-and-invest program to lower vehicle emissions 26 percent by 2032 that could garner about $20 million in annual revenue for Rhode Island through carbon pricing.

DiMario sent a tweet following the June 22 Senate vote proclaiming, “I’m ready for Rhode Island to lead on addressing climate change!”

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