House’s $14B Budget Funds Climate Change Council, Adds DEM Positions


PROVIDENCE — Nearly 10 years after it was created by the General Assembly, the Executive Climate Change Coordinating Council will finally have a dedicated budget.

Under the $14 billion budget approved by the House on Friday, the EC4, beginning in July with the new fiscal year, will receive up to $1.5 million in Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative (RGGI) auction proceeds for “climate change related initiatives.”

Legislators also included a floor amendment Friday that allocates $3 million to the EC4 from current RGGI auction proceeds, to endow the fledgling state entity with some money before the next RGGI auction in September.

RGGI, a compact between Rhode Island and soon-to-be 10 other states (the Virginia governor signed an executive order last year to repeal the partnership and the State Air Pollution Control Board recently voted to leave) on the Eastern Seaboard, caps the amount of carbon dioxide emissions the power sector can generate and sells emission allowances to facilities that exceed the caps in member states. The proceeds from selling these emissions, which are sold quarterly in auctions, are distributed to participating state governments to use for climate initiatives.

(For reference, Rhode Island made about $4 million in proceeds from the last auction earlier this month.)

The allocation fulfills a longtime ask from state officials and environmental groups for Rhode Island to take its own climate change response and initiatives seriously. It also represents a win for both sides. In the past two budget cycles, Gov. Dan McKee proposed “scooping” $4.5 million from energy-efficiency programs by taking the shareholder incentives received by Rhode Island Energy and giving that money to the EC4.

The “scoop,” proposed again this year by the governor, was opposed both times by environmental groups, who saw no reason to take resources away from high successful energy-efficiency programs.

Terry Gray, director of the state Department of Environmental Management, told ecoRI News last year that he thought where the money comes from was “secondary to the fact that we get some kind of investment in the EC4 to make the work happen.”

DEM also netted two additional full-time equivalent (FTE) positions in its department, both for forest ranger positions. The Coastal Resources Management Council’s budget remains as proposed.

The rest of the new environmental priorities in the House budget are relatively small. Legislators have chosen to abolish the Underground Storage Tank Board, an advisory body that has never really met and state officials say is not needed to exist to remove the kind of tanks that are left over from gas stations.

State energy-efficiency programs will also issue a request for proposals for a third-party administrator to operate them. If no vendor successfully bids for the project, Rhode Island Energy will become the default administrator of last resort for the programs.

Similar proposed changes by the governor’s office, to put administration of the state’s mattress and recycling programs out to bid for private vendors, did not make it into the approved House budget.

The Rhode Island Infrastructure Bank will see the allowable uses of some of its funds be expanded to include energy efficiency, clean energy storage, and transit projects.

Legislators also included some money for farmland conservation programs. The Agriculture Preservation Commission (ALPC), which runs those programs, spent the last year warning lawmakers that without an infusion of cash farmland conservation would go broke in Rhode Island. Under the House budget, the ALPC will receive $2.5 million from state revenues to replenish the program.

(The program typically receives cash via the green bond but was left out in the last round of bond funding in 2022.)

Joint resolutions introduced in both chambers earlier this year by Sen. Louis DiPalma, D-Middletown, and Rep. Michelle McGaw, D-Portsmouth, would have appropriated $5 million for the programs.

On the transportation side of the budget, House lawmakers chose not to address the looming fiscal cliff for the Rhode Island Public Transit Authority. In 2025, the federal pandemic funding that has been keeping the state’s transit agency afloat will run out, leaving a large deficit in its operating budget. Lawmakers did include an additional $800,000 from state fiscal recovery funds for the free-fare bus route pilot program on the popular R Line.

Lastly, the Public Utilities Commission, which oversees all utilities in the state, will receive $100,000 to perform a study on integrating microgrids into Rhode Island’s power system. Microgrids are smaller, more autonomous grids with increased local control that can be disconnected from the larger regional electric grid and provide buildings with backup power in times of emergency.

The House budget is scheduled to be considered by the Senate Finance Committee on Tuesday afternoon.


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  1. Two new DEM full time positions for – forest rangers? This is so DEM can conduct more forest “management” to help forests be more “resilient” to climate change impacts. In the view of the Forest Service, that means logging.

    It would have been nice if DEM had instead chosen to restaff the Natural Heritage Program with biodiversity specialists to help the state preserve its biodiversity instead of ignoring the fact that it is going away, because more forest is being logged.

    Then again, biodiversity preservation is NOT considered to be a priority issue in Rhode Island by DEM or ANY of the nonprofit so-called conservation groups. I challenge anyone to find “biodiversity” mentioned on any DEM web page, and even by groups such as TNC.

    In Rhode Island, biodiversity has been cancelled.

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