Rhode Island’s Climate Change Council Seeks Feedback on First Proposed Budget

$2.6 million spending plan marks first serious monetary allocation for EC4


PROVIDENCE — Ahead of its September meeting, the Executive Climate Change Coordinating Council (EC4), Rhode Island’s designated lead agency on climate change response, is seeking public feedback on its proposed budget.

The $2.6 million spending plan marks the first serious monetary allocation since lawmakers voted to give the council a dedicated budget earlier this year. The money will be spread across the 13 member agencies of the council to implement the mandates outlined in the Act on Climate law. Funds for the plan come from Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative (RGGI) auction proceeds, as laid out in this year’s state budget.

The draft, made public Aug. 18, is open to public comment online until Sept. 8. The EC4 is expected to meet sometime this month to approve a final spending plan.

Here is what’s being proposed, in descending order:

$1.1 million to the Office of Energy Resources to further fund electric vehicle and e-bike incentives. Both programs have proved enormously popular, and starting in August, OER modified both programs, cutting the rebates and limiting eligibility requirements to ensure they don’t run out of incentive money. This allocation would be in addition to the $400,000 already allocated by the EC4 at their June meetings for these programs.

OER is also being allocated another $150,000 to support state energy programs for municipalities.

$300,000 has been designated to the Department of Environmental Management in increments of $100,000 each. The EC4 has designated funding to support the work of the state’s chief resilience officer, to hire two AmeriCorps members to support environmental justice projects, and invest in urban tree cover and improving existing growing sites. (DEM director Terry Gray also serves as EC4 chair.)

$200,000 will be allocated to Rhode Island Commerce to hire outside support for direct outreach to the business community to spread awareness of climate change-related incentive programs.

$150,000 is being allocated to the Public Utilities Commission to add an employee to the policy team for dockets that relate to Act on Climate. This summer the PUC has been working on a docket investigating what the future of natural gas infrastructure will look like in Rhode Island.

$150,000 will go toward the Rhode Island Infrastructure Bank for additional investment in the Energy Asset Management Program to provide technical assistance to towns, school districts, and publicly owned utilities.

$100,000 will go to the Division of Statewide Planning for additional funding of climate vulnerability assessments.

$80,000 has been designated for the Department of Health to investigate the risks of flooding and contamination from chemicals during floods. The department will develop two versions of a tool that maps existing rates of cancer, historic site use, and flood risk data for the benefit of community members.

An additional $300,000 has been set aside for two different projects, with no planned agency bank account for it to land in yet — $200,000 will go toward incorporating climate change considerations into new public building investments to be provided as requested to agencies and another $100,000 will be available to agencies on request for contractual support to develop federal grant applications for climate change programs.

The total allocated is just over half of what the EC4 is operating on this year. Lawmakers allocated $1.5 million in future RGGI proceeds to fund programs within the agency. A last-minute floor amendment to the budget allocated $3 million immediately at the start of the fiscal year in July (otherwise the agency would have a zero balance in its account until the next scheduled RGGI auction in September).

The next EC4 meeting has yet to be scheduled.


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