Save The Bay Focused On Nips, Trees and Access This Year
March 11, 2023
Now that the Rhode Island General Assembly has found its 2023 legislative groove, Save The Bay has begun advocating for what it says is an “ambitious policy agenda.”
The Providence-based nonprofit, which is “dedicated to protecting and improving Narragansett Bay and all the waters that flow into it,” is focused on saving trees, reforming the state’s coastal resources authority, and protecting public access.
The organization also supports passage of the Beverage Container Deposit Recycling Act of 2023 (H5502). The legislation, introduced by Rep. Carol Hagan McEntee, D-South Kingstown, is modeled on other New England state programs that Save The Bay says “have achieved major litter reduction by placing a deposit fee on beverage containers, including alcohol ‘nips’ that are being littered in increasing numbers.”
The bill would give a 10-cent refund for returned containers “not less than 50 milliliters nor greater than 3 liters.” A nip is about 1.7 ounces, or 50 milliliters.
Save The Bay, Friends of the Saugatucket, and other environmental organizations and individuals are participating in the ongoing Great Nip Pickup Challenge — a volunteer effort to collect the ubiquitous liquor bottles in all 39 cities and towns. The goal is to see how many discarded nip bottles can be collected in 90 days, from Dec. 27 of last year through March 27. So far, nearly 35,000 nips have been connected.
Topher Hamblett, Save The Bay’s director of advocacy, noted the organization has identified three priorities for the current General Assembly sessions:
Solar siting reform: Putting an end to the clear-cutting of forestland for industrial-scale ground-mounted solar.
The climate crisis demands fossil fuels be replaced with renewable energy as quickly as possible. Save The Bay, though, believes it’s vital that this “valuable progress” doesn’t happen at the expense of Rhode Island’s forests, which help keep rivers and streams cool, protect groundwater and freshwater habitats, help keep the fresh waters that flow into Narragansett Bay clean, and store the carbon that fossil fuel use creates.
“Unfortunately, R.I. state energy laws incentivize the clear-cutting of forests for large-scale solar energy facilities. Save The Bay will work with our partners on legislation to protect the most important forests in Rhode Island from clear-cutting, and steer solar energy siting to already developed areas.”
Coastal Resources Management Council: Save The Bay says it will pursue two major reforms.
The addition of a full-time staff attorney for the agency who will counsel and represent the staff at hearings, assist in the development of regulations, and respond to legislative proposals. CRMC’s staff attorney wouldn’t represent other clients and be dedicated solely to representing the Ocean State’s coastal resources. Save The Bay believes the current arrangement — hiring a private practice attorney who is free to have other clients and interests — leaves agency staff without representation and invites conflicts of interest.
Changing the role of the CRMC board from a decision-making body to an advisory one. Currently, nine of the 10 members are politically appointed volunteers who are not required to have expertise in coastal matters, but have immense power to shape the future of the state’s coastal environment. The recent Rhode Island Supreme Court rejection of the deal between Champlin’s Marina & Resort on Block Island and CRMC “is a glaring reminder of the need to reform this deeply-flawed structure.”
Shoreline access: Save The Bay’s vision is a “fishable, swimmable, healthy Narragansett Bay, accessible to all.” Rhode Islanders have a constitutional right to walk along and use the state’s coastline. Past court decisions have made it impossible for the public to know exactly where the shoreline is and has led to conflicts among waterfront property owners and beachgoers.
“While a 2022 bill to clarify exactly where the public can enjoy the shoreline won unanimous House passage, the Senate did not take it up for consideration. In 2023, we aim to get this important legislation across the finish line.”