Environmental advocates take to the State House

Environmental Groups lobbied legislators en masse on Tuesday. (L to R Mike Roles, Tricia Jedele, Gov. Lincoln Chafee, Nicole Pollock, Rep. Art Handy, and Francis Pullaro of RENEW NE.

Environmental Groups lobbied legislators en masse on Tuesday. (L to R Mike Roles, Tricia Jedele, Gov. Lincoln Chafee, Nicole Pollock, Rep. Art Handy, and Francis Pullaro of RENEW NE. Resource Recovery’s MaxMan looks on.

Each year, the Environment Council of Rhode Island (ECRI) holds a legislative lobby day allowing everyday folks who care about the environment to lobby their legislators to protect laws that protect our environment and voice opposition to bills that they see as detrimental to the first resort’s ecosystems.

The Environment Council of Rhode Island was  founded in 1972, and includes over 60 Rhode Island organizations that advocate for protection of natural habitats  and sensitive ecosystems, clean air, water and soil, and more recently, to address the coming scourge of global climate change.

“We strive to be the sound voice for environmental policy in Rhode Island,” said Tricia Jedele, President of ECRI,”We advocate for clean air and water because it’s the right thing to do, but we also advocate for these issues because we understand that the environment and economy are inextricably linked.”

ECRI Vice-president, Mike Roles, laid out the legislative priorities for the day. ECRI identified 35 pieces of legislation for action this year, and whittled that list down to 8 major bills. Their citizen lobbyists will be  for reintroduction of RIPTA funding to the DOT’s sustainable funding formula – but will in no way affect the DOT funding – and a statewide cesspool phaseout. They also lobbied against the new school siting law, and

It’s really difficult to build a strong backing for environmental protection on Smith Hill. All too often the economy and the environment are  pitted against one another. “But after (Hurricane) Sandy, last year’s blizzard, and the flood of 2010, that is starting to change, “said Rep. Art Handy, Chair of the House Environment and Agriculture Committee, “people are beginning to realize that is largely not the case.”

Handy has introduced H5801, the Energy Independence and  Climate Solutions Act, which would deem that the Department of Environmental Management take an “inventory” of the state’s greenhouse gas emissions,  and to set goals  as to curtail them.

One environmental bill that has received some attention is the potential to ban plastic checkout bags. ECRI member group, Environment RI successfully collected 7,300 signatures in support of a statewide ban on plastic shopping bags, but it looks unlikely that the bill will pass out of committee at this point.

“Our partnerships with ECRI and other non-profits is smart, and makes us more effective in mission,” said Nicole Pollock, DEM’s legislative liaison, “we’ve accomplished a lot, but we still haven’t done enough. There are meetings yet to be held, ideas yet to be shared, and rallies that need to happen.

“We want to have the best of everything,” added Governor Lincoln Chafee, “that includes the best environmental protection laws and regulations.”

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Dave is a writer, chef, musician, political junkie, animal lover, ignorance hater, and a former mayoral candidate in the city of Woonsocket. He's a lifelong Woonsocket resident, who lovingly refers to himself as a Woonsocket Rocket and proud Villa Novan.
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