Offshore wind, plastic bag ban and more

PROVIDENCE – It’s been another busy day in what is shaping up to be a busy session in the General assembly For the environment.

On Tuesday, bills moved closer to enactment to buy more offshore wind power, limit concentrations of so-called eternal chemicals in drinking water, ban food packaging containing the same type of chemicals made by the man and prohibit the distribution of single-use plastic. Bags.

Bill for the plastics factories killed

House leadership also announced that a controversial Senate-approved bill that facilitate the permitting process for the use of extreme heat to break down plastic into combustible fuels and other products would not go further this year. The legislation is widely opposed by state environmental groups and was passed in the Senate only after several senators were absent for the vote.

“We are a member-driven organization and our members have told us loud and clear that they have serious unresolved questions about this bill,” said House Speaker K. Joseph Shekarchi and House Leader of the majority, Chris Blazejewski, in a joint press release.

The statement was released minutes before the start of a rally against the bill by environmental and community groups. The event on the steps of Statehouse was led by the Rhode Island Environmental Council, the coalition that represents all major environmental organizations in the state, and the People’s Port Authority, an organization that works to reduce pollution in and around the port of Providence. Opponents have raised concerns that ProvPort is an area where a factory could be built that uses the high-temperature process called pyrolysis to convert plastic waste into other products.

While pyrolysis is heralded by the plastics industry as a solution to the growing problem of plastic waste, which fills landfills and litters the landscape and oceans, conservationists say it’s energy-intensive, poses risks for public health and will do nothing to curb demand for plastics, which are made from fossil fuels.

Shekarchi and Blazejewski framed their opposition to the pyrolysis bill by referring to the flurry of environmental legislation so far this session. This year’s activity follows last year’s enactment of the Climate Act, a landmark law that requires the state to achieve net-zero emissions of global warming greenhouse gases by 2050. .

Senate Speaker Dominick Ruggerio also highlighted recent work on the environment in his response to the House decision, saying “the Senate has led the way in environmental initiatives, including the Climate Act” and d other bills.

“We respect the position of the House on [the pyrolysis] bill, and we look forward to continuing to work productively with them to enact strong environmental legislation,” he said.

So far, the environmental policy session has been productive, agreed Priscilla De La Cruz, chair of the Rhode Island Environmental Council. With bills that would increase the state’s supply of renewable energy, lawmakers are building on the foundation established by the Climate Act, she said.

“I think this session sets the standard for the kind of climate action needed,” she said.

A push for more renewable energy in RI is complicated by financial incentives for energy utilities

The session included an update to the Renewable Energy Standard, the key state law that supports offshore wind, solar and other development. Following Senate approval, the House passed legislation earlier this month that requires all electricity sales in Rhode Island to be offset by renewable energy by 2033.

Tuesday, another big chunk of clean energy use expansion in the state moved to the edge of approval. The House Committee on Corporations has approved legislation that would require Rhode Island Energy, the company formerly known as Narragansett Electric, to solicit proposals for up to 1,000 megawatts of offshore wind power.

A different version of the bill passed the Senate, but it stalled in the House on questions about an incentive for the state’s dominant energy utility. A compromise has been found which allows Rhode Island Energy an equal payment of up to 1% of what it pays for electricity from a new offshore wind development. The new bill that moves to the House floor on Wednesday gives the state’s Public Utilities Commission the power to determine the level of inducement.

A ban on PFAS could come into force by 2024

A bill banning the distribution of wrappers, bags and other food packaging containing per- and polyfluoroalkyl substances, or PFAS, was also withdrawn from committee on Tuesday, on the Senate side. Known as forever chemicals because they persist in the environment over time and build up in the human and animal body, the compounds have been linked to cancers, low birth weight and to other health problems. The ban, which has already passed the House, would go into effect in 2024.

The chemicals are best known for contaminating water supplies, including in a village in Burrillville a few years ago. On the floor of the House on Tuesday, MPs passed a drinking water standard for chemicals that has been in the work for years. The bill, which would limit the levels of some of the most common PFAS chemicals, has already passed the Senate.

Plastic bag ban nears approval

A bill that would ban the distribution of single-use plastic bags in most retail outlets is about to be approved by state lawmakers.

The full House also addressed another bill that had been introduced in previous sessions but never passed on the floor until this year. On Tuesday, MPs approved the Senate proposal bill banning the distribution of single-use plastic bags in most points of sale. The House had already passed its companion bill, which will go to the Senate on Wednesday.

Despite the progress, De La Cruz said lawmakers shouldn’t rest on their laurels. There is still work to be done to prevent the loss of forests for solar projects, to decarbonize buildings and the transport sector, and to protect low-income and minority communities from pollution. And, she warned, the pyroylis bill will likely return.

“We have this solid base,” she said. “There is more to do.”

Bryce K. Locke