Summer Legislative Update: Rhode Island
Acadia Center’s leadership on climate, energy, and equity issues was on full display during Rhode Island’s 2021 regular General Assembly session, as we testified remotely at dozens of hearings and working with legislators to refine and advance key pieces of legislation.
Acadia Center worked with its partners in the Climate Crisis Campaign and Climate Jobs RI coalition to advance the historic Act on Climate into law, Acadia Center’s top legislative priority in Rhode Island. The Act on Climate transforms previously aspirational climate goals into meaningful and enforceable greenhouse gas reduction mandates—45% by 2030, 80% by 2040, and net-zero by 2050. After years of work building legislative support, Acadia Center was able to combat a last-minute stream of fossil-fuel industry backed disinformation. Acadia Center’s Rhode Island Director, Hank Webster, engaged directly with print journalists, talk radio hosts, and concerned legislators to disprove unfounded claims about climate action and the legislation’s impact. Acadia Center is now spearheading efforts to work with the McKee Administration to develop an updated state climate plan by December 2022.
Building on the success of the Act on Climate, Acadia Center is the lead organization working to advance the regional, bipartisan, Transportation and Climate Initiative Program (TCI-P) in Rhode Island. Acadia Center helped legislators develop S872 and H6310, the TEAM Community Act which will codify the state’s involvement in the TCI-P. The Senate overwhelmingly passed the legislation in June and Acadia Center is urging House leaders to address the policy in an anticipated special fall legislative session. To support TCI-P, Acadia Center convenes advocates and businesses for biweekly strategy calls and developed a Rhode Island-specific microsite, www.TCI4RI.com, to help key stakeholders stay apprised of the benefits of the program.
Throughout the pandemic-truncated 2020 and full 2021 legislative sessions, Acadia Center also worked to successfully advance two key energy efficiency bills—1) an extension of the state’s energy efficiency programs and 2) an update to the state’s appliance energy efficiency standards. In the waning hours of the 2021 regular session, Acadia Center testified before the House Environment and Natural Resources Committee to oppose a dangerous last-minute rewrite of the energy efficiency extension bill and to instead support a plain extension of the energy efficiency programs. Those efforts were successful and, as a result, the state’s nation-leading energy efficiency programs are protected through 2028. Acadia Center and colleague organizations also successfully advanced a law that sets minimum energy efficiency standards for appliances sold in the state and protects consumers from unknowingly buying and installing energy-wasting versions of everyday products. This update will reduce carbon emissions by 256,000 metric tons and lower utility bills by $10 million annually.
Acadia Center will be busy this summer, working with RI policymakers to advance a robust clean energy and environmental justice agenda in the anticipated fall legislative session, including: the TEAM Community Act to implement the TCI-P, legislation to adopt a 100% Renewable Energy Standard by 2030, and the Environmental Justice Act to better protect affected communities from new activities that increase cumulative impacts.