PROVIDENCE — How do you follow up on two legislative sessions that have been heralded as the best for policymaking on the environment in Rhode Island history?
With even more bills aimed at tackling climate change, protecting natural resources, reducing trash and expanding investments in renewable energy.
That’s what advocates with some of the state’s leading environmental groups want to see in the new session as it gets underway.
They say that state legislators can’t rest on their laurels after a pair of groundbreaking years in the General Assembly that began with passage in 2021 of the Act on Climate, the emissions-reduction law that’s designed to form the foundation for Rhode Island climate policy, and followed last year with, among a flurry of other bills, one that updates a key law for purchases of cleaner power and another aimed specifically at ramping up offshore wind development.
But if Rhode Island were to adopt a statewide ban, it would be the first in the nation, said Hank Webster, Rhode Island director of the Acadia Center, one of the groups that proposed a moratorium on new gas hookups on Aquidneck Island. And he believes it may not even require legislation but could rather be done by the administration of Gov. Dan McKee.
“I think the Act on Climate anticipated this question,” Webster said, pointing to provisions in the law that he and others argue empowers state agencies to take action to rein in emissions.
The Acadia Center, a regional clean-energy group, and a host of other organizations including The Nature Conservancy and the Audubon Society of Rhode Island, are also focused on revamping energy efficiency programs. The state’s efforts to insulate homes, replace outdated appliances and take other steps to conserve energy have long been viewed as among the most effective in the nation, but observers say there is still a lot of room for improvement.