STATE HOUSE -- It doesn't take an environmental scientist to know that the air around T.F. Green State Airport is far from pristine.
There's not much that can be done about the exhaust from all those jet engines, said Representative Joseph M. McNamara (D-Dist. 19) of Warwick and Cranston, but it is possible to cut some of the pollution at and around the airport by promoting alternative fueled vehicles.
Rhode Island's Alternative Fueled Vehicle and Filling Station Tax Credit law has been on the books since 1998, enacted in response to pressure from the Environmental Protection Agency to reduce air pollution. The law provides major tax incentives for operators of alternative fueled vehicles and filling stations. The aim is to make the cost of buying and operating alternative fuel vehicles -- as an individual or a corporation running a fleet of vehicles -- about the same as that of buying and running vehicles that use gasoline or diesel fuel.
Representative McNamara believes Rhode Island has a golden opportunity to make the alternative fuel law good not only for those who take advantage of the tax incentive, but good also for a section of the state that sees its share of traffic congestion and air quality problems -- the area around Green State Airport in Warwick.
"Green is growing, in air traffic and consequent commuter traffic," said Representative McNamara. "More planes mean more jet fuel fumes. More air traffic means more vehicles arriving and leaving the airport area."
"With expectations of this section of the city growing into a broad, intermodal area -- trains, hotels, parking garages, rental car companies cropping up to serve Green -- improvements in the alternative fuel law could be a blessing, financially and environmentally," he said.
Representative McNamara has introduced legislation this session that would extend the tax credit act through January 1, 2008 (it was slated to expire on January 1 of this year) and to extend the tax credit to hotels, rental car companies and motor carriers. The bill would also provide that any fees charged by the Rhode Island Airport Corporation to motor carriers and rental car companies include a discount for the purchase or use of alternative fueled vehicles or the capital, labor and equipment cost of the conversion of motor vehicles so they can use alternative fuels.
"Due to the high concentration of rental car companies, motor carriers and hotels at and near T.F. Green, and the burgeoning transportation system located there, it is incumbent on our state, and the Airport Corporation, to pursue progressive methods of promoting environmentally sound and cost efficient transportation policy," said Representative McNamara.
"Twenty years ago, alternative fuel vehicles were barely a dream. Today, they are available and in use. We should be doing all we can to promote the purchase and use of these vehicles, for the good of our environment. Our goals should be to minimize our national and local need and dependence on foreign oil and to improve the health and welfare of the people who daily visit T.F. Green or who live nearby," he said.
The McNamara bill <a href="http://www.rilin.state.ri.us/BillText/BillText03/HouseText03/H5040.htm
">(2003 -- H 5040)</a> has been referred to the House Committee on Finance. It is co-sponsored by other members of the Warwick delegation to the House, including Representatives Eileen Naughton (D-Dist. 21), Joseph Trillo (R-Dist. 24), Paul Sherlock (D-Dist. 20) and Robert Flaherty (D-Dist. 23).
"The Alternative Fueled Vehicle Tax Credit Act is a breath of fresh air for Rhode Island," said Representative McNamara. "We need to keep it on the books and make it more effective, for the good of all our citizens."