STATE HOUSE – Rep. Michelle E. McGaw and Sen. Linda Ujifusa have teamed up to sponsor three bills to protect Rhode Island’s environment and the health and safety of their constituents. Specifically, they are introducing bills that seek to prevent air pollution and ensure the state’s Act on Climate obligations are met.
“To protect our health, economy and quality of life, we must stop polluting and take actions to protect our environment,” said Representative McGaw (D-Dist. 71, Portsmouth, Tiverton, Little Compton). “These bills are important steps towards achieving these obligations.”
One bill (2023-S 0031, 2023-H 5142) would prohibit building new high-heat waste processing facilities in Rhode Island. The legislation is a response to efforts by the plastics industry to reclassify high-heat processing of plastic waste as “manufacturing” instead of “waste management” – and thereby lower applicable safety requirements. “High-heat waste disposal technologies, also called ‘advanced recycling,’ ‘pyrolysis’ and ‘gasification,’ are toxic and accelerate climate change,” said Kevin Budris, advocacy director for the non-profit group Just Zero. “What is produced by so-called ‘advanced recycling’ are toxic chemicals and dirty fuels that will be burned and create dangerous emissions and more greenhouse gasses. We are grateful to Senator Ujifusa and Representative McGaw for introducing bills that shut the door on this industry.”
“Our communities are plagued with plastic waste – on our roads, shorelines, seas and even in our bodies,” said Senator Ujifusa (D-Dist. 11, Portsmouth, Bristol). “Pyrolysis just encourages more unsustainable plastic production, fossil fuel production, climate change and serious medical problems.”
A second bill (2023-S 0061, 2023-H 5172) prohibits the Rhode Island Energy Facility Siting Board (EFSB) from approving new energy projects that would negatively impact the state’s ability to reach its Act on Climate obligations and reduce greenhouse gasses.
“The climate crisis is directly affecting the East Bay and other parts of coastal Rhode Island as warming weather and rising sea levels increase the frequency and severity of storms and flooding. Through the Act on Climate, our state committed to a carbon-reduction plan to do our part in slowing climate change. Ensuring EFSB does not approve facilities that work against those efforts is a critical part of that commitment,” said Representative McGaw.
Another bill (2023-S 0030, 2023-H 5198) they have introduced requires 50% of new light duty, non-emergency vehicles purchased or leased by the state to be electric, zero-emission vehicles by the year 2031.
“This bill addresses the fact that the transportation sector generates the largest share of greenhouse gas emissions,” said Senator Ujifusa.
Representative McGaw and Senator Ujifusa said that combating pollution and building on the Act on Climate are consistently among the top priorities brought up to them in conversations with constituents, and they are proud to sponsor these bills to advance the health and safety of Rhode Islanders.
Justin Boyan, President of the environmental group Climate Action RI notes, “Sometimes we talk about protecting the environment like we’re preventing problems that might occur in the future, but people are dying from climate change and air pollution right now. It’s not hyperbole to say these bills will save lives.”