Jamestown’s delegation in the state legislature is continuing to look for ways that would ensure a cleaner future for Rhode Island.
Sen. Dawn Euer, chairwoman of the Environment and Agriculture Committee, is sponsoring a bill to update goals for reducing emissions and making those standards enforceable. In the other chamber, Rep. Deb Ruggiero is sponsoring legislation to require that 100 percent of electricity in Rhode Island sold at retail comes from renewable sources by 2030.
“The Ocean State is particularly vulnerable to the effects of sea rise caused by warming temperatures,” said Euer, a Newport Democrat who also represents Jamestown. “Climate change isn’t something that will happen at some nebulous future time. It is wreaking havoc on our communities right now.”
Ruggiero’s legislation would change the renewable energy standard. The bill eliminates the current schedule of annual 1.5 percentage increases in electricity required to be generated from renewable sources through 2035, and replaces it with a more aggressive target of 2030 for all the state’s electricity to come from renewable sources. Under the bill, the Public Utilities Commission would set the annual targets to ensure the 100 percent goal is reached on time.
“As the Ocean State, Rhode Island must make a bold commitment to clean energy to slow the effects of global warming and the rising sea levels that are threatening our property, infrastructure and safety,” she said.
Euer’s 2021 Act on Climate, which passed the Senate last week, would make the climate goals outlined in the Resilient Rhode Island Act of 2014 more ambitious and updated with current science. Under the bill, the state would develop a plan to reduce emissions from transportation, buildings, heating and electricity to 10 percent below 1990 levels this year, 45 percent by 2030, 80 percent by 2040 and netzero by 2050.
Euer said the climate crisis poses too grave a threat to the Earth, and Rhode Island in particular, to treat emissions reduction as an aspiration rather than an obligation.
“As a state with so much to lose, we cannot afford and have no excuse to be anything but totally committed to negating our carbon emissions,” she said. “This is, without question, our battle and our responsibility.”
After 2025, if the state does not meet its targets and comply with the act, the people of Rhode Island would be able to seek action in Providence Superior Court. Under the existing law, the state can reduce emissions by offering market-based mechanisms, expanding financing and investment tools, modernizing the electric grid and improving incentives for combined heat and power systems.