Tuesday, November 3, 2009

Legislative wrap up and update

RI General Assembly Wraps up its Session
The Rhode Island legislature finished up its business last week and passed several important environmental bills in the process. Congratulations must go out to all involved with the Coalition for Water Security which wrapped up four years of work on a comprehensive water management bill for Rhode Island, the Water Use and Efficiency Act. This bill will go a long way in supporting water conservation and efficiency, and will help water suppliers preserve their rate structures while conserving resources.

Rhode Island will now also have a salt water fishing license, a new federal requirement. The fees collected from the seven dollar license will be used for fisheries conservation, monitoring and public fishing access. The license program will aid the federal government in their monitoring work and will allow for easier data collection on recreational fishing.

The Green Buildings Act also passed the General Assembly. It will require the Department of Administration to create regulations that establish policies for a green building standard using either the US Green Building Council's Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED) standards, or similar standards. All new public buildings over 5,000 square feet will be required to be built to a green standard.

During the regular session, we scored another victory for the environment with the passage of the polluter fines bill which raises daily fines for polluters from 1 thousand to 25 thousand dollars a day. We will now look forward to the next session in January. Some issues that we know will come up again next year include CRMC reform and the Energy Independence and Climate Solutions Act. Read more on our Legislative Agenda page.

US Senate Climate Change Bill Markup
Today is the final day of markup for the Senate Environment and Public Works Committee to work on the Clean Energy Jobs and American Power Act, the Senate version of a climate bill. This bill will then go to other Senate committees which will make their own changes. The bill has given rise to all the partisan politics and political bickering one could ever want to see. This morning, the Republicans on the committee have boycotted the markup session because they want to see more EPA economic analysis of the bill, even though the EPA spent 5 weeks reviewing over 300,000 pages of documentation about this bill and the House's Waxman Markey legislation.

In response to the Republican delay tactics of this morning, the Senate majority leader has pledged to have the EPA do another 5 weeks of analysis on the final bill when he marries all the versions from various committees into one piece of legislation that would go to the Senate floor. This will delay full Senate debate by at least seven weeks or more, which will most likely put a Senate vote after the first of the year, after an international climate treaty has been negotiated in Denmark. This will put much more pressure on the United States delegation to make concessions and pledge emissions cuts. The European Union pledged support to developing countries during recent meetings in Spain, so the United States will really need to step up during negotiations.

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