Conley introduces bill to curb greenhouse gas emissions in phases

Conley introduces bill to curb greenhouse gas emissions in phases

PROVIDENCE – Sen. William "Billy" Conley Jr., of District 18 in East Providence and Pawtucket, has submitted a bill he says draws attention to the future of climate change in Rhode Island and sets the state on a path toward reducing greenhouse gas emissions.

The legislation repeals the Rhode Island Climate Change Commission and creates a climate change council in its place, which would fall under the purview of the executive branch of government. Codifying Gov. Lincoln Chafee’s executive order establishing the interagency Rhode Island Climate Change Council, this panel would be charged with coordinating efforts to ensure each of the state’s department directors take climate change into consideration during decision-making processes.

“We have been putting this off for decades, and it’s time to quit dragging our feet,” said Conley. “Best practices will stimulate the Rhode Island economy, and this legislation does not create an expense for the taxpayers. I can assure you that the price will be large, however, if our state is not proactive."

According to Conley, "the bill simply provides an avenue for us to effectively work toward the same goal (of) preparing for the effects of climate change." He said Rhode Islanders can't wait for the "destructive impact" of climate change before "safeguards and feasible emissions reduction plans" are put in place.

"Every year that goes by without a solid plan will undoubtedly exacerbate the repercussion," he said.

Language in the bill requires the council to submit a mitigation plan to the governor and General Assembly by Dec. 31, 2016 to meet phased-in targets for the reduction of greenhouse gas emissions. By 2050, officials hope to achieve an 80 percent drop in emissions from 1990 levels. Conley referred to the phased-in targets, which came at the suggestion of state Department of Environmental Management officials, as “reasonable and efficient benchmarks.”

Conley's bill calls for a diverse 18-member advisory board, which would encourage the council to utilize the expertise of Rhode Island universities and colleges in measuring compliance, mapping of emissions and development interventions.