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Governor to Sign Resilient Rhode Island Act

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On August 1, Rhode Island Gov. Lincoln Chafee is set to sign the Resilient Rhode Island Act, a law providing a framework for state government to plan for and mitigate the impacts of climate change – including rising sea levels, extended droughts, more intense heat waves and increased coastal and island flooding due to more intense storms – on residents and the state economy. 

EC Providence collaborated with the Environment Council of Rhode Island (ECRI) – of which it is now a member – and with Brown University-based Resilient Rhode Island, which led the push for the bill’s passage. They, along with environmental groups, successfully advocated for inclusion of a permanent advisory board, the Executive Council on Climate Change (EC3), that will address workforce development and ensure that local communities benefit from the jobs and economic growth spurred by reduced energy use and climate mitigation measures.

Resilient Rhode Island says the law prioritizes cutting energy costs for low- and moderate-income households by increasing residential energy efficiency and includes “strategies and mechanisms with measurable goals and targets for each sector.” Those strategies include offering market-based mechanisms, expanding financing and investment tools, modernizing the electric grid and improving incentives for combined heat and power. 

Small State, Big Goals
The website Clean Technica praised Rhode Island for enacting emission-reduction targets that rank among the nation’s strongest: a 45 percent reduction from 1990 levels by 2035 and an 80 percent reduction by 2050.

The site also observed that the bill had been introduced almost every year since 2008 but stalling in committee. Following increasing instances of extreme weather, however, “state legislators repositioned the bill as an economic imperative instead of an environmental concern – and it passed overwhelmingly.”

 According to Clean Technica, the law sets “carbon budgets every five years to determine if emissions reduction targets can be increased” and “establishes clean energy goals such as purchasing alternative and electric vehicles for state fleets, increasing energy efficiency at government buildings, boosting renewable energy generation and developing green infrastructure.”

The EC3 established by the Resilient Rhode Island Act is modeled on a body of the same name created by Chafee’s February 21, 2014, Executive Order. Including the EC3 in legislation means it will continue beyond Chafee’s tenure as governor.

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