PROVIDENCE—Governor Lincoln Chafee has signaled his disapproval of amendments proposed by the Senate Environment and Agriculture Committee which would make the Rhode Island Climate Change Commission (RICCC) an advisory arm of the Coastal Resources Management Council. Issuing a veto of H 7942 Substitute B, Chafee joins a number of local environmental groups in opposition to the changes which would harm RICCC’s ability to produce research independently.
“The Rhode Island Climate Risk Reduction Act of 2010 created the [RICCC], consisting of 28 members, to study the projected impacts of climate change,” read Chafee’s letter to Gordon D. Fox (D-Providence), Rhode Island Speaker of the House of Representatives dated June 19. “However, [this amendment] would narrow the scope of the Commission by making it advisory to the CRMC.”
“While the CRMC plays a critical role in planning for some of the impacts of climate change, including but not limited to sea level rise, many other potential climate change impacts are outside of the CRMC’s jurisdiction,” it continued.
Jane Kenney Austin, Save The Bay’s Senior Policy Analyst, sent a letter to Chafee, dated June 18, to encourage him to veto the changes, and also provided reasoning as to why making RICCC an advisory body to the CRMC is detrimental to its overall mission.
Austin’s letter noted that work through RICCC involves many state and agencies, including the Department of Health and the Department of Environmental Management, and tying it exclusively to CRMC would narrow the Commission’s capabilities. She emphasized that CRMC would need additional staffing and resources in order to accommodate the Commission within its organizational structure.
Austin also claimed that environmental officials outside of state government involved with RICCC’s operations were not consulted.
“While there are potential benefits to shifting the responsibility to the executive branch, it does not appear that anyone beyond the legislature was consulted about the potential impact of such a change,” read Austin’s letter. “The people who have participated in the work of the Commission [Austin’s emphasis] should have a meaningful opportunity to weigh in on those changes.”
Senator V. Susan Sosnowski (D-New Shoreham, South Kingstown), Chairwoman of the Senate Environment and Agriculture Committee, stated that representatives from objecting environmental group were not present during the Committee’s policy meetings and did not participate in voicing opposition during the hearing for a final vote on the changes. She also defended the Committee’s decision to make RICCC an advisory to CRMC.
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