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Advocating for Smart Energy Policies

By Senior Director of Policy Meg Kerr

Audubon’s mission to protect birds, other wildlife and their habitats can lead us to work on issues that may seem very far afield from the natural world. Climate change is the ultimate threat to wildlife and people, and our advocacy work includes helping Rhode Island implement and support smart energy policies. During the next months, our work will include the following initiatives. If you sign up for Audubon advocacy emails, you will be alerted when there are hearings or events related to policy. Your support and help is always appreciated!

Fighting Invenergy: No new fossil fuel infrastructure. Audubon was a key partner in the coalition that passed the 2014 Resilient Rhode Island Act. This Act sets greenhouse gas reduction goals for the state: 10% below 1990 levels by 2020, 45% below 1990 levels by 2035 and 80% below 1990 levels by 2050. These goals are ambitious, and current research would say they are not sufficient. The December 2016 report by the Rhode Island Executive Climate Change Coordinating Council (RI EC4), “Rhode Island Greenhouse Gas Emissions Reduction Plan,” finds that Rhode Island is well positioned to meet the 2020 goal, but meeting the 2050 reduction goals will be challenging. The report states, “An 80% greenhouse gas (GHG) reduction by 2050 would likely require a near-zero carbon grid coupled with significant electrification of residential/commercial space heating and on-road vehicles.” To meet this critical goal, Rhode Island must invest in renewable energy and stop investing in fossil fuel infrastructure.

In late 2015, Invenergy Thermal Development, LLC proposed a very large (1,000 MW) gas fired power plant in Burrillville. Audubon is working with the state’s environmental community to oppose and defeat this power plant. Our opposition to the Invenergy plant is two fold – it will have significant negative impacts on protected wildlife and habitats and it will make it impossible for Rhode Island to meet the Resilient RI greenhouse gas reduction goals.

Legislative advocacy

During the 2017 legislative session, Audubon will be supporting two clean energy bills that were in play last year but did not pass:

Energize Rhode Island: Carbon pricing to strengthen the economy and reduce GHG. This act would establish a fee on companies that sell fossil fuels in Rhode Island, paid at the point of sale within the state for consumption or distribution within the state. This act would put a price on carbon that accounts for the pollution it produces. The price will be paid by companies that sell fossil fuels in Rhode Island. The funds would be disbursed through rebates to all residents and businesses in the state as well as allocated to climate resilience, energy efficiency, energy conservation, and renewable energy programs that benefit Rhode Islanders, particularly low income residential properties and small business properties.

Renewable Energy Growth Program Extension: This bill extends the Renewable Energy Growth Program for an additional 10 years. It is an important component of the state’s renewable energy plans and will help diversify Rhode Island’s energy mix and improve system reliability.

Please contact me if you would like to know more about Audubon’s advocacy work: mkerr@asri.org.

Taken from the Audubon Winter 2017 Report


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