The monthly Audubon Eagle Eye Advocacy Updates will provide you with simple actions you can take to help foster a cleaner, healthier planet along with local and national environmental news. Advocacy to protect birds and wildlife is a top Audubon priority and this work goes beyond testifying on their behalf on Smith Hill. Year-round, we are working with our community partners and Rhode Island leaders to ensure the environment is a priority. These updates will keep you informed and ready to take action when the legislative session is upon us. As the newsletter continues, we are very interested in your suggestions and questions. Please send them to Audubon Senior Director of Government Affairs Priscilla De La Cruz firstname.lastname@example.org.
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The first few months on the job have been busy and fun, especially meeting Audubon staff, board members, and members and supporters like you at Pollinator Garden Party, Raptor Weekend, and AuduBonfire. I am grateful for the warm welcome and excited about the advocacy ahead to protect birds, wildlife, and people from the growing threat of climate change and the many intersecting environmental challenges we face today.
- Audubon Senior Director of Government Affairs Priscilla De La Cruz
On November 30th, Dr. Charles Clarkson, our new Avian Research Director, and I presented at Audubon’s first ‘Science & Advocacy’ Town Hall. We discussed our 2022 plans and goals and shared ways that Rhode Islanders can get involved to support Audubon’s avian research and advocacy efforts. Over 30 people joined us live online, and we look forward to hosting more town hall and webinar events in the future!
Click here to watch the recording.
As you all know, COVID-19 infections are on the rise in Rhode Island and there are many uncertainties leading up to an in-person event in March- especially with new variants on the horizon. For safety’s sake, Kate Sayles, the new Executive Director of the RI Land Trust Council, and I made the difficult decision to postpone the Land and Water Summit, and will be moving the event. While we can’t predict the future or guarantee that we’ll be back to normal by then, we will have more time to see what the future holds.
Please save the dates!
RI Land and Water Conservation Summit
July 14-15-16, 2022
You read that right! We are planning a multi-day Summit that will feature everything that you know and love about our traditional event at URI, but will also include field trips, social opportunities, networking and more. We will even be offering the opportunity to stay in South County in the height of summer for a very reasonable price. Please stay tuned for some big announcements as we head into January! In the meantime, you can find information on the Rhode Island Land and Water Partnership website.
We wanted to sincerely thank everyone who took the time to fill out the survey. We heard you loud and clear on content, and have been exploring unique options to maximize the relationship building and networking opportunities that are the vanguard of each Summit. Kate and I have the privilege of coordinating with and learning from Meg Kerr and Rupert Friday on this event (and in our new positions), and we promise that we will deliver something really special later this year.
Thank you so much for your patience and support,
Priscilla De La Cruz
Sr. Director, Government Affairs
Audubon Society of RI
RI Land Trust Council
PS. We realize that some of you might not know who we are, so please read our bios.
Thanks to the efforts of our former senior policy director Meg Kerr, Audubon made incredible strides on our 2020-2021 legislative priorities. We had hoped for a special fall legislative session where we could resume our work on environmental bills that seemed close to passage. However, with the state’s focus on pandemic recovery, the fall session did not happen. The 2022 session began yesterday!
Act On Climate (S0078/H5445) -PASSED!
Sponsored by Sen. Euer and Rep. Carson
Made critical adjustments to the Resilient RI Act to increase Rhode Island’s efficiency and effectiveness in responding to the climate crisis. The state’s carbon reductions are now binding, the legislation provides a mechanism for enforcement, and requires the state to plan for an equitable transition for environmental justice communities and labor.
Emerging 2022 Priority: The successful implementation of the Act On Climate. Scroll down to read my blog, The Need to Act On Climate.
Ocean State Climate Adaptation and Resilience Fund (OSCAR, S0035/H5360) – PASSED!
Sponsored by Sen. Pearson and Rep. Vella-Wilkinson
Although passed without the funding mechanism, this legislation establishes a policy and program to protect and strengthen the Rhode Island ecological water systems we all depend on and the public access sites that are threatened by rising seas and erosion. Lead advocates continue to work with legislation sponsors to identify the necessary funding for this climate adaptation work.
Legislative Priorities for Protection of Forest Habitat and Solar Siting
The Forest Conservation Act (S470/H5760) - PASSED!
Sponsored by Sen. Ciccone and Rep. Speakman
Requires RI DEM to establish a commission that will look at ways to encourage forest conservation as a means to sequester carbon and mitigate climate change, promote forest values, and identify funding, incentives, and strategies to preserve private forest land.
Solar Siting Bill to Close The 10 MW Loophole (S474/H6169)
Sponsored by Sen. DiMario and Rep. Speakman
This bill prevents the co-location of 10 MW projects, except on preferred locations (gravel pits, landfills, commercially zoned property).
Emerging 2022 Priority: Audubon will continue to prioritize solar siting and work with sponsors, legislators, and a variety of advocates toward a comprehensive reform. To limit the worst impacts of climate change, we need to move forward with the development of more offshore wind and onshore solar projects. However, it is of equal importance that we protect our natural ecosystems and environment. We can maximize building on already disturbed land and maximizing solar development on rooftops and parking lots is also part of that balanced-solution.
Emerging 2022 Priority: Audubon continues to work on issues related to pollinator health and habitat. Research is showing a link between pesticide use, particularly neonicotinoids (or neonics), and impacts on birds. Audubon will continue to work with RIDEM, legislators, and partners like the Pesticide Free PVD Campaign, to regulate the use of neonics, a class of insecticides that affect the central nervous system of insects and have been linked to pollinator decline worldwide.
Protect bill-saving energy efficiency programs (S0634/H6144) - PASSED!
Sponsored by Sen. Sosnowski and Rep. Ruggiero
Rhode Island’s nation-leading energy efficiency programs were slated to expire in 2023 and needed an extension by statute.
“Ask-first” Law for Plastic Straws (S0155/H5131) – PASSED!
Sponsored by Sen. McCaffrey and Rep. Bennett
Prohibit the intentional simultaneous release of 10 or more balloons inflated with lighter than air gas (S0038/H5376) – PASSED!
Sponsored by Sen. Sosnowski and Rep. Donovan
Plastic Waste Reduction Act (S0037/H5358) – ONLY PASSED BY THE SENATE
Sponsored by Sen. Ruggerio and Rep. McEntee
To reduce the use of retail plastic bags.
Regulate toxic PFAS in water (S107/H5523) – ONLY PASSED BY THE SENATE --- and packaging (S110/H5356) – ONLY PASSED BY THE HOUSE
Sponsored by Sen. Felag/Rep. Speakman and Sen. Seveney/Rep. Cortvriend
PFAS “forever chemicals” are toxic to ecosystems and humans, but these chemicals are found everywhere in RI’s water and food packaging. Once in the environment, they never break down. These bills (would regulate PFAS levels in water and ban PFAS in packaging.
100% Renewable Electricity by 2030 (S0629/H5762) – ONLY PASSED BY THE SENATE
Sponsored by Senate President Dominick Ruggerio and Rep. Deb Ruggiero
Updates Rhode Island’s Renewable Energy Standard (RES) to reach 100% renewable electricity by 2030. The Senate passed their version on June 1st. Rhode Island passed one of the first RES policies in the country in 2004, which has helped get us to 20% renewable electricity in 2021. Now, 30 states have a Renewable Energy Standard. This bill contributes to the Act On Climate implementation and the continue deployment of offshore wind.
The TEAM Community Act (S0872/H6310) – ONLY PASSED BY THE SENATE
Sponsored by Sen. DiMario/Rep. Cortvriend
Allows Rhode Island to join the regional Transportation and Climate Initiative, which would reduce transportation emissions and generate $20+ million annually for investment in clean, equitable transportation solutions.
The Need To Act On Climate
Printed in the November 2021 quarterly Audubon Report
We’re already experiencing the climate crisis. It’s intensifying and accelerating—with increased temperatures, urban heat islands, extreme ocean changes, sea-level rise, and intense rainfall and flooding. We recently saw the remnants of Hurricane Ida cause a road to collapse in Portsmouth.
We see its impacts on birds - especially migratory species - right here in the Ocean State. A rapidly warming climate makes it challenging for migratory birds to adapt to the irreversible altering of habitat, food chains, pollinators and blooming seasons, and species interactions.
But there can be optimism – we know that we can transition away from fossil fuels and invest in climate; there is economic opportunity in facing this crisis and investing in a sustainable and resilient economy. And Audubon is pleased to report that the Rhode Island legislature passed several bills this year, including the landmark 2021 Act On Climate legislation, setting the framework our state needs to respond to the crisis and opportunities it presents. Audubon worked tirelessly with legislators, partner advocates, and Rhode Islanders mobilized for climate action in this multi-year effort.
Audubon in the News
On November 16th, I provided public comment at the Act on Climate Public Sharing Session -- a conversation about how to update RI's greenhouse gas emissions reduction plan (the first requirement of the Act on Climate to be completed by Dec. 2022). Click here to read the ecoRI News article.
On December 8th, Climate Jobs Rhode Island, a partnership between labor and environmental groups working toward a just transition to the green economy launched the Green and Healthy Schools Campaign.
Thank you for reading the Eagle Eye and I wish everyone a Happy New Year!