RI lawmakers green light climate change bill; McKee expected to sign

Environment

PROVIDENCE, R.I. (WPRI) — Lawmakers have passed a sweeping climate change bill that would require the state to reach net-zero carbon emissions by 2050.

The Act on Climate bill received its final approval from both the House and Senate Tuesday evening.

In addition to Rhode Island reaching net-zero carbon emissions by 2050, the bill also requires the Executive Climate Change Coordinating Council to draft plans to hit that goal and empowers citizens to sue the state after 2025 if the emissions goals aren’t met.

“Rhode Island has been on the leading edge of offshore wind in the United States, and is also at the forefront of other renewable generation and efficiency programs,” Sen. Dawn Euer, one of the bill’s sponsors said. “With Washington now also pivoting toward support for the important work of adopting clean energy solutions, we have everything we need to do our part to slam the brakes on carbon pollution while revolutionizing our economy at the same time.”

“Rhode Island was the birthplace of the Industrial Revolution,” she continued. “We can seize this moment and become America’s leader in the new green economy, creating plentiful green jobs that support families and a clean environment.”

The bill now heads to Gov. Dan McKee’s desk.

McKee, who succeeded fellow Democrat Gina Raimondo last month, has said he supports the bill’s overall goal of reducing greenhouse gas emissions, in part due to Rhode Island’s vulnerable coastline. However, McKee sent a letter to lawmakers last week warning that the legislation “could lead to expensive, protracted and vexatious litigation” against the state.

The governor said Tuesday afternoon that he was waiting on a review from R.I. Attorney General Peter Neronha that would “clarify some of the legal issues.”

“As long as those are straightened out I plan to sign it,” McKee said.

McKee received that review an hour later, in which Neronha said he doesn’t believe the governor’s concerns should “undermine or delay the passage of this watershed legislation.”

“Citizens suit provisions, such as the one included in this bill, are not uncommon,” Neronha wrote. “There are both practical and procedural safeguards that prevent specious litigation from advancing in court … at times, we successfully secure swift dismissals of meritless claims and other times we work towards resolutions that require state agencies to correct conduct that fails to meet legal or constitutional requirements.”

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