Law would penalize releasing balloons on purpose statewide

East Bay

PROVIDENCE, R.I. (WPRI) ─ The wandering of a mylar balloon, and a subsequent power outage blamed on it, have helped inspire a bill that would ban intentionally releasing balloons into the air statewide.

Balloons are much more often a significant threat to Southern New England wildlife, according to Rep. Susan Donovan, as their vibrant colors and shapes can attract sea and land animals that may mistake them for food. If any wildlife ingests the balloons, they can suffer serious injury or death.

Donovan, D-Bristol, is sponsoring the bill. A hearing on it is set for the State House Tuesday afternoon.

The bill is modeled after similar legislation being proposed in New Jersey.

In September 2018, 737 balloons were found littered along Rhode Island’s shoreline during a statewide cleanup organized by Save the Bay, according to Donovan. She also noted a Jan. 12 incident where a stray mylar balloon caused a power outage that cut electricity to more than 2,500 customers.

Releasing balloons, such as in memorial or celebratory ceremonies, would be punishable by a fine up to $500 per offense.

Hot air balloons, indoor releases and weather balloons sanctioned by government permit would be exempt.

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