R.I. Transportation Committee Hears Pleas to Revamp Transit System
RI’s failure to meet its transportation goals and promises made in recent years will have a deep impact on public health and whether or not the state meets its climate goals.
That was the message almost two dozen speakers brought to this month’s meeting of the Transportation Advisory Committee (TAC), the body responsible for forwarding transit recommendations to state planning officials.
The State Planning Council adopted two significant plans in December 2020, the Transit Master Plan and Bike Mobility Plan, with each providing a step-by-step outline on how to improve bus and rail services and bicycle infrastructure.
But in the years since their passage, activists say state officials have left the plans lingering on the shelf, despite budget officials reporting a $610 million surplus this fiscal year. Transportation officials have instead favored repairing and widening a number of high-profile bridges and highways, with little evidence that the plans are being executed through the state’s $9 billion, 10-year transportation budget.
“We want to see some more will to change direction and have a more balanced, climate-friendly, people-friendly, environmentally friendly transportation system,” said Scott Wolf, executive director of Grow Smart Rhode Island. “We think that if the Transit Master Plan and Bike Mobility Plan are treated like a chihuahua – as cute things to be petted and not implemented – the results will negatively impact the economy, climate change, and [equity] for current Rhode Islanders.”
South County Brewer to Can Plastic Beer Toppers for Cardboard
One of the state’s biggest craft beers is getting a packaging makeover as its brewers move toward eliminating all plastic in its packaging.
Whalers Brewing announced last month it would be the first in the nation to roll out a new six-pack clip made entirely from recycled cardboard as it seeks to move away from the hard plastic can toppers (made by PakTech) that have become a common sight to craft beer fans at retail.
The company said it was starting with a trial period, limiting the new clips to a few shipped pallets of its flagship beer, RISE. If customer feedback on the new packaging is positive regarding its durability, the new clips will be expanded to the rest of the line.
“With all of the progress that’s being made eliminating single-use plastic, we decided to take a fresh look at how we can eliminate plastic from our packaging so that we can do our part,” Whalers creative director Joanne Liu said.
The new packaging – its official name is TopClip – is a collaboration with the Dublin-based paper packaging giant Smurfit Kappa. TopClip, described on the company’s website as “a sustainable alternative for shrink wrap commonly used to bundle multipacks of cans,” has a 30% lower carbon footprint than equivalent plastic packaging, contains no glue (making it truly plastic-free), and the toppers can be either recycled or even composted after use.
“We hope they’re better than paper straws,” the company quipped on Instagram.
Federal Funds to Boost Heat Pump, Energy-Efficiency Programs in RI
Rhode Island’s energy-efficiency programs will be kicked into high gear next year, thanks to an influx of federal dollars.
On Wednesday the state’s congressional delegation announced $63.8 million from the Inflation Reduction Act will be allocated to the state Office of Energy Resources (OER) in 2023 to jump-start a new pair of energy-efficiency and home heat pump rebate programs.
Under federal guidelines, homeowners will be eligible for rebates of up to $2,000 for any retrofit that reduces energy use by 20% or more, and up to $4,000 if the retrofits reduce energy use by 35% or more in the home energy performance-based rebate program. Maximum rebates are doubled for retrofits in low- and moderate-income homes.
RI families, as part of the programs, will also be eligible for rebates to upgrade from fossil fuel appliances to electric energy-efficient ones. Households in the program will have rebates capped at $14,000, including an $8,000 cap for heat pump costs, $1,750 for a heat-pump water heater, and $4,000 for panel or service upgrades.