Environment

New Year, New Providence: A roundup from ecoRI News

Providence’s 2021 Climate Resolutions

The Office of Sustainability and the Environmental Sustainability Task Force are launching major environmental initiatives for the new year.

Compost. The city is making another push for residential compost collection. A pilot program launched in 2013 had mixed results. The neighborhood drop-off service was funded by the city’s share of sales from recyclable items sold through the state’s central recycling facility in Johnston. But the program ended when the global free fall in prices for recyclable goods wiped out Rhode Island’s municipal profit-sharing. 

This time, the Office of Sustainability aims to tap into a portion of the $3.9 million the city spends annually on waste and recycling services to pay for a new program to manage food scrap.

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Even if the City Council approves a composting resolution, it’s not clear if Providence will look to curbside food-scrap collection, neighborhood drop-off sites or something else.

Green purchasing. Health and environmental advocates are working with council member John Goncalves and the Office of Sustainability to create an environmentally preferable purchasing policy.

The resolution stems from a plan to ban single-use plastics at city buildings and schools. It grew to include increased use of renewable energy and purchases of non-toxic cleaning products. If approved, the city and schools would buy paper products with high-recycled content. Other purchases would be recyclable or made of recycled or reused material. The Office of Sustainability would work with city and school purchasing departments, including food service companies, to identify and eliminate items that pose health and environmental risks and contribute to greenhouse-gas emissions.

Climate justice. City Plan Commission meetings will address adding elements of the Climate Justice Plan into the city’s comprehensive plan. The changes include strategies to address environmental and climate justice, environmental health, renewable energy, transportation and mobility, housing and buildings, and a less wasteful economy.

Amendments to the comprehensive plan must be approved by the City Council. They are used to shape zoning revisions, land use, transportation planning and housing decisions.

So far, suggested changes to the comprehensive plan include creating “green justice zones” in neighborhoods suffering from pollution and economic inequality. The amendments make way for creating microgrids powered by local renewable energy and supported by battery-storage systems. Weatherization, jobs and job training are offered to improve quality of life and make frontline communities healthier and prepared to withstand climate-crisis impacts such as flooding and heat waves.

Getting the Gas Out of a Portsmouth Neighborhood

The Energy Facility Siting Board (EFSB) made quick work of denying a request by National Grid to exempt its liquefied natural gas (LNG) facility in Portsmouth from operating as a major energy source.

EFSB chair Ronald Gerwatowski said the storage and vaporization equipment being operated on Old Mill Lane was an energy facility and, as such, requires a license and adherence to energy-facility laws.

“There’s no ambiguity about it,” said Gerwatowski, during a December 18 meeting. National Grid “didn’t do a very good job of convincing me that it was temporary in any sense. The argument that it is temporary just doesn’t hold.”

He noted that the Old Mill Lane site was approved as a temporary LNG storage and fuel pumping center to alleviate the natural-gas outage on Aquidneck Island in January 2019. “But now it’s here as a multiyear solution for an uncertain number of years,” he said.

National Grid was given until June 1 to submit an application for an energy facility license. It could face fines if the deadline isn’t met.

She’s Making Cycling Better for Black Women

Allyson McCalla says you don’t need a spandex jersey and fancy shoes to ride a bike.

“If you have a bike and you have a helmet, we can make it work,” she said. “You can ride in jeans, you can ride in shorts, swishy pants, sweatsuits, spandex … you can ride in anything.”

The director of community outreach for the Newport-based nonprofit Bike Newport is on a mission to make bicycling accessible for everyone, but particularly for women of color.

“Since I’ve been biking — and I was biking probably about 15 to 20 miles a day — I didn’t see any people of color at all, let alone women of color,” McCalla said. “We’re really underrepresented.”

To change that, and to create a strong community of Black and Brown women cyclists, McCalla is starting a Newport chapter of the international organization Black Girls Do Bike.

Although many people of color do bike, bicycling activism and infrastructure is often targeted to a largely white demographic. A Rutgers University survey found that more than half of the people of color surveyed didn’t have confidence that their governments would add safe cycling infrastructure to their communities if they requested it.

For detail on these stories, and to get more of the latest environmental news, visit ecoRI.org. Subscribe to ecoRI News’ free weekly e-newsletter at www.ecoRI.org/subscribe.

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