Last Thursday, a vigil was held at the intersection between Allens Ave and Terminal Road in Providence. Hosted by the People’s Port Authority, the Interfaith Coalition to Reduce Poverty, and Renew Rhode Island, the vigil had one clear goal: to oppose the expansion of the Sea 3 oil company in the Providence Port.
For more than a month, this multi-million dollar out-of-state oil company has sought to expand fossil fuel infrastructure exponentially at the Port. Not only is Sea 3 attempting to expand, but the Texas-based company also is attempting to do so by skipping the standard review process by the Energy Facility Siting Board, which would assess if such an expansion is first, safe, and second, necessary.
It is neither, and Sea 3 undoubtedly knows this. Otherwise, there would be no need to skip over the review in the first place. Still, Sea 3 insists that their dangerous half-a-million gallon expansion in liquid propane is not significant enough to count as an “alteration to a major energy facility.” Rhode Islanders like those at the vigil are not fooled. Opposition has continued to grow and several Rhode Island lawmakers have called on the Energy Facilities Siting Board to reject Sea 3’s proposal, but the expansion has not been halted yet.
What would make Sea 3’s proposal even more devastating should it pass is that the proposal also includes connecting the toxic propane facilities to a rail line. Doing so would give Sea 3 the ability to bring hazardous fossil fuels into Rhode Island at a faster rate. Thus, the expansion Sea 3 is downplaying includes not only those half-a-million gallons they explicitly mention, but the ability to bring in much more with greater ease in the future.
The proposal and attempts to shirk the standard approval process are insidious on their own, but the continued presence of Sea 3 in the Providence Port is a clear example of environmental racism. The expansion would be most detrimental to the people of Washington Park and the South Side of Providence. Black and brown communities within the United States and abroad are the most likely to have dangerous polluters set up shop in their neighborhoods without their consent and to experience gravely harmful health side effects as a result. The Rhode Island Department of Health noted last year that Black and brown low-income children were significantly more likely to experience hospitalization due to pediatric asthma and that Rhode Island has a higher rate of pediatric asthma than the national average. Pediatric asthma is one of many adverse health effects linked with pollution. With the Sea 3 expansion, there is no question that these effects will worsen.
Rhode Island State Senator Cynthia Mendes (Democrat, District 18, East Providence) said, “If you’re not okay with something for your kids, then you absolutely cannot be okay with it for someone else’s,” and expressed that the Sea 3 expansion “is environmental racism in their backyard. It’s not a headline, it is not a campaign. It is something that people live and die from.”
Our perpetually hot days, extreme weather, extended allergy seasons and increases in bugs, many of which carry disease, are all directly linked to the climate crisis. If Rhode Island needs energy, we should be focusing on our communities here. Rhode Island does not need out-of-state fossil fuels polluting our communities without our consent; instead, we should employ Rhode Islanders to build sustainable energy alternatives. This would generate both jobs and clean energy sources.
Sea 3 offers extreme danger with little reward to the Providence community and Rhode Island as a whole. We cannot allow this out-of-state corporation to poison the people of Rhode Island. There are numerous clean energy alternatives to the fossil fuels Sea 3 has to offer. These alternatives can benefit our communities instead of hurting them, but for that to happen, Rhode Islanders need to stand up and make our voices heard.
Groups like the People’s Port Authority and Renew Rhode Island are encouraging Rhode Islanders to utilize the resources accessible here to express their opposition to Sea 3’s disastrous expansion.
Katarina Dulude is a volunteer with Renew Rhode Island.