“The re-appointments of the CRMC, we’re going to hold off for another week on them,” said Senate Committee on Environment and Agriculture Chair Susan Sosnowski (Democrat, District 37, Block Island, South Kingstown). “We’ve received correspondence from folks. We’re just going to have some legal opinions on some of the allegations that were made. So we won’t be taking them up today.”
The senate committee was originally going to take up the reappointment of Coastal Resources Management Council (CRMC) members Donald Gomez, Michael Hudner and Patricia Reynolds, but a letter from Monica Huertas, campaign coordinator from No LNG in PVD! has caused a delay.
“Rhode Island state law calls for the CRMC to have 16 members, a maximum of 8 of whom are to be appointed by the governor,” wrote Huertas. “Additionally, half of the CRMC shall be elected or appointed officials at the time of their appointment, and the majority of the members shall represent coastal communities. At present, the CRMC has 10 members, all of whom have been appointed by the governor. At this time it is unclear how many CRMC members are elected or appointed officials at the time of their appointment. Currently less than half of the CRMC members reside in coastal communities.”
Huertas noted that, “There appears to be some confusion as to whom, besides the governor, has the authority to fill CRMC positions, but it is clear that the governor has appointed more than the amount allotted to her office and that not all of them meet the existing criteria.”
In April Save The Bay filed a complaint in Rhode Island Superior Court asking for a declaratory judgment clarifying the number of members Rhode Island Governor Gina Raimondo has the authority to appoint to the CRMC and the required qualifications of those members.
“New appointments of people who do meet these standards are surely required,” wrote Huertas, “and it is also surely reasonable to ask that they be people whose record and expertise demonstrated that they will make informed decisions on environmental issues, with an emphasis in the health and safety of Rhode Island’s coasts and coastal communities, not merely on the profits of corporations.”
Huertas then went on to recount some of the issues No LNG in PVD! ran into during the CRMC meetings dealing with National Grid‘s proposed liquefaction facility aimed at the Port of Providence.
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“It is also clear from recent behavior and decisions of the current CRMC membership that they cannot be relied on to make decisions that give full weight to environmental and human health, or to treat all coastal communities equally,” wrote Huertas. “In 2017 hearings for the liquid natural gas (LNG) plant proposed by National Grid for the Port of Providence, the CRMC members and chair decided in favor of National Grid, the corporate applicant, despite more than 8 hours of testimony from both experts and residents of the affected community presenting the negative environmental and human health effects of the proposed LNG plant, as well as reasons to question its structural soundness and safety.
“During the hearing process, they also showed a distinct bias against community members of color when the latter got up to testify: CRMC members interrupted such speakers, turned off microphones and stepped away from the table, and eventually called security on one person before she completed her testimony,” continued Huertas.
You can see some of what Huertas is referring to in the two videos below:
“Further, these hearings were repeatedly held in a location difficult for members of the affected community to reach (One Capitol Hill, remote from the South Side of Providence) and intimidating for members of the affected community to enter, despite the suggestion of several alternative sites that they could have accessed more easily.
“By contrast, as former CRMC member Tony Affigne noted in 2017, the CRMC has in the past moved hearings as far as Newport and Block Island so that community members could ‘more easily attend and comment on controversial proposals.’ If the current membership of the CRMC cannot respond to stakeholders’ needs and concerns in an even handed fashion, then the membership needs to change,” wrote Huertas.
“EPA New England lists South Providence and Washington Park as Environmental Justice communities; other coastal Rhode Island communities that are also Environmental Justice communities include neighborhoods in Central Falls, southern Narragansett, northern Newport, Warwick, East Providence and North Kingstown,” wrote Huertas, getting to what I see as her most important point:
“Environmental Justice communities in Rhode Island, particularly communities of color which are more likely to be affected by environmental racism and treated as sacrifice zones for industry, should be represented on the CRMC: We are calling for a minimum of four members of the required 16-person CRMC to be people of color, with one a resident of the South Side Providence, in addition to the other qualifications noted above. To meet the requirement of the majority of the CRMC members need to reside in coastal communities, we request that new appointees from coastal communities reside in coastal Environmental Justice communities.
“Senators, we urge you to reject the reappointment of Patricia Reynolds, Donald Gomez and Michael Hudner. We also urge that this be the first part of a process of making sure that CRMC membership reflects both the makeup and the interests of all affected communities, most especially Environmental Justice communities inhabited by people of color. In this way can Rhode Islanders be confident that the long-term health, safety and functioning of all our coastal communities, not just those inhabited by our wealthiest residents, and the interests of our environment and people, not just of a few people and their corporate allies.”
Here’s some of my coverage:
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