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Raimondo introduces bill to change makeup and nature of the Coastal Resources Management Council



Rhode Island Governor Gina Raimondo has responded, in a way, to a Superior Court complaint made by Save The Bay and a letter from the No LNG in PVD! campaign over the number and nature of the Governor’s appointees to the Coastal Resources Management Council (CRMC). Raimondo responded by entering legislation, through Senate Environment and Agriculture Committee Chair Senator Susan Sosnowski (Democrat, District 37, Block Island, South Kingstown) that will alter the law surrounding appointments to the CRMC to the Governor’s liking.

Senate Bill 2955 “would amend the composition, size, and requirements of memberships on the Coastal Resources Management Council.” There is currently no version of the bill in the House.

When I asked the Governor’s office for a comment on the bill, I got the following response:

“Hi Steve – there’s a good rundown of the reasoning behind this bill in today’s Journal.”

In the Providence Journal piece, written by Alex Kuffner, Kendra Beaver, staff attorney for Save The Bay said the legislation was “the product of talks between multiple parties,” adding, “We’ve been working with the CRMC and the governor’s office on legislation to address the concerns in our complaint.”

Topher Hamblett of Save The Bay told me that his organization “made our goals known to the administration and reviewed a draft, but this is their bill and we are responding to the final draft.”

The CRMC is currently made up of ten people, all appointed by the Governor, but state law allows the governor to only appoint eight members. Senator Sosnowski held off on approving Raimondo’s re-appointments last week, citing a letter from Monica Huertas, campaign coordinator for No LNG in PVD! challenging the legality of the re-appointments.

The letter from Huertas also talked about representation on the board, noting that:

“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… To meet the requirement that the majority of CRMC members need to reside in coastal communities, we request that new appointees from coastal communities reside in coastal Environmental Justice communities.”

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The bill introduced by Sosnowski does nothing to address the concerns of Huertas.

Despite confusion about the law, the pending court decision, the entry of new legislation to deal with some of the issues and accusations of environmental racism on the part of the CRMC, the Senate Committee on Environment and Agriculture is meeting at the rise to discuss the re-appointment of Donald Gomez, Michael Hudner and Patricia Reynolds to the CRMC.

At the same time, No LNG in PVD! is planning a “Flood the Statehouse!” event to call attention to the environmental racism in the Port of Providence. Organizers write:

“For almost three years No LNG in PVD has been calling attention to the unsafe, unhealthy, potentially catastrophic conditions in Fields Point and Governor Gina Raimondo and most of her colleagues at the statehouse have remained SILENT. Please join us in flooding the statehouse with people to say: No LNG in PVD!

“The southside will not be sacrificed!

“No more fossil fuel infrastructure!

“Not in the Port of Providence!

“Not anywhere!

“No LNG in PVD! is not only concerned with National Greed’s Liquefied Natural Gas Liquefaction export facility. It is unnecessary, unsafe and costly, but as seen by a malfunctioning port alarm, the recent natural gas explosion on Allens Ave and the state’s unwillingness to look at the cumulative dangers of the Port, whether or not this facility is built the southside and Washington Park are in danger and unprepared for an extreme weather event and subsequent flood. Both sides of Allens Ave are overflowing with toxic, explosive facilites. National Grid, Shell, Univar, the scrapyards. All on the WRONG SIDE OF THE HURRICANCE BARRIER and adjacent to overburdened working-class communities of color.

“Our neighbors are in danger. Our hospitals are at risk. Our schools are at risk. This is unacceptable and WE NEED YOU to stand with us, #FloodTheStateHouse and get the Governor to say #NoLNGinPVD

Raimondo’s actions around the CRMC may have political consequences:

Democratic Candidate for Governor Paul Roselli writes:

“Senate Bill 2955 would reduce the number of CRMC members from 16 down to ten, would eliminate the required appointment of other agencies such as the Rhode Island Department of Health, the University of Rhode Island, the Rhode Island department of Environmental Management, the Narragansett Bay laboratory, the Marine Trade Association and more. The proposed changes to the CRMC is empire building. Our Governor should be ashamed at the lack of local control this bill would recommend. The Senate Bill could have been constructed to include scientists, engineers, climatologists, environmentalists, and those who study the bay and oceans. Instead, the bill puts power in the hands of the Governor for controlling the makeup, the character and direction of the board. Members from coastal communities would all but be eliminated. There is a pattern with this Governor to remove all dissent and put in its place people who follow orders.”

See also:

No LNG in PVD! demands representation for Environmental Justice communities on the CRMC

Save The Bay files complaint in Superior Court over Governor Raimondo’s CRMC appointments

Raimondo breaks silence on CRMC and Jennifer Cervenka

CRMC approves National Grid project over community objections

CRMC to vote on Providence LNG plant despite calls for chair’s resignation

As more elected officials call for resignation of CRMC chair, Governor Raimondo remains silent

Senator Calkin, Representative Diaz first elected officials to call for CRMC Chair Cervenka’s resignation

NoLNGinPVD calls for the immediate resignation of CRMC Chair Cervenka

Former CRMC member Tony Affigne on environmental racism and the use of police power at CRMC meetings

The apparent conflict of interest between National Grid and CRMC Chair Jennifer Cervenka

CRMC hearing consumed by public testimony against National Grid’s Port project

CRMC needs to reject proposed liquefied natural gas plant in Providence

Community members label National Grid’s Port of Providence plans environmental racism at CRMC meeting

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About the Author

Steve Ahlquist is Uprise RI's co-founder and lead reporter. He has covered human rights, social justice, progressive politics and environmental news for nearly a decade.