Coalition of local grassroots organizations and Rhode Islanders calls on Governor Gina Raimondo to appoint a new Public Utilities Commission Chair who will support a just transition away from fossil fuels
A group of local grassroots organizations and concerned Rhode Islanders delivered a public petition to Governor Gina Raimondo’s office today asking that she appoint a new Chairperson to the Public Utilities Commission (PUC) who will support a just transition to renewable energy in Rhode Island.
Raimondo’s previous nomination of Laura Olton to the position demonstrated a critical lack of consideration for conflicts of interest in the commission’s role. The PUC is often seen as a rubber stamp for National Grid and other large corporations, and potential conflicts of interest such as Ms Olton’s association with National Grid intensify that perception. Early this year Olton withdrew her name from consideration, presenting the Governor with an important opportunity to take a take a more collaborative, informed and transparent approach to nominating new Chair to the PUC. To that end we ask that the next appointee demonstrates a willingness to work towards transitioning Rhode Island’s energy infrastructure away from fossil fuels while maintaining affordability for lowest income houses by implementing a percentage of income payment plan (PIPP).
Rhode Island is the fastest-warming of the lower 48 states, having already experienced 2 degrees Celsius of warming. The issue of climate change is the most pressing question of our era, threatening the very existence of humanity on this planet, and the PUC Chair has a critical role to play in making sure Rhode Island takes both the steps needed to avert the worst of the coming catastrophe and to protect residents against climate shocks. Their position as chair of the Energy Facility Siting Board gives them a vital place in the fight against climate change. The PUC also has a critical role in making sure that any transition to a new system will be a just transition, ensuring that those economically dependent on the current system will not be displaced and that those most affected by the current system’s faults are compensated and empowered.
As groups that consider access to energy utilities to be a basic human right, that believes no person should be denied their basic rights for any reason, and that places equity, sustainability and democracy as central goals to guide the development of any policy or institution, we believe that any future nominee to the position of PUC Chair should be someone who:
- Lacks any potential conflicts of interest, professional or otherwise, relating to their role as Chair on behalf of the people of Rhode Island.
- Will treat climate change as the existential crisis that it is, and will take steps needed to avert the worst of the crisis, including adhering to the greenhouse gas emission targets of the Resilient Rhode Island Act.
- Supports the implementation of a percentage of income payment plan (PIPP) for energy utilities state-wide to alleviate cost burdens on Rhode Island’s lowest income households.
- Is representative of, or has a history of working alongside and empowering Rhode Island’s vulnerable communities most critically affected by utility costs, and has lived in Rhode Island or has significant ties to community and place here.
Signatories to the letter include:
- The Providence Democratic Socialists of America
- Coyote RI
- The George Wiley Center
- Progressive Democrats of Rhode Island
- SUGSE (Stand Up for Graduate Student Employees) Organizing Committee
- Working Families Party of Rhode Island
- Climate Action Rhode Island – 350
- National Lawyer’s Guild of Rhode Island
- Civic Alliance for a Cooler Rhode Island
- Senator Sam Bell (Democrat, District 5, Providence)
- Providence City Councilor Rachel Miller (Ward 13)
- Woonsocket City Councilor Alex Kithes
- Monica Huertas, Candidate for Providence City Council (Ward 10)
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The full letter is available here.