Dear Chairperson Dawn Euer and members of the Senate Committee on Environment and Agriculture:
We are writing to request that you reject the reconfirmation of Coastal Resources Management Council (CRMC) members Joy Montenaro, Jerry Sahagian, Donald Gomez, Raymond Coia and Jennifer Cervanka and that you further appoint new members with environmental expertise who reflect the populations and interests most likely to be affected by activities on the coast, especially environmental justice communities* and communities of color.
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. 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. 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. New appointments of people who do meet these standards are surely required, 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.
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. 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 and one from Washington Park, in addition to the other qualifications noted above. To meet the requirement that 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.
Environmental Justice Communities are established by DEM by using census data to determine if the census block is in the top 15% for the state as either minority or low income as these are the communities that are disproportionately impacted by pollution. According to EPA, Environmental justice is the fair treatment and meaningful involvement of all people regardless of race, color, national origin, or income, with respect to the development, implementation, and enforcement of environmental laws, regulations, and policies. This goal will be achieved when everyone enjoys the same degree of protection from environmental and health hazards, and equal access to the decision-making process to have a healthy environment in which to live, learn, and work.
Senators, we urge you to reject the reappointment of Joy Montenaro, Jerry Sahagian, Donald Gomez, Raymond Coia and Jennifer Cervanka. 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.
The People’s Port Authority,
Monica Huertas, Executive Director