Energy and Environment
I have worked diligently in Congress to promote comprehensive policies promoting sound environmental stewardship, along with programs to enhance our energy security, ensure all Rhode Islanders have access to affordable power, and encourage energy conservation. I believe we must harness Americans’ ingenuity and creativity to make the United States a world leader in renewable energy technology and move our nation toward energy independence.
Creating Comprehensive Energy Solutions
I am a founding member of the Sustainable Energy and Environment Coalition (SEEC), the leading policy incubator for green innovation in the House of Representatives. As the Energy Task Force Chair on SEEC, I have sought solutions to the tradeoffs between reliable energy sources and the carbon-free future that we owe our children and grandchildren. Rhode Island has also been a leader in solar installations, and I continue to advocate for renewables to be properly counted as part of the region’s grid, and for the development of climate friendly price modeling.
I have been proud to see the Block Island Wind Farm go from development to operation. While I am excited for Rhode Island to host the first American offshore wind farm, I don’t want it to be the last. That’s why I introduced the Offshore WIND Act in the House, which will extend the investment tax credit for offshore wind. Unlike land-based wind power, which has become increasingly easier to build, offshore wind requires extensive siting and planning processes. With this extension, we will ensure that offshore wind power remains a growing part of the American renewables portfolio.
I also realize that Rhode Islanders have paid some of the highest electricity bills in the country. Thanks to the development of upgraded transmission and other cost-sharing measures, these bills have come down somewhat in recent years, but the challenges are far from over. Our homes and offices, warehouses and factories, all rely on energy infrastructure to keep warm in the winter and cool in the summer, and to keep Rhode Island open for business. With more plants permanently retiring from the New England grid, I have worked to ensure that we have the energy we need to prevent capacity issues and prevent additional price hikes.
We have the tools to make our buildings more energy efficient, but they are often viewed by developers as not being cost-effective. In turn, high energy costs are often incurred by property owners or renters, creating a significant disconnect between developers and users. To address this, I have introduced the Building Efficiently Act, which provides incentives for energy efficient construction and renovations. This bill will not only help bridge the disconnect between developers and end-users, it will create jobs in Rhode Island’s construction sector and decrease energy use and pollution for our consumers and businesses. If we empower Americans to make energy efficient choices, we can take a critical step towards energy independence.
I continue to advocate for strong federal funding of the Weatherization Assistance Program (WAP) and the State Energy Program (SEP), and I have voted in support of the continued authorization of both programs. Over the past 34 years, WAP has provided weatherization services to more than 7.3 million low-income households, significantly reducing their annual energy bills. (To apply for this weatherization assistance in Rhode Island, please see these guidelines, and contact your local community action agency.) The State Energy Program assists with innovation and the development of energy efficiency and renewable energy projects.
Addressing Global Climate Change
Climate change is a very real threat, and its effects are already being felt across the globe. Our glaciers are in retreat, calving ice into the sea on a daily basis. Climate patterns have become less predictable than ever, with spikes in storm strength and temperatures. That’s something we’re all too familiar with in the Ocean State, where rising sea levels and storm surges affect our citizens directly, and changing temperatures impact the state of our fisheries. This is why we need a carbon-free future as soon as possible, and that requires promoting the development and deployment of new energy technologies. I am a proud supporter of President Obama’s Clean Power Plan, and the regional commitment our Northeast states have made to the Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative (RGGI). Through these avenues, we are working on a comprehnesive American energy plan that is both reliable and sustainable.
Conservation of Our Land and Waters
I was proud to author and champion the law instructing the National Park Service to study the Wood-Pawcatuck River system in southern Rhode Island and eastern Connecticut for special preservation and protection. These pristine, natural waters are a treasure among the landmarks of New England, and they deserve inclusion in the list of Wild and Scenic Rivers organized by the Department of the Interior. The work of this designation is ongoing, and I look forward to continuing my collaboration with our local and federal partners to make this recognition a reality.
As part of my dedication to conservation, I have worked to keep offshore drilling out of the Atlantic Ocean – for good. The risks are too great to chance a spill that could be disruptive to marine life, and humans, for years into the future. I have also strongly advocated to keep harmful practices away from marine life, such as seismic airgun blasting, an unnecessary and cruel practice.
In Rhode Island, our oceans are our way of life. From commercial fishermen to recreational anglers, from boaters to beachgoers, we are all vested in the sustainability of our waters. I have continued to support ocean planning as a solution to mixed use of our offshore waters, by bringing all interested parties to the table to discuss their concerns and plan for the future.
I am a strong advocate for a bipartisan reauthorization of the Magnuson-Stevens Act, the benchmark law regulating fisheries management. Unfortunately, the last proposed MSA reauthorization was explicitly partisan, and would have done real damage to our fisheries. Additionally, through my “Rhode Island Fishermen’s Fairness Act,” I hope to bring increased equity for Rhode Island fishermen by granting them voting rights on the Mid-Atlantic Fishery Management Council. It only makes sense that our state should have a voice in regulating the species we regularly catch.
Improving the Quality of Our Air and Water
I have been proud to cosponsor the BREATHE Act and the FRESHER Act, bills that will tighten environmental safeguards on fracking, keeping the industry accountable for its impact on our nation’s water supply and air quality. I am also a cosponsor of the CLEANER Act, which will close exemptions on hazardous waste that the fossil fuels industry currently enjoys.
As a delegation, we also secured $18.2 million in new federal funding for clean water infrastructure in Rhode Island. I strongly support the Rhode Island Infrastructure Bank, and I have cosponsored legislation to provide increased federal coordination and financing for green banks such as ours. Improvements from such programs will save Rhode Island taxpayers money, while upgrading the resilience of our energy and water infrastructure.