East Providence Council unanimously backs proposed state climate change bills

“OSCAR” would fund future projects associated with impacts

By Mike Rego
Posted 5/23/19

EAST PROVIDENCE — As a coastal community in Rhode Island, East Providence should support and help initiate moves to address the potential impacts of climate change. It can be presumed from a recent vote …

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East Providence Council unanimously backs proposed state climate change bills

“OSCAR” would fund future projects associated with impacts

Posted

EAST PROVIDENCE — As a coastal community in Rhode Island, East Providence should support and help initiate moves to address the potential impacts of climate change. It can be presumed from a recent vote of the City Council.

At its May 21 meeting, the five-member body unanimously backed a resolution (see attached) sponsored by Ward 3 representative Nate Cahoon, which signaled the city’s stance on legislation currently being considered in the General Assembly.

East Providence became the sixth municipality to pass a similar resolution, joining Barrington, Charlestown, South Kingstown, Westerly and Portsmouth.

House Bill 5628 and Senate Bill 0412 (see attached) both call for establishing a fund titled Ocean State Climate Adaptation and Resilience Fund or “OSCAR,” essentially to finance at the state level maritime projects necessitated by climate change.

The summation of each piece of legislation reads OSCAR “provides grants to fund projects that adapt infrastructure on public lands to address impacts of climate change; identifies eligible/ineligible projects, allocation, disbursements, and financing of the fund. This act would take effect on July 1, 2019.”

Where it stands in terms of potential passage on Smith Hill or if it will receive the signature of the governor is still to be determined. Last week, however, the city’s legislative body appeared to offer its full-throated support.

“Whether folks want to believe it or not, the fact that sea level rise has been occurring fairly steadily over the last century or so and will continue to do so is kind of a matter of the public scientific record,” Mr. Cahoon said while introducing the resolution.

According to figures cited by Mr. Cahoon, sea level rise is projected to increase by one foot in 2035, two feet in 2050 and nine feet by the year 2100. East Providence has 14.4 miles of coastline on the Providence and Seekonk Rivers feeding into Narragansett Bay that could be affected by potential rise in sea levels.

“Nine feet is really cataclysmic,” Mr. Cahoon noted, adding later, “With things like this, everyone is wrestling, trying to find the best way forward.”

Key elements of the legislation call for funding construction projects like building sea walls to combat erosion and implementing a levy of 5 cents per barrel of petroleum delivered to Rhode Island ports. Projected income to the fund is approximately $1.9 million annually. The estimate costs to consumers is about one cent on 10 gallons gasoline at the pump or 25 cents on a 250-gallon delivery of home heating oil.

“There’s a nice symmetry in that to me,” Mr. Cahoon said of the proposed tariff. “There’s an added cost to petroleum use, fossil fuel use that we haven’t addressed in the history of using it and what it does to our climate, the cost that we have as communities for having to repair things like erosion, things like clean-up.”

Like the local legislative bodies, Save the Bay has also offered its support of the legislation.

“The impacts of climate change are already being felt in Rhode Island, and those impacts will only grow over time,” Save the Bay Executive Director Jonathan Stone wrote in a statement. “Cities and towns need help adapting their infrastructure to impacts like sea level rise, river flooding, storm surge and coastal erosion.”

He added, OSCAR is “sound environmental policy and we urge the General Assembly to pass it into law.”

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Mike Rego

Mike Rego has worked at East Bay Newspapers since 2001, helping the company launch The Westport Shorelines. He soon after became a Sports Editor, spending the next 10-plus years in that role before taking over as editor of The East Providence Post in February of 2012. To contact Mike about The Post or to submit information, suggest story ideas or photo opportunities, etc. in East Providence, email mrego@eastbaymediagroup.com.