Rhode Island Governor Signs Climate Change Bill Into Law

NEWPORT, R.I. (AP) — A wide-ranging climate bill that requires Rhode Island to reach net-zero greenhouse gas emissions by 2050 was signed into law Saturday by Gov. Daniel McKee.

“With four hundred miles of coastline, urban and rural coastal communities, fishing and agricultural industries, the Ocean State is on the front lines of the climate crisis,” the Democrat said in a statement after the bill signing ceremony in Newport. “The Act on Climate represents a commitment that not only addresses a moral imperative, but also presents a platform to enhance our economy, public health, environmental equity, and natural environment."

The plan will be updated every five years. It also addresses environmental injustices, public health inequities and a fair employment transition as fossil-fuel jobs are replaced by green energy jobs, according to the governor's office.

The act positions the state, already home to the nation’s first commercial offshore wind farm, to help drive down the costs of environmentally sound technology, said Democratic state Sen. Dawn Euer, the bill’s Senate sponsor.

The bill requires the Executive Climate Change Coordinating Council to draft plans to hit the bill's goals.

The council was created in 2014 to advise the governor on what state agencies can do to address climate change. It's made up of heads of state agencies, including the departments of environmental management, transportation and health, and the energy resources office.

Opponents of the bill said it gives the council too much power and could prove costly to homeowners and businesses.

“Signing the Climate Act into law will empower unaccountable bureaucrats to impose significant costs on our small businesses, municipalities and especially, those Rhode Islanders who least can least afford to pay more for transportation, housing and utilities," Republican Minority Leader Blake Filippi said in a statement Friday. “We could have and should have done better for the people of the Ocean State.”