New England Currents - Rhode Island Edition - Fall 2016

October 28, 2016
New England Currents - Fall 2016

Election Day 2016: 
The High Stakes Battle for Our Health and Environment

It’s hard to imagine a more urgent or starkly defined election season than this one. New England has many opportunities to stand with candidates who will lead the way in the fight for clean air, clean water, and healthy communities. Clean Water Action is highlighting the key races that will strengthen the voice of our champions, bring in a new crop of enthusiastic leaders, and build the political power we need to win the battle for a healthier tomorrow throughout the region.

Our process is strictly non-partisan — endorsements are based on environmental track records and new commitments in important areas like protecting children’s health from toxic chemicals or advancing clean energy policies that cut carbon pollution. In Connecticut, Massachusetts and Rhode Island, Clean Water has endorsed the superstars who have led the campaigns for green jobs creation and solar energy, for green infrastructure investments in our communities, for phase-outs of toxic flame retardants that threaten firefighter health. 

Please support these candidates and volunteer with Clean Water Action to get out the vote on Tuesday, November 8 so New England’s green values will be well represented by elected officials. For more information, or to volunteer in this effort, please call the Clean Water Action offices nearest you!

Hillary Clinton for President. Learn more here, here, and here

Rhode Island Endorsements

Rhode Island’s Green Economy Bond:Vote Yes on Question 6 in November

Rhode Island may be the smallest state in the nation, but it is a giant when it comes to its natural assets. Rhode Island is known for its vast open spaces, conserved woodlands, and of course its glorious beaches and waters. Despite thriving tourism and recreation sectors, it has been slow to recover from the economic downturn of the last decade.

Realizing that the engine for Rhode Island’s economic recovery has been its environment, state leaders led by Governor Gina Raimondo included a $35 million Green Economy Bond in the 2017 state budget as an investment in Rhode Island’s environment and economy.

If approved by Rhode Island voters in November, the Green Economy Bond will allocate millions of dollars to local governments to protect and preserve green spaces, improve water quality, expand the state bike path network, and build healthier communities while providing local jobs for state residents.

A broad coalition of organizations including Clean Water Action, Audubon Society of Rhode Island, The Nature Conservancy, Blackstone Valley Tourism Council, Bike Newport, the Rhode Island Building and Constriction Trades Council and many others are working together to reach out to communities in Rhode Island to illustrate how this investment in the state’s environment will reap benefits for years to come.

Specifically, the Green Economy Bond provides money for historic state park redevelopment, state and local land acquisition, recreation programs, expansion of the state bike path network, brownfield remediation and redevelopment, and stormwater management. The idea is that these monies work together to create healthy, livable, and connected communities.

Furthermore, funded projects will put millions of additional dollars into the state economy thanks to new, local construction and maintenance jobs as well as boosts to the existing tourism and recreation industries.

Rhode Island’s environment — from iconic landscapes and coastline to local foods and vibrant neighborhoods — is at the heart of why people choose the Ocean State to live, visit, work and raise a family. Passage of the Green Economy Bond — Question 6 on the November ballot — will mean direct investments in the health of Rhode Island’s lands, waters, and communities along with a boost to the state’s economy.

For more information, visit this page

New England

Halloween Can Be Scarier Than You Think

Halloween is coming soon and while you do your shopping for costumes and candy don’t forget to check if that face paint has toxic chemicals that can haunt you and your child.

A new report, Pretty Scary 2: Unmasking toxic chemicals in kids’ makeup, released in October by the Campaign for Safe Cosmetics and co-released by Clean Water Action found potentially harmful chemicals in products marketed to your kids. Protecting your children’s health and well-being may require careful inspection of the face paints sold in your local stores and at large retailers because they can be contaminated by heavy metals including lead and cadmium. Lead causes altered brain development and learning difficulties while cadmium disrupts the body’s hormones.

Unfortunately, this issue isn’t limited to Halloween; the report also unmasks frightening ingredients found in lip balm, nail and makeup kits, and other cosmetics marketed to kids ages 4-14. Clean Water Action teams in Massachusetts, Rhode Island and Connecticut participated in this project by purchasing products from local branches Justice and Claire’s that were tested in an independent lab for toxic chemicals.

Children are especially vulnerable to the effects of chemicals, and preventing early-life exposures to harmful substances can help prevent health problems throughout their lives. Despite the cosmetics industry’s claim to the contrary, small exposures can add up to harm and a growing body of scientific evidence shows that even tiny doses of some chemicals can be harmful.

This report will help parents to make sure that a tummy-ache from too much candy is the only thing that will get their kids sick this Halloween, but it shouldn’t be their job. Unfortunately federal laws that regulate cosmetics are sorely lacking the FDA is not empowered to regulate these products.  We think it’s time for a revision that will protect children and all of our health. The good news: it looks like reform bills updating the rules governing the safety of personal care products are on deck for 2017 so please stay tuned for opportunities to stand up for common sense health protections!

Read the full report: Pretty Scary 2

Rhode Island Endorsements - General Assembly

This year, Clean Water Action is endorsing a large slate of candidates in Rhode Island, all of whom have made the environment a top priority. A common theme among all endorsees is a concern about the effect of climate change on Rhode Island, its communities, and its economy. Whether it is through attempts to lower carbon emissions and promote renewable energy, address sea level rise and flooding during storms, or ratcheting down our carbon footprint by reducing the amount of waste we generate, a number of Clean Water Action’s allies in the legislature are committed to continuing their important work if re-elected.

Rep. Aaron Regunberg is leading the charge in the General Assembly to pass a carbon pricing bill that would place a tax on fossil fuels imported into the state. These funds would then be invested in renewable energy projects across the state.

Rep. Lauren Carson has championed efforts to address stormwater statewide through green infrastructure projects and led a legislative study commission to examine the effects that sea level rise will have on our coastal communities.

And Rep. Chris Blazejewski and Sen. Josh Miller have committed to reintroduce legislation meant to drastically reduce the amount of plastic and paper waste generated by Rhode Island cities and towns.

Another theme in this year’s election has been the connection between Rhode Island’s economic wellbeing and environment and natural resources. Sen. Teresa Paiva-Weed and Rep. Teresa Tanzi have led the way in the legislature to boost Rhode Island’s “green economy” by respectively championing a robust slate of green jobs bills and the passage of a $35 million Green Economy Bond. The former is meant to create employment for Rhode Islanders through the development of renewable energy and energy efficiency projects, while the latter boosts the state’s tourism, hospitality, and recreation sectors and creates jobs through the construction and maintenance of bike paths and green infrastructure.

Finally, the groundswell of activism generated by Bernie Sanders’ presidential run is illustrated by the slate of first-time progressive candidates running for General Assembly seats in Rhode Island, all of whom have committed to making fighting for the environment and addressing climate change among their top priorities.

At the federal level, Clean Water Action has endorsed Congressman David Cicilline and Congressman Jim Langevin. Both have proven themselves to be champions of the environment in Congress, earning a 100% rating on Clean Water Action’s Legislative Scorecard for fighting efforts in the House to undermine the Clean Water Act, roll back carbon emissions reduction goals, and undo safeguards for public health.

Full list of Rhode Island endorsements:

U.S. House

David Cicilline, District 1

Jim Langevin, District 2

State Senate

Adam Satchell, District 9

Teresa Paiva-Weed, District 13

Margaux Morrisseau, District 21

Josh Miller, District 28

Jeanine Calkin, District 30

State House

Edith Ajello, District 1

Christopher Blazejewski, District 2

Moira Walsh, District 3

Aaron Regunberg, District 4

Marcia Ranglin-Vassell, District 5

Grace Diaz, District 11

Arthur Handy, District 18

David Bennett, District 20

State House

Joseph Solomon, Jr., District 22

Evan Shanley, District 24

Ryan Hall, District 28

Lisa Tomasso, District 29

Carol Hagan McEntee, District 33

Teresa Tanzi, District 34

Kathleen Fogarty, District 35

Mia Ackerman, District 45

State House

Cale Keable, District 47

Alex Marszalkowski, District 52

William O’Brien, District 54

Jason Knight, District 67

Susan Donovan, District 69

Linda Finn, District 72

Deborah Ruggiero, District 74

Lauren Carson, District 75

In Connecticut and Massachusetts

Massachusetts Endorsements

Clean Water Action endorses the candidates below. Please see our full list of endorsements at right. For more information on the candidates we’ve endorsed visit this page

Adam Hinds for State Senate: Adam has worked locally and internationally to advance public health, economic development, and peace initiatives.

Jack Patrick Lewis for State Representative: An ordained minister and community advocate for LGBTQ issues, Jack believes our state must continue to invest in the development of clean energy resources, expand its commitment to public transportation and protect public lands. He will be welcome as a strong progressive voice on Beacon Hill.

Eric Lesser for State Senate: A young leader in the Massachusetts Senate and former employee of the Obama administration, Eric has taken on initiatives related to millenials, manufacturing and modernizing our state’s government. He is a strong advocate for renewable energy, and recognizes Massachusetts must continue to lead in innovative solutions to combat climate change.

Jamie Eldridge for State Senate: Jamie has led fights to phase out fossil fuels, oppose gas pipeline expansion, grow a renewable energy economy, protect our natural environment, support sustainable water infrastructure and ensure green technologies reach all people.

Clean Water Action has also endorsed two ballot questions that are before Massachusetts Voters

Yes on 3: Prevent extreme farm animal confinement

Confined animal feeding operations (CAFOs) confine enormous numbers of egg-laying hens, breeding pigs, and veal calves in cages so small they can barely move. They produce enormous and extremely concentrated amounts of waste that pollute water and air and threaten public health in neighboring communities.  Question 3 would prohibit any confinement of pigs, calves, and hens that prevents them from lying down, standing up, fully extending their limbs, or turning around freely.  Voting YES on ballot question 3 would protect our rivers, air, and health as well as reduce animal suffering.

In Boston — Yes on 5: Implement the Community Preservation Act

The Community Preservation Act, adopted in 2000, allows cities and towns to add a small surcharge (matched by state funding) to property taxes to be used for affordable housing, parks and historic preservation. Over 160 cities and towns have embraced it and it’s time for Boston to do the same.  Question 5 would add a 1% surcharge to property taxes in Boston. The average single family homeowner would pay an average of only $24 per year, and in turn, the city would generate up to $20 million every year for CPA projects such as acquiring land to protect water quality and reduce climate change impacts, developing and improving green space, and creating affordable housing. Voting YES on 5 will help ensure that as Boston continues to develop it will do so in a sustainable and affordable way.

Full list of Massachusetts endorsements:

State Hosue:

  • Rep. Cory Atkins 
14th Middlesex
  • Rep. Marjorie Decker
 25th Middlesex
  • Rep. Tricia Farley-Bouvier 
3rd Berkshire
  • Natalie Higgins
 4th Worcester
  • Paul Jacques 
4th Bristol
  • Jack Patrick Lewis 
7th Middlesex
  • Matt Patrick 
3rd Barnstable
  • Rep. Denise Provost
 27th Middlesex

State Senate:

  • Julian Cyr
 Cape & Islands
  • Sen. James Eldridge
 Middlesex & Worcester
  • Adam Hinds
Berkshire, Franklin,Hampden & Hampshire
  • Sen. Patricia Jehlen 
2nd Middlesex
  • Sen. Barbara L’Italien
 2nd Essex & Middlesex
  • Sen. Eric Lesser 
1st Hampden & Hampshire
  • Sen. Jason Lewis
 5th Middlesex

Cape Cod Commission

  • Mark Forest 
Barnstable County Commissioner


Our Future Our Power:
 The Worcester Community Energy Forum

With most conversations about energy policy happening at the State House or in the boardrooms of utility companies and planning agencies, important decisions are made every day without input from communities that bear the brunt of our current energy systems. But facing high bills, dire climate change impacts and the loss of economic potential, communities are beginning to respond with cleaner, more equitable practices, and capturing jobs, health benefits and renewable energy resources for the long term.

In Worcester, MA, local groups are building a grassroots network called the Worcester Community Energy Alliance with residents from a broad range of backgrounds. On a rainy October Saturday recently, Clean Water Action assisted about 60 community members with the South East Asian Coalition, 350 Central MA and other groups to discuss alternative energy options and decide how best to make their community more resilient to climate disruption. It was a lively atmosphere with an opening dragon dance, interpretation into Spanish, Vietnamese and Arabic, and childcare enabling parents to participate.

Four stations set up allowed everyone to learn about energy efficiency programs, the high costs of gas leaks and pipelines, an innovative microgrid project and community shared solar. It was evident that most people did not know about valuable programs like Mass Save — which they already pay for through utility bill fees — or about collective ownership models that a worker-owned solar business called Co-op Power is developing. But both young and old came out of the interactive sessions armed with information on how to participate in the heated energy debates, and in local projects like a community resilience microgrid being developed in the low-income Main South neighborhood.

Time and resources may be tight these days, but one thing is sure: the energy future in Worcester looks bright.

Connecticut Endorsements

Dante’ Bartolomeo: Dante’ has been a senate champion for Clean Water Action’s flame retardant bans and the chemicals of concern initiatives.  She is a strong advocate for protecting children, families and firefighters from toxic chemicals and a supporter of our environmental priorities, particularly protecting our state’s waters.

Terry Gerratana: Terry has been a senate champion and bill sponsor for the chemicals of concern bill and a strong advocate for protecting children and the most vulnerable residents from chemicals that pose health hazards such as flame retardants.  Terry has been a vocal champion for environmental issues including water protection.

Jonathan Steinberg: Jonathan has been a long term and strong advocate for all of Clean Water Action’s initiatives.  He’s been a leader on shifting to sustainable, renewable sources of energy and policies to protect residents from toxic chemicals.  He has been a co-sponsor on all Clean Water priority bills and a tireless advocate for his constituents and all of Connecticut.

Annie Hornish: Annie was a former state representative and now a challenger to a long-term incumbent in the Senate.  She has a track record of supporting policies that protect children and is supportive of Clean Water’s work on toxic chemicals, expanded renewable energy initiatives and policies that protect the environment.


A Clean Energy Revolution in Connecticut!

Clean Water Fund’s Connecticut program is breaking new ground in supporting over 60 Clean Energy Task Forces that help local governments plan clean energy initiatives and engage local residents. At a packed statewide gathering held September 10, four volunteer “working groups” mapped out strategies for local action to move toward 100% renewable energy,  leverage existing funding resources and plan local energy systems able to withstand extreme weather and climate instability.

From solar canopies in commuter lots to resilient local power networks, many of these appointed volunteers have successfully led campaigns that have ushered in exciting projects to expand local clean energy resources.With funding from a consortium of foundations — Tremaine, Hampshire and the Common Sense Fund — Clean Water staff have nurtured these local groups with direct organizing support, tools and technical information and a popular website with the latest tips and innovations —

And this local expertise can have a big statewide impact. As the state finalizes its next 3-year energy plan and the recommendations of the Governor’s Council on Climate Change, Clean Water helps communities share their local success and vision for a clean energy future with state level decision-makers who can make better decisions based on these local community experiences.

Community Ingenuity: The new working groups are key to ensuring those impacts. Each group is organizing members from new towns that want to advance these goals with support from the task force network. Each group is a small expeditionary force learning how to move through truly uncharted territory. For example, Westport, West Hartford and Simsbury Task Force leaders mapped out an assessment framework for a whole community’s energy use — electricity, buildings, transportation — and are identifying locations where renewable installations might make sense. Next, they reached out to staff at the electric utility, Eversource, to identify any weaknesses in the grid or other concerns that would affect energy planning. This allowed them to create a teachable method for planning to get to 100% renewable energy that they’re eager to share with additional Connecticut towns. 

These efforts, this season, mean that Connecticut will have a new level of statewide reach for helping towns to set ambitious clean energy goals — and a mechanism for knowing how we’re doing.

For more information on what’s moving in your area, please contact our Hartford office at 860-232-6232.