Miller, Boylan want Rhode Island to lead by example on sustainability


STATE HOUSE – When it comes to sustainability and renewable energy, Sen. Joshua Miller and Rep. Jennifer Boylan are empowering the state agencies of Rhode Island to lead by example.

“Building a sustainable Rhode Island requires our whole state to pull together,” said Senator Miller (D-Dist. 28, Cranston, Providence). “This legislation will ensure that state agencies are not only meeting their obligations laid out in the Act on Climate but leading the way in Rhode Island and across New England.”

The two legislators are introducing legislation to amend state purchasing law to reduce the greenhouse gas emissions and landfill waste produced by state agencies.

“Our state agencies should walk the walk on sustainability and reducing our state’s greenhouse gas emissions,” said Representative Boylan (D-Dist. 66, Barrington, East Providence). “Not only will we reduce carbon emissions and waste in our state offices, we will provide a model for how the private sector can do the same.”

The bill (2024-H 7857, 2024-S 2543) would add four entries to the general laws regarding state purchasing, covering electric vehicles, renewable energy, recycling and compost and plastic bottle use.

Under this legislation, all state vehicles purchased would be electric and that the state would install at least 200 electric vehicle charging stations on state-owned property by 2030. These essential steps would help meet the state’s commitment to reduce emissions, made in the 2021 Act on Climate, by requiring that electric vehicles make up at least 45% of the state’s light-duty vehicle fleet. The bill provides exceptions to lease or purchase a hybrid vehicle if an electric vehicle is unavailable and to lease or purchase a conventional vehicle if no electric or hybrid vehicle is available.

This legislation would also direct the Department of Administration’s capital asset management division to reduce energy use at state buildings by 20% by 2025, 30% by 2040 and 40% by 2050, compared to a 2014 energy usage as a baseline. To achieve that, it would require that the state install renewable energy technologies, such as solar panels and heat pumps, and energy efficient technologies, such as efficient air conditioning, HVAC and lighting systems, during the construction of new state buildings and the renovation or repair of old state buildings.

“The genesis for this bill came out of respect for the legislators who have championed these issues and the state departments and officials who have been very active in making sustainability a priority,” said Senator Miller. “When I and like-minded advocates have presented on issues of sustainability to activists, other legislators and even school groups, we present it as leading by example. If you’re going to run on sustainability as a core issue, if your department is going to advocate for recycling and renewable energy, it should start with state purchasing.”

Said Sue AnderBois, director of climate and government relations at The Nature Conservancy in Rhode Island, “The Act on Climate sets mandatory, science-based mandates for eliminating carbon emissions from our economy. Achieving these mandates is non-optional and the Nature Conservancy’s highest priority. This legislation is so important because the state would be leading by example in their own operations as we create solutions that work for all sectors. This type of leadership from the state is essential and appreciated.”

The bill would also require all state buildings to purchase recycling bins and compost bins, and contract with a compost disposal service to service these bins. State cafeterias would have to provide biodegradable or compostable utensils, plates, cups, straws and napkins by 2025.

“Rhode Islanders are concerned about the growing problems of litter, marine debris and plastic pollution,” said Jed Thorp, Rhode Island director for Clean Water Action. “Many of the solutions require changing habits and making more thoughtful choices, and it’s important that the state ‘lead by example’ and show that progress is possible.”

According to estimates from the Rhode Island Resource Recovery Corporation, 32% of the municipal waste that ends up in the Johnston landfill could instead be composted, a change that would lower greenhouse gases by an equivalent of removing over 9,000 cars from the road per year.

Finally, the bill would also prohibit the use of state funds to purchase single-use bottled water, provided public or potable well water is available. It would provide exemptions for health, safety and emergencies.

“If we desire a more sustainable future in Rhode Island, there must be examples of how individuals, businesses, and government agencies can reach these goals,” said Jeff Hall, executive director of the Audubon Society of Rhode Island. “State government can be a leader by providing these examples, sharing and reporting on reducing waste and energy consumption while transitioning away from fossil fuels. This legislation aligns with the Act on Climate goals and takes tangible steps as the state retrofits existing infrastructure and invests in new carbon-free, efficient technologies on future buildings and vehicle purchases.”

Said Representative Boylan, “The urgency of addressing climate change and coastal erosion in Rhode cannot be overstated. These interconnected issues pose imminent threats to the environment, our economy, our lifestyle and Ocean State municipalities. Failure to take action now not only jeopardizes the delicate balance of ecosystems but also puts lives and livelihoods at risk. In an effort to address these challenges, it is critical that the members of the General Assembly work together to pass a package of legislation this session to reduce emissions from buildings and the transposition sector and reduce reliance on fossils fuels, to prepare for coastal erosion, all to include environmental justice with the full implementation on the Act on Climate. It is imperative for Rhode Islanders at every level to collaborate on comprehensive strategies to mitigate the impacts of climate change and protect our vulnerable coastal regions.”