Environment

The Texas-based pipeline company Spectra Energy has secured a permit from the Department of Environmental Management (DEM) to upgrade its compressor station in Burrillville. The upgrade is part of a pipeline expansion project to bring more natural gas to New England and ease the region’s energy crisis, according to the company.

Providence college professor Tony Affigne, who chairs the Green Party of Rhode Island, said he’s disappointed state officials did not conduct a more comprehensive review of the project.

By law, the Coastal Resources Management Council should have two hearing officers to oversee contested cases. But the agency has gone without a full-time hearing officer for more than 10 years.

  The state’s largest environmental advocacy group, Save The Bay, has called on Gov. Gina Raimondo to appoint at least one full-time hearing officer to the CRMC.

U.S. Geological Survey

The New England Fishery Management Council has reduced protections of highly sensitive areas in Georges Bank, on the continental shelf east of Cape Cod, and opened it to commercial scalloping. The vote comes after a 12-year-review of habitat protection measures in the Omnibus Habitat Amendment.

Approximately 10,000 square kilometers on Georges Bank, an important fishery area for Rhode Island fishermen, have been protected from fishing for more than 20 years.

John Bender / RIPR

Over the years, the state has slashed budgets across all government agencies, including the Department of Environmental Management. This agency, tasked with protecting the environment, has seen a decline in staffing. Environmental advocates say these cuts have weakened and slowed enforcing environmental laws and regulations.   

Earlier this year, residents packed a small room at the Statehouse for a hearing about a zoning bill. They complained to lawmakers about industrial pollution from a quarry in Westerly. Residents blame the DEM for poor monitoring and enforcement.

RIPR FILE

Sen. Sheldon Whitehouse has reintroduced carbon tax legislation to help reduce greenhouse gas emissions and boost the economy.

If approved, this revised carbon tax bill would start at $45 per ton starting next year, and increase each year by two percent.

A set of public lectures on how humans affect and respond to environmental changes kicks off this week at the University of Rhode Island. The Metcalf Institute for Marine & Environmental Reporting is hosting this annual series.

Ambar Espinoza / RIPR

Homeowners interested in switching to solar energy will soon have the option to do so with no upfront costs. The nation’s largest rooftop solar installer is coming to Rhode Island. Starting this week, California-based SolarCity will offer Rhode Islanders loans to buy home solar systems.

SolarCity will offer homeowners in 10 Rhode Island cities and towns loans to buy solar panels for their homes with no money down. Homeowners would pay for the loan in monthly installments, said Lee Keshishian, the company’s vice president for its East Coast operations.

J.T. Owens Park will soon be home to a small orchard, in tribute to a Providence neighborhood that once existed at the site. A group of local nonprofits and residents are planting the fruit trees today.

The West Elm neighborhood in the southwestern part of Providence was bulldozed in the early 1960s to build an industrial park. That displaced more than 500 families in one of the first racially integrated neighborhoods in the city, according to Holly Ewald, artistic director of UPP Arts, one of the groups organizing the event.

Todd Ugine / Cornell University Department of Entomology

Scientists have confirmed a sighting of a rare ladybug at Rocky Point in Warwick.  The nine-spotted ladybug, once common in the eastern U.S. has almost disappeared. Volunteers with the Rhode Island Natural History Survey found one of the ladybugs during an expedition last year.  Natural History Survey Executive Director David Gregg says Warwick is not a place he would have expected to make a scientific find.

    

U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service

The Department of Environmental Management has announced the closure of two areas in Charlestown; trails through East Beach and Ninigret Conservation Area. The trails are closed as of Tuesday, to protect Piping Plover nesting areas. 

The small shore bird is endangered and makes its home in the Ocean State.

RIPR File Photo

The Rhode Island School of Design is the first university in the state to pledge to stop investing in fossil fuel companies.

  Board Chairman Michael Spalter said the trustees studied the issue for two years after a student campaign. He said ultimately they felt it was the right move and voted unanimously for the change.

RIPR File Photo

Town officials on Block Island are calling the recent deer hunting season a success. Local hunters took down more than 400 deer.

Block Island has a high incidence of Lyme disease, transmitted by the bite of a deer tick. So last year the town of New Shoreham and the Department of Environmental Management hired a professional sharpshooting company, Connecticut-based White Buffalo, Inc., to curb the island’s large deer population. But the project fell through.

RIPR FILE

A bill attempting to phase out cesspools takes a major step forward this week. The Rhode Island Senate approved the bill.

The bill would require homeowners selling their properties to replace their cesspools with any system that handles and treats human waste, like a septic system. That’s a hole in the ground that receives untreated human waste from a building. It can contaminate groundwater and local waterways.  

Meg Kerr, Rhode Island director of Clean Water Action, said the bill has come before the General Assembly for a number of years now.

Courtesy of Peter Green / Audubon Society of Rhode Island

On Thursday morning three peregrine falcon chicks were banded atop the Bank of America building in downtown Providence.

Jeff Hall, senior director of advancement at the Audubon Society of Rhode Island (ASRI), was there to assist. He said falcons have been nesting at the Superman Building for 15 years now, making this a yearly spring ritual.

Rhode Island has received $1 million dollars from the Environmental Protection Agency to help clean up local brownfields; areas contaminated by toxic substances.  The money will go toward cleaning up areas in Pawtucket, Central Falls and Providence.  

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