RI Fiscal Cliff: effects on the state's environment

PROVIDENCE, RI – All this week we're looking at what's vulnerable in Rhode Island should the U.S. government fall over the so-called "fiscal cliff" triggering spending cuts and tax hikes. While it's unclear whether lawmakers on Capitol Hill will come to an agreement before the end of the year, funding for the environment could face cuts. For example, jobs created by wind energy are at risk.

Representative Jim Langevin says that investment tied to wind energy could be affected through across the board cuts. "Certainly if it were to expire at the end of the year that's going to hurt the development of the wind energy industry and that's something that is going to affect Rhode Island both in terms of jobs but also the ability to develop wind energy."

Langevin says the cuts do not allow Congress to make smart cuts to programs, allowing them to preserve programs like tax credits for renewable energy. He adds that wind energy is an area that could boost Rhode Island's struggling economy. And that hundreds of jobs already in the state could be at risk if lawmakers fail to reach a deal.

Cuts to the Environmental Protection Agency could also impact the water we drink.

The EPA is the primary funder of the state's Clean Water Finance Agency. That's the state agency that runs a revolving fund (commonly referred to as SRFs) that provides low interest loans to communities looking to improve their drinking water and sewer systems. The EPA's Region One Clean Water Coordinator, James Bourne, says potential cuts caused by the fiscal cliff could end up affecting Rhode Island ability to improve its water systems.

But like everything in this fiscal cliff business, it all depends. "We're trying to guesstimate what would go on. There is no determination up front whether EPA would be cut or not. If it did whether it would be taken out of the SRFs component or not."

Bourne adds his agency really isn't planning for the fiscal cliff yet. He says the EPA is looking into contingency plans for staffing. But it's really like looking into a black hole. In that no one really knows what is going to happen.

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