EPA Helps Providence Address Climate Change

By TIM FAULKNER/ecoRI News staff

PROVIDENCE — In her first official visit to Rhode Island, Environmental Protection Agency Chief Gina McCarthy helped the city address climate change. At an Oct. 25 ceremony along the Providence River, McCarthy awarded $75,000 toward the city’s efforts to address flooding and drainage problems.

Specifically, the money will support stormwater infrastructure, which is faltering because of age and being inundated by more frequent and intense precipitation. "[The funding] helps communities build resilient systems to protect them from sever storms, floods and other impacts of a changing climate," McCarthy said.

The city has embarked on a regional stormwater utility district, a program that seeks to curb stormwater runoff and manage infrastructure through fees and incentives. In a stormwater management program, businesses and residents are assessed based on the amount of asphalt and other surfaces contributing to runoff.

“The real challenge is how do you fund them in a way that recognizes that urban communities have a lot of challenges they are facing,” McCarthy said. “We’re just trying to work through those.”

McCarthy, who was confirmed as EPA chief in July, announced similar funding for Detroit, Lincoln, Neb., Gary, Ind., Pima County, Ariz., and Spartanburg, S.C.

Carbon tax. “I’ll leave those challenges to Congress,” she said. ”What [President Obama] told us is we have administrative responsibility and authorities and we are going to use them to address climate change, because it is a significant public and economic challenge for this country. And what he’s told EPA is carbon pollution is what we regulate under the Clean Air Act. And we’re going to take some reasonable steps that will move this country forward.”

Fossil-fuel divestment. McCarthy declined to say if she supports local campaigns calling for divestment from fossil-fuel energy companies. “How people want to translate that into actions is their own business," she said. "It’s really EPA’s hope, though, that action will happen. That people will begin to embrace this and see that all levels of government as well as individuals and universities can make a difference.”