Editor’s note: This past summer ecoRI News sent the candidates running for governor, including incumbent Gina Raimondo, a 10-question primary preview focused on environmental issues related to Rhode Island. This story has been updated for the general election.
Compiled by TIM FAULKNER/ecoRI News staff
The Rhode Island general election is scheduled for Nov. 6, and six candidates are running for governor, including incumbent Gina Raimondo.
Here is a look at Rhode Island's gubernatorial race:
Gov. GINA RAIMONDO
Offices held: Governor 2015-present; state treasurer 2011-2015
Raimondo’s campaign didn't respond to our questions. ecoRI News completed some of the answers based on her record.
Top environmental issue facing Rhode Island: Climate change is listed on Raimondo’s website under the “Energy and Environment” tab. Her solution is a dramatic expansion of offshore wind and land-based solar. She supports the Paris Agreement but hasn't proposed enforceable reductions in greenhouse-gas emissions.
Position on the proposed Burrillville power plant: Raimondo supported the nearly 1,000-megawatt natural gas/diesel-fueled project when it was announced in 2015. She has since modified her position to letting the application approval process play out.
Position on the proposed natural gas liquefaction facility at the Port of Providence: Raimondo hasn't taken a public position on the facility. As part of regional governor agreements, she supports the expansion of fossil-fuel pipelines and infrastructure.
Climate change is primarily caused by human activity: Yes.
Assessment by the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration that under the worst-case scenario sea-level rise in Rhode Island could reach between 9 feet and 11.5 feet by 2100: Raimondo hasn't disputed this estimate. She generally supports the positions adopted by the Coastal Resources Management Council (CRMC), which supports NOAA’s estimates.
Role in addressing climate-change adaptation and mitigation: Raimondo supports the state Executive Climate Change Coordination Council and policies set by the CRMC. Neither, however, has set enforceable goals for adaptation or mitigation.
State or regional carbon tax: Raimondo is noncommittal on a carbon tax and bills that establish them. She suggests favoring a model similar to the Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative, but hasn't proposed one.
Statewide ban on plastic retail bags or other bans on plastics: During her four years in office, Raimondo has yet to endorse any of the bills that call for a ban on plastic checkout bags, Styrofoam, or other single-use plastics. In July, Raimondo signed the “Tackling Plastics” executive order that calls for non-regulatory programs, potential legislation and/or regulations, and other measures to eliminate plastic pollution.
The use of open space for building new wind- and solar-energy projects: Raimondo hasn't taken a position on this relatively new debate impacting rural and semi-rural communities. She supports a process for creating new siting rules led by the Office of Energy Resources.
Smart-growth development: Raimondo generally supports smart growth but like most politicians she hasn't advocated for them through legislation since the RhodeMap RI debate.
Offices held: Mayor of Cranston 2008-present
Fung’s campaign didn't respond to our questions. ecoRI News compiled some of Fung’s remarks and environmental record on key issues.
As a candidate for governor in 2014, Fung told The Block Island Times that would try to stop the Deepwater Wind wind facility. Fung has since said that he has concerns about offshore wind power due to potential harm to the fishing industry.
Fung said in a 2014 Rhode Island Public Radio debate that he supports the Executive Climate Change Coordinating Council. He also mentioned support for protection of open space, farms, and waterways.
As mayor, Fung did not oppose the city’s acquisition of flood-prone homes in Cranston. The homes were torn down to allow the land to remain undeveloped.
He supports importing Canadian hydropower, and supports the development of large-scale solar facilities on open space. But he wants cities and towns to have greater say in the siting of energy projects. Fung opposes mandates for solar development.
Like Raimondo, Fung said he would add money to the state budget for state-and-local Smart Growth economic partnerships.
Offices held: None
Munoz’s campaign didn't respond to our questions.
Offices held: House of Representatives 2001-2015
Trillo received an “F” in the latest Environmental Council of Rhode Island biannual legislative report card.
What do you consider the top environmental issue facing Rhode Island? Narragansett Bay needs to be cleaned up more.
What is your position on the proposed Burrillville power plant? Opposed.
What is your position on the proposed natural gas liquefaction facility at the Port of Providence? I need more information.
Do you believe in anthropogenic (human-caused) climate change? Somewhat, yes.
Do you agree with the assessment by the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration that under the worst-case scenario sea-level rise in Rhode Island could reach between 9 feet and 11.5 feet by 2100? Somewhat.
What role should your office play in addressing climate-change adaptation and mitigation? Encourage stricter laws on what is emitted into the atmosphere for manufacturing, power plants, and other polluters.
Would you support a state or regional carbon tax? No.
Do you support a statewide ban on plastic checkout bags or other bans on plastics? Yes.
What is your stance on the use of open space for building new wind- and solar-energy projects? I’m in favor of, depending on the site.
Do you support smart-growth development? Yes.
Offices held: None
What do you consider the top environmental issue facing Rhode Island? The biggest threat to clean air and water in Rhode Island is our insatiable demand for energy produced by unsustainable sources such as fossil fuels and nuclear power. If we as a nation put a tiny fraction of the effort we’ve placed into fighting wars over pipelines into developing large-scale geothermal, tidal, biomass, solar, and wind installations, we’d be free of the threat of power plants in our beautiful northwestern corner, free from worry about offshore drilling, we’d be 100 percent renewable. We can lead by example in Rhode Island, by incentivizing green practices through tax credits, and encouraging renewable research and development.
What is your position on the proposed Burrillville power plant? The Burrillville power plant isn't intended to make power for Rhode Island residents. The energy is to be sold to the grid to feed the demand of neighboring states, but we can be better neighbors by reducing our demand such that this plant becomes fiscally untenable for its backers. Here’s how: According to the numbers given by Rhode Island Department of Business Regulation “Pot Czar” Norman Birenbaum, the growers of medical cannabis forced to comply with the silly laws that mandate that green plants be grown indoors in air-conditioned warehouses or cancer patients’ basements, while the summer sun shines brightly outside burn more electricity per year than the entire Burrillville power plant is expected to produce. If we simply deschedule cannabis for personal outdoor cultivation, we’d eliminate the entire demand for this behemoth. I will provide data and show my math to back up this assertion to any interested person.
What is your position on the proposed natural gas liquefaction facility at the Port of Providence? LNG facilities are extremely dangerous and targets for terrorist attacks. It is unconscionable to subject densely populated areas to such dangers.
Do you believe in anthropogenic (human-caused) climate change? I do believe that human activity causes changes in the climate, such as when biohazards such as Monsanto Roundup and GMO crops, and factory-farmed animals completely disrupt entire biomes or when fossil-fuel power plants cause acid rain and deforestation.
Do you agree with the assessment by the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration that under the worst-case scenario sea-level rise in Rhode Island could reach between 9 feet and 11.5 feet by 2100? I haven’t got enough data at the moment, although I will look into it.
What role should your office play in addressing climate-change adaptation and mitigation? One thing my administration will have no part of is more special deals that provide sweetheart insurance to a few fancy beach houses while everyone else is left flooded and uncovered. The Pawtuxet River flood of 2010 reminded us all of how quickly everything we’ve worked for can be swept away. We can discourage building super-expensive homes in coastal areas and help those long living in floodplains by providing better flood insurance to the working people of Rhode Island. I don’t think Attorney General Peter Kilmartin’s lawsuit against the oil companies was a good idea, because as long as we are still addicted to fossil fuels, a lawsuit that gives most of the money to the lawyers would do nothing but drive up the price of oil without solving the problem.
Would you support a state or regional carbon tax? That would depend on the specifics.
Do you support a statewide ban on plastic checkout bags or other bans on plastics? We can make edible plastics from seaweed. Instead of banning, let’s innovate.
What is your stance on the use of open space for building new wind- and solar-energy projects? I’d rather see solar panels in the suburbs than an LNG facility in Providence, but we can do even better than a Hegelian dialectic of two dissatisfactory choices. Several years ago, I noticed that the Rhode Island Statehouse dome was built by a prominent architect who was best friends with Nikola Tesla. Stanford White, the architect, was murdered in a tawdry society scandal that you can read about in the novel “Theophilus North” by Thornton Wilder, and this is relevant because at the same time that White was building our Statehouse out of piezoelectric marble, he was also collaborating with Tesla to build Wardenclyffe Tower, a kind of resonant energy source in New York. I used to design torpedoes for Raytheon, so I know a resonant cavity when I see one. The Rhode Island Statehouse was designed to be a “free energy” source and White was killed to interrupt the deployment of this great resource. I researched all the U.S. patents that referenced Wardenclyffe Tower and sent them e-mail, and I got an answer from a company in Georgia indicating that I was onto something. As governor, I can press for more research into this exciting possibility.
Do you support smart-growth development? I have a vision for our state where common sense, compassion, and cooperation can re-create Rhode Island into a place where everyone can live in abundance.
Offices held: None
Gilbert’s campaign didn't respond to our questions.