Compiled by TIM FAULKNER/ecoRI News staff
The Rhode Island primary is scheduled for Sept. 12, and four candidates are running for Sheldon Whitehouse’s U.S. Senate seat, including the incumbent.
ecoRI News sent each candidate a 10-question primary preview focused on environmental issues related to Rhode Island. The Republican candidates didn't respond.
Here is a look at Rhode Island’s U.S. Senate primary (candidates listed in alphabetical order):
Offices held: Hopkinton Conservation Commission; Hopkinton Historic District Commission
What do you consider the top environmental issue facing Rhode Island? In Rhode Island, as in the rest of the world, the top environmental issue is the impact of human activity on all aspects of the rest of the natural world: the destruction of habitat. In RI, as in the rest of the world, the top environmental issue is the impact of human activity on all aspects of the rest of the natural world: destruction of the habitat on this earth that has sustained life over the millions of years and human life over the hundreds of thousands of years.
What is your position on the proposed Burrillville power plant? I was actively involved in protest against the proposed Burrillville power plant from the very earliest meetings in Burrillville through marches from Providence out to Burrillville and attending and testifying at Energy Facility Siting Board meetings at the Public Utilities Commission and at the presentation of the project to the Town Council of my hometown of Hopkinton. I am against the specific siting of the plant and to the entire project of additional electricity-generating plants powered by fossil fuels.
What is your position on the proposed natural gas liquefaction facility at the Port of Providence? I was out on the earliest bus rides promoted by local and youth activists to view the proposed location of the proposed facility and attended the National Grid meeting at the school in South Providence where an attempt was made to “sell” the project. I also testified at the Statehouse hearings on the appointment of the three latest members to the Coastal Resources Management Council by Gov. Gina Raimondo, on the grounds of the environmental injustice of there being no representation of local community members and/or of environmental protection activists.
Do you believe in anthropogenic (human-caused) climate change? Yes. Or rather, I do not “believe," I am convinced by the evidence.
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? Yes.
What role should your office play in addressing climate-change adaptation and mitigation? The Senate of the United States, and the offices of individual senators, should try to reverse the Trump administration’s withdrawal from the Paris Climate Accord and, failing that, should work hard to implement by legislative action the elements of the accord that can be implemented in spite of the executive order of withdrawal. The Senate should also support, by all possible means, the efforts of the individual states and municipalities to implement elements of the accord. The same efforts should be made with respect to actions not covered by the Paris Accord but also address climate-change adaptation and mitigation.
Would you support a state or regional carbon tax? In principle, yes, but I would want to study the elements of a such proposed tax.
Do you support a statewide ban on plastic checkout bags or other bans on plastics? Yes I do, but with a strong caveat that such a ban is only a very tiny element in what needs to be done to address anthropogenic impacts on the environment.
What is your stance on the use of open space for building new wind- and solar-energy projects? I am opposed to the use of open space for the installation of on-the-ground solar projects. I know less, and am therefore less decided, about the impact of wind energy projects.
Do you support smart-growth development? Although I have been a supporter of Grow Smart Rhode Island for many years, I do not think that I am in a position to declare myself as totally supportive of all development that might be labeled “smart growth.” I would prefer to express my support for individual proposals.
Sen. SHELDON WHITEHOUSE
Offices held: U.S. attorney for Rhode Island 1994-1998; Rhode Island attorney general 1999-2002; U.S. Senate 2007-present
What do you consider the top environmental issue facing Rhode Island? The Ocean State’s way of life and economy have so much at stake in the fight against climate change. Carbon emissions are driving sea-level rise and higher storm surges that threaten to swallow large parts of Rhode Island’s coastline and coastal economy.
What is your position on the proposed Burrillville power plant? I have not taken a position on Invenergy’s specific proposal, as the siting decision is in a rule-of-law proceeding before the proper state-level agencies. I’ve been listening to constituents who are very concerned about the effects of a potential new power plant in Burrillville, and I am watching the process closely. As a U.S. senator, I’m leading the fight in Congress to end the subsidy for fossil fuels that drives expansion of projects like this one. We need in our region adequate and reliable sources of energy that take into account the social cost of carbon and are affordable.
What is your position on the proposed natural gas liquefaction facility at the Port of Providence? I have sent several letters to the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission asking that carbon emissions be considered as part of the agency’s decision and for the public comment period to be extended so that every Rhode Islander with a question or concern about this project can be heard.
Do you believe in anthropogenic (human-caused) climate change? Absolutely. The science clearly shows that humans are causing climate change. I’ve been leading the charge in the Senate to expose the front groups for the fossil-fuel industry that promote climate-change denial and threaten Republicans with enormous amounts of anonymous campaign spending if they step out of line on this issue.
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? Yes, I trust the scientists at NOAA and Rhode Island’s own Coastal Resources Management Council. Rhode Island is poised to have to make real changes to adapt to higher sea levels if we don’t take action to reduce carbon emissions.
What role should your office play in addressing climate-change adaptation and mitigation? I serve on the Senate Environment and Public Works Committee where I’m working to expedite the transition to a clean-energy economy and hold polluters and the fossil-fuel industry accountable for the damage they’re causing to our environment and economy. I have made more than 200 speeches on the Senate floor calling Congress’ attention to the need to act on climate change before we see more damaging effects.
Would you support a state or regional carbon tax? I am the author of the American Opportunity Carbon Fee Act, which would put in place a carbon fee at the national level and return every dollar collected back to the American people. Prominent Republicans who are serious about solving the challenge of climate change have endorsed a revenue-neutral carbon fee like the one I’ve proposed.
Do you support a statewide ban on plastic checkout bags or other bans on plastics? I authored the bipartisan Save Our Seas Act to curb the plastic pollution filling the oceans, washing up on the shoreline, and clogging nets of Rhode Island fishermen. Versions of the Save Our Seas Act were passed by the Senate and House, and it’s now heading to conference. Bans on specific plastic items are well to be decided at the state and local level, and those decisions have been helpful.
What is your stance on the use of open space for building new wind and solar energy projects? Moving to clean, cost-effective energy sources needs to be a top priority, and balanced with protecting fields and forests treasured by local communities. The first-in-the-nation offshore wind farm off the coast of Block Island is an example of how groups with competing interests can work together to minimize any disruption from bringing new clean energy sources online.
Do you support smart-growth development? Yes. We need to make sure communities are designed in a way that creates more economic mobility and encourages the use of public transportation.
ROQUE DE LA FUENTE
Offices held: None
De La Fuente’s campaign didn't respond to our questions.
ROBERT FLANDERS JR.
Offices held: R.I. Supreme Court associate justice 1996-2004; Barrington Town Council
Flanders’ campaign didn't respond to our questions.