New Bills Ban Plastic Straws, Food Packaging Chemicals

By TIM FAULKNER/ecoRI News staff

PROVIDENCE — Sen. Michael McCaffrey, D-Warwick, introduced a bill (S202) that prohibits restaurants from providing single-use plastic straws, unless requested. Restaurants may offer straws made of paper, pasta, sugar cane, wood, or bamboo. Each violation incurs a $25 fine, not to exceed $300 in a year. The state director of health would enforce penalties.

The bill comes as the state Task Force to Tackle Plastics intends to recommend legislation to reduce plastic waste, such as a statewide ban on plastic retail bags.

The bill was referred to the Senate Committee on the Environment and Agriculture. No hearing date has been announced.

Ban on PFAs. Senate bill S218 bans per- and polyfluoroalkyl substances, called PFAs, from food packaging. PFAs are linked to low infant birth weight, immune system and thyroid ailments, and cancer. PFAs are found in many household products that contain stain and water repellents, cookware, and textiles and are common in public drinking water supplies. The bill is sponsored by Sen. Adam Satchell, D-Warwick. The bill was referred to the Senate Committee on Health and Human Services and awaits a hearing date.

Animal rights. Rep. Joe Shekarchi, D-Warwick, sponsors a bill (H5265) that creates a 16-member animal rights advisory council that will write an annual report on animal health and abuse and make recommendations for improvements. The committee members would include the heads of the Department of Health, Department of Environmental Management, the state veterinarian, and representatives from the Potter League and Providence Animal Rescue League. The bill was assigned to the House Committee on Health Education and Welfare.

Geoengineering. Opponents of geoengineering, or artificial efforts to manipulate the weather, seek to have a study commission (H5226) extended until May 30. The commission, led Rep. Justin Price, R-Richmond, was established in 2017 after previous bills to curtail geoengineering to address climate change died in committee.

Wind study. Price, a former fishermen, is also leading a commission to study the impacts of offshore wind energy on marine life. The study commission was established in 2018 and the bill (H5227) seeks to extend the commission until May 30.

Marijuana. Price sponsors a bill (5276) that excludes marijuana or any of its derivatives from being considered as an agricultural project that can be grown within any municipal zoning district. No hearing date has been announced.