Wednesday, December 11, 2013

A Win For The Bay in Warwick


It is not often that we can cheer a major win for the Bay.  Today is one of those days. 

Jonathan Stone
Executive Director
The Warwick City Council voted 6-2 last night – in the second of two required votes - to authorize the City to borrow $56 million to extend sewer lines, upgrade the de-nitrification capacity of the Warwick wastewater treatment plant, and construct a protective berm around the plant to secure it against the flood-prone Pawtuxet River.  Yesterday morning the Providence Journal published an op-ed we submitted laying out the case for this investment, and for the critical importance of additional state investments in wastewater treatment and stormwater infrastructure.

The seeds of this major victory were sewn in 2006, when Save The Bay succeeded in securing the passage of a statewide law requiring property owners with cesspools, which have been outlawed since the 1960s, and living  within 200 feet of the Bay to tie into sewer mains or replace them with advanced on-site septic systems by the end of 2012 (subsequently delayed by the Legislature to 2014).  

Negative publicity related to repeated and persistent beach closures, and the statewide cesspool phase-out law forced the City to confront this challenge at long last this summer.  The City Council, Mayor Scott Avedisian’s administration, and the Warwick Sewer Authority all deserve praise for pushing ahead with a funding solution for a serious pollution problem decades in the making.  While much work remains to be done to complete the necessary improvements, this City Council vote ensures the financial resources to move forward.

This success story, like so many of the water quality issues we confront today, highlights the extraordinary complexity of protecting the Bay, as well as the fish, shellfish, birds and marine mammals who call it home.  As the environmental challenges have shifted over time, Save The Bay has had to adapt its approach.  By focusing on the key barriers and constraints communities face, we’ve been able to identify (and promote) workable solutions.

None of this would be possible without the enthusiastic support, active engagement, and philanthropic generosity of our members, our donors, and our Board.  Thank you for being partners in this success.  Today is one of those days we can celebrate.  Tomorrow is a new day, and there is much to be done.

- Jonathan

Monday, December 9, 2013

Environmental regulations are not burdensome


Tom Kutcher
Narragansett Baykeeper

Our Rhode Island economy has been in a slump and we're all looking for the cause. I have my own theories, but I won't get us all riled up with those here. Instead, I want to focus on one flawed theory I've heard that pins blame on our State environmental regulations. The theory holds that environmental regulations put undue stress on small businesses. I have even heard some public servants say that environmental regulations drive small businesses out of state! Luckily, in a well-conceived and well-written report by our Office of Management and Budget / Office of Regulatory Reform entitled Findings of a 2013 Small Business Survey, the truth has been exposed: Small business owners DO NOT perceive environmental regulations as burdensome. 

The report detailed the results of a survey in which 709 small business leaders were asked to rank the importance of a list of “challenges” facing their businesses. The list included health insurance costs, federal regulations, state regulations, and other potential expenses or impediments. State regulations were identified second to health insurance costs, and respondents were asked to identify the regulations that were most burdensome. The report listed all State regulations that were identified by more than one respondent, and not a single environmental regulation was among them

This was surprising even to me, so I dug deeper. I suspected that perhaps the representation of businesses in the sample was skewed away from businesses most directly affected by environmental regulations, but this was not the case. In fact, the participants from the construction (125), manufacturing (113), and direct resource use/extraction (33) sectors were strongly represented in relation to the average (median) of 22 participants per sector. 

I commend the Office of Regulatory Reform for setting the record straight on this. We rely on our environmental regulations to protect our natural resources, our health, our property values, and our quality of life; and our small businesses get it. Let’s not let unsubstantiated theories threaten those benefits.

- Tom