PROVIDENCE, RI – Governor Dan McKee joined Providence Mayor Jorge Elorza, Department of Environmental Management (DEM) Director Terry Gray, and leaders of Rhode Island's major environmental advocacy, food security, and cultural organizations at Farm Fresh RI at an event today aimed at building public support for the 2022 green bond, which is Question No. 3 on the referendum ballot in November.
Protecting Narragansett Bay and drinking water, strengthening the state against global warming, reclaiming contaminated brownfield sites for productive reuse, conserving open space, building recreation facilities and playgrounds benefitting all 39 cities and towns, making critical investments in the Roger Williams Park Zoo — these and many other essential programs and projects that make life better for Rhode Islanders have been paid by green bond proceeds. If passed by the voters, this year's $50 million bond includes $16 million to fortify climate change resilience — reducing risks, prioritizing equity, and improving public safety in the state. Governor McKee included the green bond in his proposed fiscal year 2023 budget and House Speaker K. Joseph Shekarchi and Senate President Dominick J. Ruggerio and legislative leaders ensured that the measure was incorporated in the final budget enacted by the Rhode Island General Assembly.
"The $50 million 2022 green bond exemplifies the power of government and public-private partnerships to solve problems and make people's lives better," said Governor McKee. "I intend for Rhode Island to emerge stronger and fairer from the COVID pandemic than we were going into it. Voting yes on Question 3 will go a good way toward achieving it."
"Among the many measures the House passed this year to protect the environment, invest in renewable energy, and reduce pollution, I am proud that our enacted fiscal 2023 budget included fully authorizing Question 3, the green bond," said Speaker Shekarchi. "This year's bond includes critical investments in building resilience against the effects of climate change, especially sea level rise and coastal storm scenarios, which threaten Warwick and Rhode Island's 20 other coastal municipalities."
"If passed, the green bond will deliver $50 million to capitalize much-needed infrastructure and other improvements in clean water, Narragansett Bay and watershed restoration, brownfield abatement and rejuvenation, forestland preservation, open space conservation, and local recreation," said President Ruggerio. "Climate action has never been more urgent and for this reason, I also appreciate the bond's robust investment in resilience. Climate change is not some distant threat. It is here and we are already feeling its effects."
"One of the best ways we can improve Rhode Islanders' quality of life is making smart, bold investments that tackle today's problems and chart a course for tackling tomorrow's too," said Providence Mayor Jorge O. Elorza. "The 2022 green bond is just this kind of solution. Importantly, local people and local companies will undertake infrastructure projects that add value and create jobs here — not somewhere else. I am also heartened to know that Question 3 includes a sizable investment in one of Providence's most important cultural institutions and tourist attractions, the Roger Williams Park Zoo."
Question No. 3, the green economy bond, includes the following components:
o Municipal Resilience Program - $16 million administered by the Rhode Island Infrastructure Bank (RIIB) to help local communities restore and improve resiliency of vulnerable coastal habitats, river and stream floodplains, and infrastructure.
o Roger Williams Park Zoo - $12 million for the construction of a state-of-the-art, carbon-neutral education center and event pavilion. This project will help the Zoo meet technology demands for modern-day classrooms, increase student capacity, expand its education programs for RI schools, and establish a large venue with seating capacity for lectures, assemblies, and artistic performances. Both projects will improve access and further enhance the Zoo's positive economic impact on Roger Williams Park, the City of Providence, and all of Rhode Island.
o Small business energy loan program - $5 million administered by RIIB to help small businesses "green" their operations by providing grants and zero or below market rate loans for implementation of clean energy projects.
o Narragansett Bay and watershed restoration - $3 million to restore and protect water quality, aquatic habitats, and the environmental sustainability of Narragansett Bay and the state's watersheds. Distributed as matching grants, this infusion of funds will advance work toward clean and safe waters for drinking water, shellfishing, recreation, and other valued uses.
o Forest and habitat restoration - $3 million for forest health management and wildlife habitat projects including at state management areas. Rhode Island's forests and trees offer watershed protection, prevent soil erosion, purify our air, clean our water, and mitigate climate change.
o Brownfields - $4 million in matching grants to clean up former industrial sites or "brownfields" so they may revitalize our neighborhoods, be returned to tax rolls, and create jobs. These projects have helped build new schools, businesses, affordable housing, and recreational space on formerly vacant properties throughout the state.
o Open Space - $5 million investment to protect open space to enhance our communities and fill gaps within state conservation areas. Protecting open space is a key to building a vibrant quality of place.
o Local recreation - $2 million in matching grants to create new and improve existing community parks and recreation facilities. There have been nearly 550 grant-funded projects totaling more than $80 million invested in improvements in all 39 Rhode Island communities since the inception of DEM's Community Recreation Grant program in 1988.
"Funding supplied by voter-approved green bonds is a catalyst that gives DEM the capability to do much of what we do to manage, protect, and restore Rhode Island's natural resources," said Director Gray. "We are grateful to stand with so many leading organizations to make the case that passing Question No. 3 in November will help us become a better, more equitable state that will be better prepared to meet the burden of climate change."
"Thanks to our Municipal Resilience Program, Rhode Island is already a national leader in helping our cities and towns invest in green infrastructure solutions to mitigate the impacts of climate change from increased flooding events, to sea level rise, to rising temperatures," said Jeffrey Diehl, CEO of Rhode Island Infrastructure Bank. "Voting yes on the Question 3 Green Bond will supercharge our work by providing $16 million to invest in resilience projects across the state. Projects like implementing green stormwater management systems to reduce stormwater runoff into Narragansett Bay, and planting trees to reduce heat in our urban communities. Approving Question 3 will also invest $5 million in a new Small Business Energy Loan Program that will give our small businesses access to low-cost financing to complete energy efficiency and renewable energy projects that save money and reduce emissions. These are smart investments in our cities, towns, and small businesses, and that's why we're asking Rhode Island residents to vote yes on Question 3."
"The need to invest in a clean, green Rhode Island is more critical than ever as the urgency to address the climate crisis increases with more extreme events from intense flooding to droughts," said Priscilla De La Cruz, Senior Director of Government Affairs, Audubon Society of RI. "And the urgency to ensure that our beautiful Ocean State, its wildlife and their habitat, and our communities can adapt to a changing climate and transition to a sustainable, green economy also is essential."
"Rhode Islanders recognize that our natural environment is one of our most valuable cultural and economic assets," said Jed Thorp, RI State Director for Clean Water Action. "I'm confident that voters will see investing in clean water, open space, and climate resilience as smart investments for the future of our state."
"Passage of the $50 million Green Bond is a significant investment in the state's climate action that will mitigate the impacts of climate change through increased investment in green infrastructure," said Patrick Crowley, Co-Chair Climate Jobs Rhode Island and Secretary-Treasurer of the RI AFL-CIO. "This investment will boost our state's climate resiliency, while creating good-paying union jobs, and expanding access for small businesses to low-cost financing for energy efficiency and renewable energy projects that will save them money and reduce carbon emissions."
"The resilience of Rhode Island's food system is bolstered by continued investment in green infrastructure, brownfield remediation, and the conservation of open spaces," said Jesse Rye, Co-Executive Director of Farm Fresh Rhode Island. "Green Bond Initiatives, like Question #3, give Rhode Islanders the opportunity to support meaningful efforts to positively impact the environmental future of our state."
"State Green Bond initiatives are critical to preserving important green spaces, forests, and parks in communities across Rhode Island," said Kate Sayles, Executive Director of the Rhode Island Land Trust Council. "Through partnerships between the State, municipalities, and conservation organizations like land trusts, significant landscapes have been conserved for Rhode Islanders to enjoy. Voting Yes on 3 will provide an important investment of $5 million to conserve land, which will in turn boost our green economy, improve wildlife habitat and water quality, and continue to make our communities great places to live."
"We know in our increasing urban society, that the first place that children encounter nature and wildlife is often the zoo," said Roger Williams Park Zoo Executive Director Stacey Johnson. "The education center provided by the bond will significantly expand the capacity of Roger Williams Park Zoo to nurture the next generation of scientists and environmentalists. This is a win for everybody."
"Narragansett Bay is the heart of Rhode Island, and Question #3 will take a significant step toward the meaningful restoration of its habitats and ecosystems," said Jonathan Stone, Executive Director of Save The Bay. "We urge the people of Rhode Island to once again approve an important environmental bond question by voting 'Yes on 3.'"
"The heatwaves this summer and the intense downpours on Labor Day weekend showed us a sample of the impacts of climate change we Rhode Islanders will continue to see," said Sheila Dormody, Director Climate and Cities Programs, The Nature Conservancy. "The bond's investment in the Municipal Resilience Program will help us take action to create healthier communities for every day and be prepared for the storms to come."
In Rhode Island, any statewide general obligation bond measure must be put to Rhode Island voters in the form of a referendum. Bond measures are proposed by the Governor through inclusion in the annual budget request to the Rhode Island General Assembly. Both houses of the legislature must approve the inclusion of each bond measure in the final budget as passed. The House and Senate may raise or lower the amounts of bond revenue requested by the Governor through this process. Proposed bond measures that remain in the budget are put on the ballot, held in November, as statewide referenda.
To download a factsheet on the green bond, visit www.dem.ri.gov/greenclean. For more information about the #YesOn3RI coalition, visit https://www.yeson3ri.org/ or follow Yes on 3 on Facebook (YESon3RhodeIsland), Instagram (@YesOn3RI) , and Twitter (@YesOn3RI).