Making Democracy Work

Environment and Natural Resources

Positions related to the environment and natural resources

The LWVRI undertakes action related to the environment using positions from the LWVUS and from state-wide studies. Included in this section are the positions of the LWVRI related to the Environment and Natural Resources and a quick reference describes some of the LWVUS positions related to the environment. A complete description of the positions of the LWVUS is available in Imapct on Issues may be read online or downloaded.

Solid Waste Management In Rhode Island

Adopted 1974: Revised May 7,1987

The League of Women Voters of Rhode Island supports long-range statewide planning for solid waste management. This should include:
1. Reduction of wastes volume and materials recovery through source reduction, source separation and recycling, and composting. (In December of 1985, the LWVRI supported legislation calling for mandatory source separation of municipal wastes and recycling in Rhode Island.)
2. State leadership in the promotion of markets for reclaimed material and state and local government purchase of recycled materials when practicable.
3. Further volume reduction and energy recovery from the unrecyclable materials by the use of waste-to-energy facilities, designed and operated in compliance with state and national environmental laws for air and water.
4. Disposal of the residue in well-sited, designed, and managed sanitary landfills, run in conformity with strict environmental controls.
5. Rejection of the concept of local veto over siting of state facilities.
6. Public education to bring about general understanding and cooperation with government authorities in the management of our solid waste problem. Links

  • Rhode Island Resource Recovery Corporation

Land Use Policy in Rhode Island

Revision: April 1986 (based on Consensus of 1970's)

The Rhode Island league of Women Voters believes that the State of Rhode Island should establish a broad overall land use plan including general land use goals, policies to accompany these goals, identification of critical areas and activities, and regulations for specific land uses. The state should be the primary governmental unit for identification and regulation of critical areas and activities. To the extent that these areas and activities cross state boundaries, regional planning and regional controls are advisable. The decision malting process should include ample local input. Incentives to encourage local communities to follow the broad guidelines of the plan are necessary, and penalties may be needed in case of noncompliance. State government should help localities develop and exercise local land use management functions. Local communities should have the power to use innovative land use planning and regulatory techniques. The state should compensate localities that suffer revenue losses from state override of local land uses. Impact statements for development involving critical areas and activities should be required; the scope of these statements should be in relation to the size of the project. Impact statements should be made public early enough to avoid costly investment and in time to allow decision changes. We support the exploration of alternative taxing methods, as land use decisions made on "best use of land" criteria will be hard to make under the present property tax system. Citizen input in land use planning is a major concern. Provisions for public participation throughout the planning process should be mandatory. Training in basic land use planning should be required for local zoning, permit and planning boards. Definition of Terms A. Critical Areas: fragile or historic lands where development could result in irreversible damage (such as shorelines, including those of rivers, or lakes; wetlands; Indian burial grounds); renewable resource lands, where development could result in the loss of productivity (such as watershed, forest lands, agricultural lands); natural hazard lands, where development could endanger life and property (i.e. flood plains).

B. Critical Activities: activities in areas impacted by public investment where siting results in secondary land use demand (11ighways, water and sewer, utilities, etc.); in large scale private development which may have a substantial impact upon the environmental, social and economic environment (industrial parks, shopping centers, apartment complexes, etc.); land developments by public bodies (1ow and moderate income housing, recreation, open spaces, etc.).

C. Resources Available to Management: increased state financial and technical aid, and data information. Public Involvement: could include: individual comments, attendance at public meetings or hearings, citizen action, lobbying, citizen advisory committees and appellate boards.

Water Policy In Rhode Island

Adopted May 1984; revised

The Rhode Island league of Women Voters cannot support the Construction of the Big River Reservoir:
1. before implementation of a statewide water conservation plan and the effects are fully known;
2. unless an updated feasibility study including environmental assessment clearly shows the need exists;
3. until updated population and demand projections warrant it. If the above conditions are met, the LWV of RI will reevaluate its position on the Big River Reservoir. If the above conditions are not met, the LWV of RI will oppose the construction of the Big River Reservoir. Conservation and groundwater protection and use should be considered as alternatives to the development of surface water supplies. Groundwater Protection The State should change its zoning enabling act and take any other measures necessary to protect aquifers and recharge areas currently in use or identified for future water supply. Environmental Issues (NOTE from P Macleish: PRO Jo article

If the Big River or other reservoirs should be constructed, the following environmental impacts should be addressed:

  • Recreational use of reservoir: The LWVRI supports limited and controlled recreational use of proposed reservoirs and contiguous watershed lands. Uses such as those proposed by the Army Corps of Engineers Environmental Impact Statement, Portion 3 Plan for Big River Reservoir and endorsed by the Department of Environmental Management (see Recreational Plan section) should be permitted. Monitoring and policing must be adequately financed. Some of the financing methods proposed include user fees, permits and licenses. A minority feels that recreational use should not be permitted. Potential threats to water quality and inadequate monitoring were primary concerns.

  • Downstream flows: It should be required that Continuous downstream flow take precedence over either uses of the released water from the Big River or any proposed reservoir. A minimum release should be maintained at all times.

  • Roads: Safety features to prevent hazardous spills and runoff form entering reservoirs should be included in the designs for remaining roads. Road construction over or adjacent to reservoirs should be kept to a minimum. The cost of maintenance of these features should be included in the financing plans for any reservoir.

  • Wetlands mitigation: Wetlands mitigation should be required and absolutely financed. Reservoir Financing A combination of revenue and general obligation bonds should be used to finance the Big River Reservoir. A ratio of revenue bonds to general obligation bonds should be employed in such a way that users of water, recreation, roads and potential growth areas repay the bonds equitably. A minority favored the use of revenue bonds entirely. Recreational Plan The DEM generally endorses the Option 3 Recreation Plan proposed in the Big River Reservoir Environmental Impact Statement E .I.S.) prepared by the Army Corps of Engineers. Their position is that a commitment of such a large tract of land to a single purpose is not in the best interests of the population. They feel the plan offers unique opportunities to provide water related recreational experiences. Furthermore, with proper management recreational experience can be provided without compromising water quality. They also feel this issue has been well examined and substantiated. The following activities should be permitted in the BRR watershed under certain conditions: A. Boating - electric motors, sailboats, rowboats.

B. Fishing - this activity should be heavily controlled to establish a strong fish population.

C. Swimming - not allowed in the reservoir. Allowed at Carrs Pond and Phelps Pond.

D. Trail bikes - a well-defined and planned trail system, coordinated by DEM and the Trail Riding Organization.

E. Camping - permitted under highly controlled conditions and only outside the watershed. Other recreational activities such as picnicking, horseback riding, hiking; cross-country skiing, ice skating, and hunting would also be permitted under less restrictive conditions. Most activities would be regulated by a permit system. Proposed fees for activities would be used to finance additional personnel needed.

LWVUS Positions on Natural Resources

Global Climate Change LWVUS position adopted Nov. 20, 2006

Global warming is one of the most serious threats to our environment, our health and our economy. The League of Women Voters joins other organizations in calling for immediate action to curb the worst effects of global warming by enforcing reductions in global warming pollution and promoting clean and efficient sources of energy.

LWVUS Natural Resources Position

Statement of Position on Natural Resources, as Affirmed by the 1986 Convention, Based on Positions Reached from 1958 through 1986: The League of Women Voters of the United States believes that natural resources should be managed as interrelated parts of life-supporting ecosystems. Resources should be conserved and protected to assure their future availability. Pollution of these resources should be controlled in order to preserve the physical, chemical and biological integrity of ecosystems and to protect public health. Environmental Protection and Pollution Control The League supports the preservation of the physical, chemical and biological integrity of the ecosystem and maximum protection of public health and the environment. The League's approach to environmental protection and pollution control is one of problem solving. The interrelationships of air, water and land resources should be recognized in designing environmental safeguards. The League's environmental protection and anti-pollution goals aim to prevent ecological degradation and to reduce and control pollutants before they go down the sewer, up the chimney or into the landfill. The League believes that although environmental protection and pollution control are responsibilities shared by all levels of government, it is essential that the federal government provide leadership and technical and financial assistance. The federal government should have the major role in setting standards for environmental protection and pollution control. Other levels of government should have the right to set more stringent standards. Enforcement should be carried out at the lower levels of government, but the federal government should enforce standards if other levels of government do not meet this responsibility. Standards must be enforced in a timely, consistent and equitable manner for all violators in all parts of society, including governmental units, industry, business and individuals. Environmental protection and pollution control, including waste management, should be considered a cost of providing a product or service. Consumers, taxpayers and ratepayers must expect to pay some of the costs. The League supports policies that accelerate pollution control, including federal financial assistance for state and local programs. The League supports:

  • regulation of pollution sources by control and penalties;
  • inspection and monitoring;
  • full disclosure of pollution data;
  • incentives to accelerate pollution control;
  • vigorous enforcement mechanisms, including sanctions for states and localities that do not comply with federal standards and substantial fines for noncompliance

Air Quality

  • measures to reduce vehicular pollution, including inspection and maintenance of emission controls, changes in engine design and fuel types and development of more energy- efficient transportation systems;
  • regulation and reduction of pollution from stationary sources;
  • regulation and reduction of ambient toxic-air pollutants;
  • measures to reduce transboundary air pollutants, such as ozone and those that cause acid deposition.

  • energy goals and policies that acknowledge the United States as a responsible member of the world community;
  • reduction of energy growth rates;
  • use of a variety of energy sources, with emphasis on conserving energy and using energy-efficient technologies;
  • the environmentally sound use of energy resources, with consideration of the entire cycle of energy production;
  • predominant reliance on renewable resources;
  • policies that limit reliance on nuclear fission;
  • action by appropriate levels of government to encourage the use of renewable resources and energy conservation through funding for research and development, financial incentives, rate-setting policies and mandatory standards;
  • mandatory energy-conservation measures, including thermal standards for building efficiency, new appliance standards and standards for new automobiles with no relaxation of auto-emission control requirements;
  • policies to reduce energy demand and minimize the need for new generating capacity through techniques such as marginal cost or peak-load pricing or demand-management programs;
  • maintaining deregulation of oil and natural gas prices;
  • assistance for low-income individuals when energy policies bear unduly on the poor.

Land Use
  • management of land as a finite resource not as a commodity, since land ownership, whether public or private, carries responsibility for stewardship;
  • land-use planning that reflects conservation and wise management of resources;
  • identification and regulation of areas of critical concern: fragile or historical lands, where development could result in irreversible damage (such as shorelands of rivers, lakes and streams, estuaries and bays; rare or valuable ecosystems and geological formations; significant wildlife habitats; unique scenic or historic areas; wetlands; deserts); renewable resource lands, where development could result in the loss of productivity (such as watersheds, aquifers and aquifer-recharge areas, significant agricultural and grazing lands, forest lands); natural hazard lands, where development could endanger life and property (such as floodplains, areas with high seismic or volcanic activity, areas of unstable geologic, ice or snow formations);
  • reclamation of lands damaged by surface mining, waste disposal, overgrazing, timber harvesting, farming and other activities;
  • acquisition of land for public use;
  • identification and regulation of areas impacted by public or private investment where siting results in secondary environmental and socioeconomic impacts;
  • review of environmental, social and economic impacts of major public and private developments;
  • review of federally funded projects by all government levels;
  • conformance of federal land resource activities with approved state programs, particularly where state standards are more stringent than federal standards.

Water Resources
  • water resource programs and policies that reflect the interrelationships of water quality, water quantity, groundwater and surface water and that address the potential depletion or pollution of water supplies;
  • measures to reduce water pollution from direct point-source discharges and from indirect nonpoint sources;
  • policies to achieve water quality essential for maintaining species populations and diversity, including measures to protect lakes, estuaries, wetlands and in-stream flows;
  • stringent controls to protect the quality of current and potential drinking-water supplies, including protection of watersheds for surface supplies and of recharge areas for groundwater.