McKee and Kalus Tackle Environmental Issues at Audubon’s Annual Meeting

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BRISTOL, RI — Governor Dan McKee and Ashley Kalus had the chance to share their thoughts on climate policy at the 125th annual meeting of the Audubon Society of Rhode Island on Sunday.

The gubernatorial candidates made presentations to members of the Environmentally Focused Education and Advocacy Group and answered questions from ecoRI News Editor-in-Chief Bonnie Phillips.

Incumbent Democrat McKee used his 10-minute speech to discuss his record over the past 20 months as governor and the value of building on that work in a new term, while Kalus, a Republican, said took her allotted time to identify areas of environmental policy that she said she could benefit from improvements to, including the Climate Act of 2021.

McKee rattled off a list of some of its environmental achievements, including:

“We balance … economic opportunity for our families with the environment,” he said.

McKee also mentioned signing the Climate Act, which sets a 2050 deadline for the state to reach net zero carbon emissions.

Kalus listed different climate goals and priorities for a possible term of governor:

  • Preserve watersheds, shorelines, grasslands and woodlands to help maintain wildlife habitat.
  • Develop offshore renewable energy, including floating kinetic solar energy from wave technology and offshore wind energy.
  • Updated Rhode Island infrastructure to support more electric cars.
  • Recycling tax credit for businesses that recycle.
  • Implement resilience plans at the municipal level.

Kalus also said she doesn’t believe the goals set by Act on Climate will be met on schedule.

“We need a realistic plan. I don’t believe we have that right now,” she said. “I don’t think there’s a way to get there in the timeframe we need, and we need to focus on mitigation as well.”

Both candidates said they support the expansion of offshore wind installations and solar power to help reduce carbon emissions.

Asked about forest loss related to solar development and whether he would support legislation that attempts to protect forests and open space, McKee said: “We are balancing those two issues in a way that we are really going to achieve… all goals that we want.

“We need to make sure we use renewable energy, while protecting our environment.”

Kalus said she does not support “reducing open land for additional solar farms” and wants to use brownfields and rooftops for solar panels. She suggested using tax breaks rather than negative reinforcement to incentivize these locations for solar development rather than forest or other open space.

The two also agreed that efforts to advance legislation on burning toxic plastic undermines efforts to protect environmental justice communities.

Election day is November 8.

Colleen Cronin is a Report for America member who writes about environmental issues in rural Rhode Island for ecoRI News.


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