School Siting Law

The Environmental Justice League worked with the Rhode Island Department of Environmental Management and other stakeholders for over 3 years to pass “Environmental Cleanup Objectives for Schools” (aka the “School Siting Bill”) sponsored by Senator Juan Pichardo and Representative Scott Slater, both of whom represent the Reservoir Triangle neighborhood where Alvarez High School was built on the former site of the Gorham Silver Manufacturing Company.

The School Siting Bill was signed into law by Governor Chaffee on June 6, 2012.  Below are some photos from our press event held on June 25th, celebrating this important environmental justice victory for our state!

2013 Update:  This year the School Siting Law faced a huge challenge in the form of a bill proposed by the RI Mayoral Academies, a charter school industry group, who want to build a charter school on a former factory site in Pawtucket that may have vapor intrusion risks.  RIMA’s proposal would have effectively overturned the protective School Siting Law currently on the books.  The EJ League is proud to say we successfully defended the law this year and look forward to continuing to work to protect the health of all Rhode Islanders in the future!

Read the updated 2013 law here.

Learn more about RIMA’s proposal we were fighting here:

2013 School Siting Factsheet FRONT
2013 School Siting Factsheet BACK

Lois Gibbs, renowned toxics activist made famous through her family’s struggle at Love Canal in New York State — site of a chemical waste dump where her home and children’s school were located — joined the EJ League on May 22, 2013 for a press conference to protect the school siting law.  Check out a video of the press conference here:

Press Conference Part 1 (youtube)

Lois Gibbs Speaks at the Statehouse

(c) Kris Craig, The Providence Journal

Listen to this podcast about the school siting issue – recorded by the National Institute of Environmental Health Sciences (NIEHS) featuring Amelia Rose, EJ League Director, and Phil Brown, University Distinguished Professor of Sociology and Health Sciences and Director, Social Science Environmental Health Research Institute, at Northeastern University.

Check out more information about RI’s school siting law plus Connecticut’s statewide EJ law featured on the New England EJ Forum’s Wiki page

Read the School Siting Fact Sheet about the law passed in 2012 that was updated in 2013.

Read this article in EcoRI about the bill.  

Group Picture

Stakeholders who helped make the School Siting Law a reality: including the Environmental Justice League, Urban Pond Procession, Clean Water Action, RI Department of Environmental Management, and the two bill sponsors, Sen. Juan Pichardo and Rep. Scott Slater.


3 Responses

  1. […] But not months after this sensible bill was passed, a corporate interest stepped in to undermine it. The Rhode Island Mayoral Academies, a private charter school group, wished to build a school in Pawtucket on an old factory site with known risk of vapor intrusion. To do this, they proposed a repeal of the School Siting law and replace it with a bill that would allow the building on a vapor intrusion site by using expensive and unreliable engineering tricks with no long-term plan for if or when they fail. This bill also stated the legislative claim that “from time to time, it is necessary to build schools on contaminated sites.” Are you kidding me? Thankfully, through the work of EJLRI and the constituents of the Reservoir Triangle, their bill was killed. […]

  2. You may have defeated something or another but the law you cite was gutted in 2013 by Chapter 296 of the Public Laws of 2013. I find your claims of a big voctory somewhat misleading.

    • The EJ League helped write the 2013 law as well and it restricts schools from being built on land with vapor intrusion contaminants exactly as the 2012 version did — requiring that any vapor-causing contamination be removed before a school is allowed to be built on a particular site. This effectively prohibits building on sites with major vapor intrusion contamination concerns due to the length of time it takes to remove major contamination as well as the cost. We granted an allowance that there may be sites with some vapor concerns where the contaminants are discrete and minor enough that once removed there will be no concerns about vapor intrusion – and schools could therefore be built there.

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