It was a pleasure to be outside today in front of city hall, listening to the coalition of speakers from The Audubon Society of Rhode Island, the American Lung Association of New England, and the Sierra Club. All are opposed to the concrete plant and, along with the Toxic Action Center, are working to get the problem resolved.
One of the interesting parts of the packet handed out by the Toxic Action Center was a timeline of events leading up to the quagmire of the Cullion concrete plant legal battle today. The timeline includes this event:
March 7, 2007 — Entire contingent of city attorneys agree to sign off on court order prepared in advance by Cullion Council John O. Mancini which misrepresents the provision of the law effecting building stay during zoning appeal to mean no city action concerning the concrete plant may happen until zoning or overriding supreme court ruling.
So basically, whomever wrote this timeline is saying that Mancini “misrepresented” the law. On that same day, a big batch of city lawyers signed a court order restricting the city’s ability to do anything about the concrete plant. I think this is where Geoff Schoos points out that the Mayor supplied the rope with which to have his hands tied. He agreed to give up his ability to revoke the permit. But if he did it until false pretenses, because the provision was “misrepresented,” perhaps this court order can be made null and void.
Toxic Action Center also provided this overview of why the concrete plant environmental issue, and other environmental issues in Rhode Island, are important in the larger picture:
A seemingly local issue, the ongoing conflict over the concrete plant has gained the attention of state and regional groups who see Cranston as an example of just one among many communities in Rhode Island facing environmental and public health threats due to industrial pollution. For example, residents in Tiverton have been fighting for a total cleanup of their neighborhood as a result of coal waste contamination for the past five years.
One of the main sources of concern for Cranston residents opposing the plant’s current site in a residential area is the guaranteed release of hazardous crystalline silica particles into the air, which are classified as a human lung carcinogen and can lead to severe respiratory problems. In addition, opponents of the plant note the potential hazards from diesel emissions from increased truck traffic along Pontiac Avenue. “More than one in ten Rhode Islanders have asthma,” said Molly Clark from the American Lung Association of New England. “And most people don’t realize the impact of diesel exhaust from idling cars and trucks on the air quality around them.”
Other problems with the siting of the plant include the waste water runoff that would be dumped into the Pawtuxet and Pocasset rivers from cleaning cement trucks, and the destruction of the surrounding wetlands that normally serve as a natural buffer for rainwater and protect many parts of Cranston from overflooding.
Cranston Citizens for Responsible Zoning and Development are activating a broad coalition and building momentum among residents to pressure the city to take action. “While our mayor and council have been silenced by Cullion and his legal team, we’re building our coalition with leading Rhode Island environmental and public health organizations to keep this problem from falling under the radar. The issue won’t go away until the plant does,” said president Frank Mattiucci.
Cullion Concrete has stopped construction of the plant amid controversy surrounding the granting of its permits from both the Cranston Zoning Board and the state Department of Environmental Management. Together the concerned residents and the regional environmental groups are pressing the Zoning Board for a public hearing this summer and hope to revoke the permits.
Other notable attendees of today’s press conference were Mark Lucas (who has signed up a bunch of new people to CCRZD — way to go Mark!), Emilio Navarro (still wearing the suit and speaking passionately for residents, very excellent!), Suzanne Arena and a crowd of other great people who are looking out for your community if you live in Cranston. Nice work, everyone.