Header, the Administration of the Honorable Lincoln C. Almond
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  2002 Signature
2002 Veto
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June 26, 2002


In accordance with the provisions of Rhode Island General Laws § 43-1-4, I am transmitting herewith, with my disapproval, 2002-H 7063, Substitute A, "An Act Relating to Towns and Cities - Uniform Relocation Payments."

This bill would require that any city or town that intends to "acquire a petroleum marine facility or fuel storage facility ("fuel facility") by eminent domain first complete a "federal environmental impact statement" for submission to the Rhode Island Economic Development Corporation ("RIEDC"). The RIEDC is then required to issue a "record of decision" to determine the "economic and environmental impact of the proposed condemnation." Additionally, if the acquisition then occurs, the municipality must compensate the "business and/or residential interests" in accordance with state law and the "Federal Uniform Relocation Assistance Act and Real Property Acquisition Policies," which provides for relocation payments.

The intent of this legislation is to assure that the cost and stability of petroleum supplies and reserves are not compromised by redevelopment efforts. It is a compelling concern that a proper balance between the costs and benefits of redevelopment projects take into account the secondary effects on critical State infrastructure, including fuel storage capacity. The adequacy of petroleum infrastructure and supplies, along with the efficient and low cost delivery of those supplies, is of vital importance not only to those businesses involved in providing that commodity, but also to the commercial and residential end users. This legislation, unfortunately, does not accomplish that end and is fatally flawed.

The Act is inconsistent with applicable federal law. The National Environmental Policy Act ("NEPA") applies only when federal action is taken. Moreover, only when certain circumstances are met does NEPA require that a lengthy and expensive federal environmental impact statement ("EIS") be conducted. Even then, the EIS is conducted by the appropriate federal agency and cooperating agencies involved with the decision making regarding that proposed federal action. This bill, measured in light of the federal statutory framework, does not pass muster.

First, municipal condemnation of a fuel facility rarely would involve any federal action [e.g., dredging of a shipping channel) that would even allow (never mind mandate) a federal EIS. Yet this bill requires the completion of a federal EIS, a condition that is likely impossible. This fact alone makes the bill unworkable. Second, even if there were federal jurisdiction to undertake an EIS, federal law is clear that it is the federal agency that issues a record of decision on the application. This bill appears, impermissibly, to make the RIEDC in charge of issuing a "record of decision" on the proposed condemnation. Third, even if these insurmountable hurdles were somehow overcome, the bill further puts the RIEDC, the State's economic development agency which I chair, in charge of determining the "environmental impact" of the condemnation. The RIEDC is not an environmental regulatory agency. As a matter of public policy, final governmental decisions on environmental impacts must be performed by the appropriate environmental regulatory agencies whose expertise and mission are to make such determinations.

I would support a bill that appropriately balanced the municipal power of, condemnation with the State's interests in assuring an adequate supply of fuel for its residents. Unfortunately, this is not that bill.

For these reasons, I disapprove of this legislation and respectfully urge your support of this veto.


Lincoln Almond