Senators on legislating sustainability

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Guam – As the University of Guam wraps up its 10th conference on island sustainability this week, a plenary discussion on Wednesday highlighted the importance of adopting an environmental sustainability framework into policy development. 

During the plenary discussion, seven members of the Guam Legislature provided an update on what the current batch of lawmakers are doing in terms of addressing this need. 

Senators Amanda Shelton and co-author Clynt Ridgell introduced Bill 80-35 which raises the renewable portfolio standards of the Guam Power Authority. The legislation proposes to increase GPA’s renewable energy target from 25 to 50 percent by the end of 2035.

Shelton describes the measure as pushing the envelope. “This is great for our environment. Great for our pocketbooks and for our future generations,” she said.

Ridgell also spoke about increasing Guam’s food security and agricultural sustainability. “In order to be sustainable, we would have to have sustenance. To have the sustenance we need to have our own agriculture industry on Guam. We need to be able to grow our own food and produce our own food. Food security is vital to an island which can be cut off from the rest of the world.”

Sen. Regine Biscoe-Lee said she has been in discussion with the Guam Hotel and Restaurant Association on adopting green policies as a selling point of their business model and their marketing plans.

Biscoe-Lee introduced a bill to ban plastic bags on Guam. The legislation has been enacted into law. Bill 268, or the “Choose to Reuse: Muñgnga Ma Ayek I Plastek.” is similar to statutes implemented in Palau, the Republic of the Marshall Islands, and Yap.

Sen. Mary Camacho Torres said, “Going forward, what we need to do is really look at what we need to do with food waste.” She added there is a lot that can be done, policy-wise, to improve the distribution and use of food so that they do not end up in the landfill.  

Sen. Sabina Perez is concerned about the island’s waste management processes and infrastructure. Perez recently introduced Bill 79-35 which authorizes the government to issue bonds for the purpose of financing a new cell for the Layon landfill. She also recently introduced legislation supporting the use of recycled paper by GovGuam departments.

Sen. Kelly Marsh-Taitano is working on a bill on the Native Flora Conservation Act. The government is the biggest landowner on the island, according to Taitano. She is looking for opportunities for government to put into practice examples of how the community can be co-conservators of the environment.

Sen. Therese Terlaje said that legislators need to look at the impact of their bills on the environment and the community. The legislature recently passed Terlaje’s Bill 27-35 that would require the timely publication of environmental violation notices and settlement agreements on the Guam Environmental Protection Agency’s website.