Filippi Sticking to His Word on Quarry Help

The following letter appeared in local newspapers and is shared with us here by the author, Steve Dubois.

I read with great interest the various news reports about Representative Blake Filippi’s open forum on Nov. 18. It is rare for elected officials to stand before an audience to be questioned about any topic whatsoever. That Filippi did so for over 2½ hours before a crowd of approximately 100, and with no moderator, exemplifies open and accessible government.

A corner of the quarry in June 2014The Copar Quarries disaster was one topic covered at the open forum. Copar’s open pit mine has devastated our once peaceful residential neighborhood for over five years. Families have moved away, property values have tanked, and we don’t even know whether the air we breathe is safe.

You would think that government officials would rush in to help us. Instead, they mostly paid lip service to our plight or claimed there was nothing that could be done. That changed when Representative Filippi was elected in 2014 and upheld his promise to fight on our behalf.

Representative Filippi drafted various bills that dealt with quarrying in different manners so that we could tell our story to assorted committees throughout the House of Representatives. He helped organize neighborhood trips to the Rhode Island Statehouse, and worked with us to refine our testimony. Together with my neighbors and town Councilors Jean Gagnier from Westerly, and Thomas Gentz, George Tremblay and Denise Rhodes from Charlestown, we convinced the Rhode Island House of Representatives that something had to be done.

After several of our trips to the statehouse, Filippi then partnered with Representatives Brian Patrick Kennedy and Sam Azzinaro, as well as Senators Dennis Algiere and Elaine Morgan, to introduce the final quarrying bill that ultimately passed. This new law requires Copar to hydrate its piles of mining waste so that fugitive dust no longer blows onto our properties.

The cost of complying with the new law and the public scrutiny caused Copar to shutter its gates — but ominously so. The owner of the quarry property now looks for a new tenant to operate under a consent order signed by the town of Westerly that permits quarrying.

Sitting with neighbors this past summer, Filippi told us that his research indicated the consent order was illegal, and that he wanted to fight it in court. I explained that the neighbors probably wouldn’t be able to come up with the money to pay for a lawyer.

Representative Filippi’s response sticks with me:

Steve, an injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere. I made a promise to fix this, and it is what the people elected me to do. I don’t want any money.

Representative Filippi now donates his time as a lawyer, probably at great personal expense, to overturn the consent order on our behalf so that Copar does not reopen.

Representative Filippi is a man who keeps promises and stands up for his neighbors. We are fortunate to have him on our side.

Steve Dubois