Rhode Island Sen. John Chafee, a moderate Republican who worked to fashion bipartisan solutions to environmental problems, died unexpectedly of heart failure last night, at the age of 77. Chafee, chair of the Senate Environment and Public Works Committee, played a significant role in the passage of the 1988 law against ocean dumping, the 1989 oil spill law, and the 1990 Clean Air Act amendments. He also backed the Rio treaty on biodiversity. Chafee had decided against running for reelection next year, and wanted to help address the problem of climate change before leaving the Senate. Rhode Island Gov. Lincoln Almond (R) will appoint someone to fill Chafee’s seat temporarily until next year’s general election. Sen. James Inhofe (R-Okla.) is next in line to head the Environment and Public Works Committee.