The Environment Council of Rhode Island on Friday expressed “deep disappointment” with the comments that House Speaker Nicholas A. Mattiello’s made about climate change at a Globe forum in Providence on Wednesday night.
In response to a question from Globe reporter Dan McGowan, Mattiello said, in part: “There is nothing Rhode Island can do to address climate change in a way that is real or impactful. That has to be done at the national level and an international level.”
The Cranston Democrat said he has supported renewable energy and recycling programs that have made Rhode Island “about as green as a state can be.” But “50-square-foot state of Rhode Island cannot positively or negatively impact the environment,” he said. “All you can do is harm your economy and not improve your climate unless the entire nation joins in.”
Priscilla De La Cruz, president of the Environment Council of Rhode Island, disagreed.
“Most of all, we dispute his assertion that state-level actions will only harm the local economy,” she said in a news release. “That is just wrong. Reducing fossil fuel usage in favor of renewable energy has been proven to be good for job creation and for consumers.”
Meg Kerr, senior director of policy of the Audubon Society of Rhode Island, said the state must prepare for climate change.
“Investing in climate resilience will not only protect our communities and shorelines, it will also grow our economy,” said Kerr, a past president of the Environment Council of Rhode Island. “But this will require leadership from policymakers at every level of government -- local, state, and federal. There’s no excuse for Rhode Island to watch from the sidelines.”
De La Cruz said that while the council is disappointed in Mattiello’s comments, it’s willing to work with the legislature to “fend off the worst effects of the climate crisis, protect our shorelines and neighborhoods, and sustainably grow our economy.”
Mattiello was asked about his climate change comments when he appeared on WPRI-12’s Newsmakers program on Friday.
“The other night you were at the Boston Globe’s event, and you made a comment that blew up on social media,” reporter Ted Nesi said. “Do you think there is any place for Rhode Island to take any steps to address climate change?”
“Absolutely,” Mattiello replied. “And we have been taking the steps. Under my leadership and while I’ve been at the General Assembly, we are one of the greenest states in the country, as far as I know. We have the largest off-shore wind farm. I was part of that process. We’ve enabled wind and solar, and it’s growing.”
So there is a place for Rhode Island to address climate change, Mattiello said. “I was just talking, practically speaking, we are a small state, and it’s most effective if done at the national level,” he said.