June 12, 2013

Whitehouse Brings Rhode Island and National Environmental Leaders Together at Washington Conference

Event featured a keynote speech by former Vice President Al Gore

Washington, DC – Yesterday, at an environmental conference organized by U.S. Senator Sheldon Whitehouse (D-RI), approximately 75 Rhode Island environmental and energy leaders heard directly from federal officials about national policies that could affect Rhode Island communities.  Former Vice President Al Gore delivered a keynote address at the event.

Whitehouse hosts Rhode Island Energy and Environmental Leaders Day every year in order to connect Rhode Islanders from the public interest sector, state and local government, industry, and academia with federal environmental officials and experts.

“Rhode Islanders are working hard to protect our environment for future generations, and are leaders in the clean energy economy,” said Senator Whitehouse.  “Yesterday, our local leaders weighed in directly with federal decision makers on environmental and energy policy. I thank all of the attendees from Rhode Island for making this important trip to Washington, and I especially want to thank Vice President Gore for sharing his expertise with us.  He continues to be an inspiration to all of us who are working toward a cleaner, greener future.”

Vice President Gore has long been regarded as one of the foremost environmental leaders in America, and is a forceful advocate for action to address climate change.  He spoke about the challenges and opportunities facing our nation’s energy and environmental leaders, and also praised Rhode Island as a leader in these areas.

Referring to an earlier comment from Senator Whitehouse, Gore said, “He talks about Rhode Island as the little engine that could.  Well, Rhode Island can.  And Rhode Island is doing so much, and I congratulate the business community, NGO and civic leaders, local and state governmental officials who have been doing such a great job.”

Gore also left the Rhode Islanders in attendance with a message of hope about the prospects for protecting our environment and developing clean energy technologies.  “If we can get across the political tipping point, thanks to Sheldon’s leadership and thanks to your involvement in these efforts, then we can make a decision to once again have the United States of America lead the world.  If we as a nation make a commitment to mobilizing to solve this crisis, there’s no doubt we can solve it,” Gore said.

Gore’s entire speech can be viewed here.

RI Department of Environmental Management Director Janet Coit, who was among yesterday’s attendees, noted the importance of this yearly event.  “I have found that these days, by meeting my federal counterparts and even getting to better know people in Rhode Island, we end up having the chance to connect and partner and get things done.  So it becomes a very exciting opportunity that leads to results.  I really appreciate it,” she said.

In addition to Vice President Gore’s speech, the day’s agenda included speeches by U.S. Department of Energy Secretary Ernest Moniz, Deputy Assistant to the President Heather Zichal, Senator Jack Reed (D-RI), Senator Elizabeth Warren (D-MA), Representative Henry A. Waxman (D-CA), and National Resources Defense Council President Frances Beineke; breakout sessions on energy diversity, coastal hazards, clean energy technology, and promoting healthy communities in Rhode Island; and a reception with Representative James Langevin (D-RI) and Representative David Cicilline (D-RI). Senator Whitehouse opened the conference with welcoming remarks.   

Senator Whitehouse is a leading voice for protecting the environment and taking action on climate change in Congress. He is a member of the Senate Environment and Public Works Committee and co-chair of the Senate Oceans Caucus.  He also co-chairs the Bicameral Task Force on Climate Change, which sent a letter to President Obama urging him to develop a comprehensive plan on climate change. Last month, the Senate passed Whitehouse’s amendment to establish a National Endowment for the Oceans, Coasts, and Great Lakes, which would support research and conservation efforts. Whitehouse’s continued leadership in the Senate on environmental issues has lead to increased interest in the conference from some of our nation’s most prolific environmental advocates.


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