Climate Crisis

Gov. Raimondo Addresses Green New Deal at Sunrise Protest

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Sunrise Providence activists got answers from Gov. Gina Raimondo during a Nov. 14 Boston Globe business forum. Globe reporter Dan McGowan is seated at right. (Tim Faulkner/ecoRI News)

PROVIDENCE — The Sunrise Providence movement finally got answers from Gov. Gina Raimondo on the Green New Deal and got her take on the pledge to renounce donations from fossil-fuel companies.

The youth-driven environmental-justice group staged a Nov. 14 protest during a downtown business forum where Raimondo was a panelist along with Brown University president Christina Paxson.

At one point the group of some 30 activists stood behind the panelists and sang protest songs. The moderator, Globe reporter Dan McGowan, brokered an end to the disruption by allowing the group to ask a question.

“It is disgraceful for you to talk about the future of Rhode Island and not mention climate change,” said Racheal Baker, a local resident and student at the Community College of Rhode Island. “Governor Raimondo, what will you do? Will you sign the Green New Deal?”

After an awkward back-and-forth and more chanting caused by Raimondo asking for Baker’s name, the governor said she agrees with most of Baker’s comments. But when prodded by a protester to address the Green New Deal, Raimondo became agitated.

“I’m the governor. I have nothing to do with the Green New Deal. It’s a federal …,” Raimondo said before she was reminded that there is a movement for a Rhode Island Green New Deal.

“We can talk about that legislation,” she continued, before the activists refuted her line of argument. “If you want to have a discussion to make progress, I’ll do it all day long. I’m as worried about climate change as you are. I have a daughter as well.”

The activists then asked why she accepts campaign donations from from fossil-fuel companies.

“I don’t. I haven’t, and I won’t,” Raimondo said. “I don’t take any corporate money. And you should do your homework.”

“It is disgraceful for you to talk about the future of Rhode Island and not mention climate change.” Racheal Baker, a local resident and student at the Community College of Rhode Island

Raimondo has, in fact, received large donations from fossil-fuel organizations. In 2018, Stacy Schusterman, chairwoman of the Samson Energy Co., an Oklahoma-based oil and gas company, donated $250,000 to a political action committee that redirected the money to Raimondo’s re-election campaign. In prior years, Raimondo received $7,500 donations from people affiliated with fossil-fuel companies, according to the Providence Journal.

A protester urged the governor to sign a pledge he had with him that swears off money from fossil-fuel companies, before McGowan shut down the back-and-forth.

“Whose side are you on,” the activists chanted as they remained behind the panelists. They then filed out as they sang the popular protest song “We’re Going to Rise Up.”

The discourse was the first direct exchange between the Sunrise Providence movement and the governor. The climate activists have held several public demonstrations to meet with Raimondo, including during the Global Climate Strike on Sept. 20.

She hasn’t met them for a scheduled discussion, or stated if she will sign the fossil-fuel pledge or back a local of version of the Green New Deal. When asked by media for a response on these issues, Raimondo typically touts her accomplishments on offshore wind energy and the growth of so-called “green jobs” in the state.

There were no arrests. The protesters and some attendees were disappointed that there was scant mention of the climate crisis during the business forum.

“We find it unbelievable that The Boston Globe could put on this event and not center on climate change when we know that the climate crisis is the biggest threat to our future right now,” said Emma Bouton, an organizer of the protest.

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  1. Interesting. Its hard to believe in this day and age that a conference on RI’s future wouldn’t have a major segment on climate change. But that said, campaign contribution reform doesn’t eliminate a barrel of oil, and like the "Green New Deal" seems largely a feel-good aspiration with the hard choices on what to actually do about solar "sprawl" into woodlands, home heating, transportation, nuclear power, agriculture, human population growth all put off. I’d like to see the Gov pressed more on problematic actual policies that have impact – PUC appointments, Port of Providence developments, huge expenditures on expressways while diverting transit and bike funding, support for sprawl against land use planning by facilitating Citizens Bank’s move out of the metro area to the boonies west of I-295…

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