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Business Voice for the Environment
April 30, 2009
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Thursday, July 24, 2014 (11:00 AM - 1:00 PM Central)
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Thursday, July 24, 2014 (4:00 PM - 5:00 PM Eastern)
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Monday, July 28, 2014 (5:30 PM - 8:00 PM Pacific)
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  Photo id
  On the way to meet Nancy Sutley (from left): E2 member Joel Serface; NRDC Affiliate Advocacy Coordinator Richie Ackerman; E2 members John Cheney, Barry Dicker, John Harper; E2 Climate Campaign Director Diane Doucette; and E2 member Berl Hartman. (Click on photo for larger version.)
We have witnessed a true sea change in the nation’s capital. President Obama is committed to moving the country toward a clean energy future as one of his top three priorities, and the No. 1 agenda item in Congress is to reverse the economic crisis that erupted last fall. In this context, the 2009 E2 delegation of 18 members from around the country went to Washington on April 21 and 22 prepared to promote a federal cap on carbon emissions and complementary energy and transportation polices as drivers of economic growth and job creation. Our message - that a new, robust, low-carbon energy economy will emerge with the right policies in place - was highly relevant to this Congress, which is urgently committed to finding solutions to the recession and putting Americans back to work. While many legislators are now more open than ever before to considering the potential of a carbon cap and related energy policies as vehicles for economic recovery, there remains a significant contingent who argues that the nation cannot "afford" this change. The E2 delegation was ideally qualified to address these issues with authority, and to provide real-world evidence of the economic opportunities under a carbon cap.

The State of Play in Washington

Photo id  
Senator Jon Tester (D-MT) at center with E2 members (from left) Bob Epstein, Chris Arndt, David Noble, Robert Keith, John Cheney and Steve Cowell. (Click on photo for larger version.)  
We arrived at a moment of intense activity on climate and energy policy in Congress and the Administration. The House Energy and Commerce Committee had just released its draft climate legislation, the American Clean Energy and Security Act authored by Committee Chair Henry Waxman (D-CA) and Energy and Environment Subcommittee Chair Ed Markey (D-MA). The Committee was holding hearings throughout the week as part of their timetable to pass the bill out of committee by Memorial Day. Though they have not yet written a climate bill, several Senate committees were also holding hearings on climate policy, including the Senate Foreign Relations Committee and even the Senate Intelligence Committee. The Environment and Public Works Committee, chaired by Senator Barbara Boxer (D-CA), and the Energy and Natural Resources Committee, chaired by Senator Jeff Bingaman (D-NM), are both planning to introduce policies addressing carbon emissions and the nation’s energy portfolio.

  Photo id
  Nancy Sutley, Chair of the White House Council on Environmental Quality: "It was a pleasure meeting with E2 during their recent visit to Washington. Our economic and environmental interests should always be closely aligned so I commend E2’s business leaders for their work. President Obama’s environmental and energy policies are driven by a fundamental principal that a strong, sustainable economy and a healthy environment go hand-in-hand."
Perhaps the most significant development was the long-anticipated "endangerment finding" by the Environmental Protection Agency , which establishes under the Clean Air Act that greenhouse gases contribute to air pollution and therefore endanger public health and welfare.

The significance of the EPA’s endangerment finding is huge, representing the Administration’s "big stick" to promote President Obama’s agenda to transition the country to a low-carbon energy economy. While a number of legislators (and industry lobbies) have spent the last few years hoping to forestall meaningful action on carbon policy, the specter of having the EPA regulate economy-wide carbon emissions, as it is authorized to do, has changed the attitude of those on the Hill from one of denial to one of forced engagement. Members of Congress, no matter how far apart on the topic of climate change they may be, are unified on one theme: they would rather work on a national carbon policy through legislation than have the EPA impose regulation upon them.

It was in this highly charged atmosphere that our E2 delegation conducted meetings with members of Congress, the Administration and also the press.

Our Delegation

E2 members on the 2009 team are entrepreneurs and investors, all of whom offered significant first-hand testimony about the flow of capital, innovation and economic growth that will result from a nation-wide cap on global warming emissions. Collectively, these delegates are growing businesses and creating jobs in 39 states. The geographic and professional diversity of our team was a significant factor in helping us to get meetings with legislators from all regions of the country, including those from agricultural, manufacturing and coal states.

Policy Ping-pong on Carbon Legislation

"I probably learned as much from my E2 colleagues on the tour as I did from the discussions with the House, Senate, DOE, CEQ and DOL offices. The debate in DC has moved from ’Do we need to do this?’ to ’How do we do this in an economically positive way’ and ’How do we sell this to our constituents?’"  
Tim Connor (Boulder, CO)  
Our strategy on Capitol Hill was to meet with "swing" legislators, those who have not yet declared themselves to be either in favor of nor strongly opposed to carbon and related energy policy. Many of these key legislators are engaging in serious negotiations on carbon policy for the first time, and their votes will determine the outcome of the debate. A striking difference from our 2008 trip was the change in leadership roles on this issue between the two chambers. Last year it was the Senate that introduced the first-ever comprehensive carbon bill, the Climate Stewardship Act sponsored by Senators Joe Lieberman (I-CT) and John Warner (D-VA), while the House failed to produce a companion bill. This year, under the emphatic leadership of Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-CA), Energy and Commerce Committee Chairman Waxman, and Congressman Markey, the House is leading the way on climate issues by introducing the draft American Clean Energy and Security Act. However, the Senate is now more scattered on the issue than before, with no clear protocol or schedule for a carbon bill and a number of prior supporters of the Lieberman-Warner bill now voicing reservations about the economic impact of carbon policy, and cap-and-trade specifically.

Our Hill Meetings and What We Learned

Including briefings we were invited to do for the Senate Environment and Public Works Committee and the House Sustainable Energy and Environment Coalition, we met with the following 68 offices:

Steven Chu (staff) Administration
Hilda L. Solis (staff) Administration
Nancy Sutley Administration
Brian Baird (D - WA) House
John Barrow (D - GA) (staff) House
Mary Bono Mack (R - CA) (staff) House
G.K. Butterfield (D - NC) (staff) House
Lois Capps (D - CA) House
Susan A. Davis (D - CA) (staff) House
Diana DeGette (D - CO) (staff) House
Mike Doyle (D - PA) (staff) House
Donna Edwards (D - MD) (staff) House
Gene Green (D - TX) House
Deborah Halvorson (D - IL) House
Mazie K. Hirono (D - HI) (staff) House
Rush Holt (D - NJ) House
Steny H. Hoyer (D - MD) (staff) House
Jay Inslee (D - WA) House
Dennis J. Kucinich (D - OH) (staff) House
Steven C. LaTourette (R - OH) (staff) House
Doris Matsui (D - CA) (staff) House
James P. McGovern (D - MA) (staff) House
Michael McMahon (D - NY) (staff) House
Jerry McNerney (D - CA) House
Charlie Melancon (D - LA) (staff) House
John Mica (R - FL) (staff) House
James L. Oberstar (D - MN) (staff) House
Ed Perlmutter (D - CO) (staff) House
Chellie Pingree (D - ME) (staff) House
Mike Ross (D - AR) (staff) House
Zack Space (D - OH) (staff) House
Fortney "Pete" Stark (D - CA) (staff) House
Betty S. Sutton (D - OH) (staff) House
Paul Tonko (D - NY) House
Fred Upton (R - MI) (staff) House
Chris Van Hollen (D - MD) (staff) House
Max Baucus (D - MT) (staff) Senate
Evan Bayh (D - IN) (staff) Senate
Mark Begich (D - AK) Senate
Jeff Bingaman (D - NM) (staff) Senate
Barbara Boxer (D - CA) (staff) Senate
Sherrod Brown (D - OH) Senate
Sam Brownback (R - KS) (staff) Senate
Maria Cantwell (D - WA) Senate
Benjamin L. Cardin (D - MD) (staff) Senate
Kent Conrad (D - ND) Senate
Byron L. Dorgan (D - ND) Senate
Russell Feingold (D - WI) (staff) Senate
Kirsten Gillibrand (D - NY) (staff) Senate
Kay Hagan (D - NC) Senate
Tom Harkin (D - IA) (staff) Senate
Tim Johnson (D - SD) (staff) Senate
Amy Klobuchar (D - MN) (staff) Senate
Carl Levin (D - MI) (staff) Senate
Blanche Lincoln (D - AR) (staff) Senate
Claire C. McCaskill (D - MO) (staff) Senate
Lisa Murkowski (R - AK) (staff) Senate
Ben Nelson (D - NE) (staff) Senate
John D. Rockefeller IV (D - WV) (staff) Senate
Jeanne Shaheen (D - NH) (staff) Senate
Arlen Specter (R - PA) (staff) Senate
Debbie A. Stabenow (D - MI) (staff) Senate
Jon Tester (D - MT) Senate
Mark Udall (D - CO) (staff) Senate
Tom Udall (D - NM) (staff) Senate
John W. Warner (R - VA) (staff) Senate
James Webb (D - VA) (staff) Senate
Ron Wyden (D - OR) Senate

  Photo id
  E2 members briefing the Senate Environment and Public Works Committee. From left: Nicole Lederer, Steve Cowell, Jack Oswald, Dan Goldman, Marc Porat, Paul Zorner and Nancy Floyd. (Click on photo for larger version.)
The recurring themes in these meetings included:
  • A concern that no one region of the country be disproportionally impacted by carbon policy,
  • A desire to better understand the opportunities for individual states and districts to attract new businesses under a carbon cap,
  • A concern that consumers be protected from rising electricity prices resulting from a cap,
  • A concern that carbon-intensive industries should not be placed at a disadvantage in global trade with countries that do not have carbon restrictions, and
  • The need for investment in and development of carbon capture and storage (CCS) technology for coal-fired electric generation
All of these issues will have to be addressed before a meaningful carbon policy can be passed in Congress.

The Administration Seeks Support for Carbon Policy from the Business Community

"The opportunity to persuasively make a case from the business perspective - supported by clear facts - of the need for carbon legislation was a tremendous and unique endeavor, and I think we dramatically moved the ball forward in this regard. Our ability to engage with members and staff as business professionals was clearly appreciated by those with whom we met."  
Dan Goldman (Newton, MA)  
Our delegation also met with Administration officials to promote E2 as a resource for business support for the President’s agenda to promote a new energy economy. We met with the Council on Environmental Quality (CEQ), as well as with the Department of Energy (DOE) and the Department of Labor (DOL).

At DOE, Senior Advisor Matt Rogers and Renewable Energy Grants Advisor Sanjay Wagle asked for help identifying qualified experts to assist with the allocation of stimulus funds from the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act via the grant review process. DOL Senior Advisor Oscar Ramirez was very interested in our message regarding clean energy jobs, especially since it was delivered by those who are creating many of those jobs right now. In the White House, Nancy Sutley, Chair of the CEQ, offered to deliver a message from E2 to President Obama. Our suggestions included that the President should reach out to utilities and their regulators in Southern and Midwestern states about the benefits of strong carbon legislation and renewable energy standards to their regions, and that stable funding sources should be provided to help new low-carbon technologies expand from the demonstration phase to full deployment and plant construction.

The Press Meets with E2

  "There was excellent targeting of swing-state members, so that in virtually every meeting our members were actually influencing votes. We felt that our meetings really could impact the votes of genuinely undecided members - who wanted to do the right thing but needed the arguments in their states to do so."
  Berl Hartman (Cambridge, MA)
Thanks to the efforts of NRDC’s Washington Communications team, E2 team members were able to meet with reporters from six major news sources: The Washington Post; Reuters; NPR; McClatchy; The Wall Street Journal; and Dow Jones.

As a result of this and other media interactions, E2 members appeared in several publications during the timeframe of our Washington visit:
Photo id  
From left: E2 members Jack Oswald, Barry Dicker, Tim Connor, Nicole Lederer and Marc Porat. (Click on photo for larger version.)  
Summary

The recession is the elephant in every meeting room in Washington , DC . Every policy under discussion is being evaluated first and foremost for its ability to grow the economy and create jobs. In this sense, though the economic downturn is providing our opponents with the opportunity to argue that the nation cannot "afford" a change in our energy profile, it is also providing advocates of a low-carbon energy economy with a singular opportunity. The fact is the E2 message appears to be the only real economic growth story in town right now - creating new companies and hiring people in every region of the country, even in this recession and in the face of policy uncertainty. Our delegates spoke compellingly about the enormous economic engine that a price on carbon emissions will create and the growth and jobs that will result.

Nevertheless, there are real concerns about how the transition to a low-carbon energy economy will impact consumers in the short term, how workers will transition from carbon-intensive industries and how certain regions of the country will take part in a new low-carbon economy. Federal legislators voiced a need for more specific state- and district-level information about the opportunities for their constituents. At this point, we risk a chicken-and-egg dynamic - legislators may be reluctant to enact carbon policy without advance proof of job creation and a "soft landing," but without the federal policies in place and a clear market signal on carbon, an American low-carbon technology sector may lack the power to achieve lift-off.

  "This year’s trip was the most organized, most supported and widely received of any trip I’ve taken. I truly bask in the knowledge, passion and success of my fellow delegates. I do think we bring a special voice to the Hill."
  Nancy Floyd (Portland, OR)
E2 will remain very active on these issues in the coming months. We thank the 18 member volunteers who formed the 2009 E2 DC delegation for their time and efforts, and the excellent NRDC DC staff for their strategic guidance and support.


Member comments on this article

Maureen Blanc (Apr 30, 2009)Great report! Congratulations to the E2 team for an amazing effort in a critical year for environmental policy. I am hopeful that E2 is making a huge impact and that we will see the fruits of our labor in the months ahead.

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