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We tried something new this year: an open invitation to all E2 members to join us in Washington DC for the first E2 Forum, a day of training and briefings, followed by meetings with members of Congress on Capitol Hill. Nineteen members joined us for this first E2 Washington Forum. They came from around the country, with widely different industry backgrounds. A number of the participants were new to advocacy work, while a few had considerable experience.
E2 member Chuck Henderson spoke for many of the delegates when he was asked what he found most useful about the Forum: “the overview of the legislative process and the discussions from the various Congressional and Administration folks. It was great to get the perspectives of folks like Carol Browner and others. Also, the connections with other E2 members from my area and from around the country. I really enjoyed the discussions and the back and forth.”
Oregon Chapter Director Chris Dennett added: “I can't believe how much I learned and how energized I am right now. After learning about how our government process works (a sobering experience), then exercising and engaging my civic duty, I can now bring back what I learned to our local chapter to organize others. This is truly a scalable model that will help E2 members be results-driven and effective advocates for our environment.”
Our briefing sessions, and our meetings the next day with Senators and their staff, drove home an important point. In the current political environment, the two most powerful arguments for clean energy come from the business community (‘job creation’) and the military (‘national security’). Those are messages E2 has been delivering, and will continue to deliver, by providing a platform for our members to tell their stories about the businesses they are building in and around the clean economy. It’s more important than ever that our members are trained, ready and willing to bring their real world business perspective to bear on energy and environmental issues.
The morning sessions were led by NRDC staff. David Goldston provided an insiders’ perspective on how Congress works and showed how small differences in the two chambers’ rules make a significant difference in how they function. He offered an historical reminder that the Founding Fathers had intended for the Senate to act as a restraint on the more populist House, but the current gridlock is perhaps unmatched since before the Civil War.
Bob Deans engaged the delegation with a hands on lesson in messaging, demonstrating with E2 member Chris Dennett how to convert a standard “I work for ….” description into a “we offer choice in health care” story. Ed Chen and Bob Keefe described the work they’re doing on behalf of E2: strategically placing op-eds, organizing radio tours and advising on how to broaden our communications reach.
Scott Slesinger and Marc Boom offered lessons in lobbying. Most valuable take-away: “The best meeting you can have with a legislator is in-district, whether in his office or your facilities. A ribbon cutting is a great way to engage a legislator.” (We’re pleased to report that at our meeting with Sen. Scott Brown the next day, the Senator proposed to visit the facilities of one of our delegates.)
(L to R): David Rosenheim, Nicole Lederer, Irene Stillings, and Carol Browner
The afternoon proceedings were keynoted by Carol Browner, former EPA Administrator and White House Energy Czar, who reminded us that the EPA has been under threat before and offered a spirited defense of the work that the EPA and other agencies have done and continue to do to advance a clean energy/clean air agenda. Jon Carson, Director of the White House Office of Public Engagement, urged E2 to get more business leaders to tell their stories and showcase the businesses they are building.
Greg Dotson, Chief Democratic Counsel, House Energy and Commerce Subcommittee, and Bob Simon, Staff Director for the Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee, opened the door to the functioning of their respective committees, in an exploration of what‘s feasible in the current environment. One take-away from these afternoon sessions: the prospect for clean energy financing is dim so long as the drumbeat continues around Solyndra. That’s all the more reason to shift the narrative towards competitiveness and jobs, as we’ve been doing with our recent op-eds.
E2 member Air Force Lt. General (ret) Norman Seip, spoke at dinner about the priority that the military places on energy security and efficiency as a matter of national security. Beyond explanations we’ve previously heard, one simple fact stood out: Each $10 increase in the cost of a barrel of oil has an $800,000,000 impact on the Air Force budget, reducing funds available for preparedness, housing and other purposes. That’s unsustainable.
The full day of training and briefings served our E2 delegates in good stead when they headed up to the Senate to deliver three messages:
The clean energy economy is growing and creating jobs, but government financing remains important;
Pollution is not a source of job creation; EPA authority to regulate clean air must be maintained; and
The military focus on the development and deployment of clean energy solutions deserves our support.
Delegates had prepared their personal talking points in advance, and were divided into three teams based principally on geography: Northeast, West, and Ohio/Colorado.
Team Leader: Berl Hartman
Team Leader: Dave Moyar
Team Leader: Dave Rosenheim
E2 members: Wayne Davis David O’Leary Sam Perry Norman Seip Sally Supplee
E2 members: Holly Beaver Hal Candee Clark Gates Fred Julander David Noble
E2 members: Meera Balakumar Chris Dennett Chuck Henderson Irene Stillings Ed Supplee
Sen John Kerry (D-MA) staff
Sen Sherrod Brown (D-OH)
Sen Barbara Boxer (D-CA) staff
Sen Scott Brown (R-MA)
Sen Michael Bennet (D-CO)
Sen Patty Murray (D-WA) staff (cancelled)
Sen Sheldon Whitehouse (D-RI)
Sen Mark Udall (D-CO)
Sen Jeff Merkley (D-OR)
In all of these meeting, our teams not only presented our arguments, but also learned what our allies in Congress are doing to try and break through the current deadlock. Whether meeting with Senators or staff, it was made clear that E2’s stories and advocacy are an important part of the debate in Washington and that we need to repeat our message as much as possible. E2’s sign-on letters and Clean Energy Jobs Newsletters were both cited repeatedly as being incredibly valuable. The biggest take-away from these meetings is that having our members in the room with a member of Congress creates an important connection and that our legislators have great interest in learning what our members do for a living.