E2 advocacy trips to Washington, DC have been conducted during historic blizzards and blistering heat waves, so it was a special treat that our 2015 DC Delegation trip coincided with three beautiful spring days in the nation’s capital. Our team this year (some of whom are pictured upper right) consisted of 16 E2 Members who live or do business in over 30 states. The geographic diversity represented on the delegation made it possible for us to schedule meetings with legislators who’ve never met with us before, many of whom are particularly important to advancing climate and clean energy policy.

 
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E2 delegation and staff with Senator Joni Ernst.

Our delegation was also diverse from an industry perspective, with members from finance, venture capital and angel investing, aviation, solar, wind and fuel cell renewable energy, truck-stop electrification, real estate development, farming, goods movement and shipping, military, and energy efficiency retrofitting. Half the DC delegates were brand new advocates, but with pre-trip training and the support of the more experienced delegates all team members were valuable advocates on behalf of climate, clean energy and advanced transportation policies.
At the time of our arrival in DC the components of both an energy bill and a transportation bill were being hammered out, and Senate Leader Mitch McConnell had just taken the most overt action yet to discourage states from taking steps to reduce carbon emissions.

Our Issues

Despite America’s energy profile evolving quickly and dramatically, the last time Congress passed a federal energy bill was 8 years ago. With decisions pending on the future of energy tax credits like the Wind PTC, Solar ITC and a variety of energy efficiency provisions, members of Congress have a renewed interest in trying to pass a comprehensive energy bill this Congress. Senator Murkowksi (R-AK) and Representative Upton (R-MI), the chairs of the energy committees, laid out plans to craft bills this year with the hope of influencing energy policy for the foreseeable future. 

The E2 delegation arrived as both committees were set to begin a series of hearings on the energy issues facing the nation.  This meant our discussions with legislators were ideally timed to spread our message that continued federal support of clean energy is essential to providing consumers with better energy choices, creating domestic jobs, and decreasing the carbon pollution that drives climate change. An E2 action alert signed by 186 E2 members was provided to every office with which we met.

In addition to energy policy, Congress had just begun to address an impending funding shortfall for the nation’s surface transportation programs.  This shortfall required Congress to reauthorize all of the highway and infrastructure programs this year and find a new source of funding for the years ahead.

 
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E2 Midwest Chapter Director David Kolsrud with Senator Heidi Heitkamp.

This proved to be an opportune time to discuss with lawmakers how the next transportation bill could reduce the environmental impact of the system while improving economic efficiency. Specifically, we urged Congress to focus on boosting investment in innovation, delivering more options, increasing resilience and increasing public input in the new transportation law.  Find out more about these recommendations in the letter we left behind with offices, signed by 185 E2 members.

Our third and perhaps most important objective for this trip to DC was to urge Congress to support action to address climate change.   Specifically, we asked that Congress not block, delay or weaken the EPA’s Clean Power Plan, which will reduce carbon emissions from the power sector by 30% in 2030 by deploying a mix of renewables, demand-side efficiency, natural gas, and greater efficiency in coal-fired power plants.

The week before our arrival in DC, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell had sent a letter to all 50 governors urging them to “just say no” to the Clean Power Plan and decline to work with EPA to set state carbon reduction targets.  Our job was to counter this message with the fact that clean energy is already generating significant economic benefits and thousands of jobs across the country, with E2’s Clean Energy Jobs Reports to back us up.

As the most aggressive plan to reduce our country’s carbon pollution emissions, the Clean Power Plan is a critical catalyst for the clean energy economy.  The economic opportunities created by implementing the Clean Power Plan as well its ability to help reign in the growing costs of climate change were the focus of our comments to legislators and are summarized in this action alert signed by 150 E2 members.

Our Meetings

With the Republican Party winning control of both houses of Congress this year we sought to reach out to as many of the new leadership and new members as possible.  Most of these new members are from the Midwest and Southeastern states, so we brought in E2 members who had the most business connections in those regions.  This effective pairing of our expertise with the geography of the new senators meant we were able to secure meetings with many new offices, for example Sen. Joni Ernst of Iowa and Sen. Tom Cotton of Arkansas.  Of course we also met with old friends like Sen. Boxer of California and Sen. Markey of Massachusetts as well.  Here's a full listing of the 60+ meetings we conducted in 1.5 days.
 

"I’ve worked with many PR, business, and group events that required prep. This trip had excellent prep material, calls, and professionalism top to bottom. Sticking to tight agendas, holding strong business professionalism as the standard, and focusing on positive messaging were all excellent.  I am also totally impressed by the number of meetings and overall 'density' of impact during the two days. Truly impressive."   
Mark Bauhaus, DC Trip delegate and E2 California member

In addition to meeting with members of Congress we met with key federal agencies to discuss our priorities. We spoke with officials at USDA to discuss progress on precision agriculture and conservation practices to reduce carbon intensity within the sector. We spoke with the Department of Transportation to better understand the challenges facing the transportation system and how business leaders can be more effective in providing innovative solutions. Finally, we spoke with staff at the Council on Environmental Quality, the White House’s office dedicated to environmental issues, for an update on the progress of the President’s Climate Action Plan and the road to an international climate agreement in Paris later this year.

At dinner EPA’s Janet McCabe, Acting Assistant Administrator of Air and Radiation, the person most responsible for overseeing the development of the Clean Power Plan, provided us with an overview of the challenges EPA is facing in constructing a plan that will be attractive to as many stakeholders as possible and still have a significant impact on the threat of climate change. We also heard from the Department of Energy’s Karen Wayland, Deputy Director for State and Local Cooperation, discussed the findings of the Department of Energy’s recently released Quadrennial Energy Review and how the document provides a blueprint for a national energy plan. 

Conclusions

In addition to conducting 60+ meetings with Congress and the Administration, the E2 DC delegation added to our reputation as a non-partisan business voice on strategic economic and environmental issues, and established new relationships with legislators from key regions of the country.  Future E2 delegations will build upon this foundation and the reputation that the 2015 delegation enhanced through their efforts.  Many thanks to all of them, and to the many E2 and NRDC staffers who helped to coordinate and advise us on this trip, in particular E2’s Advocacy Director, Marc Boom.

– Nicole Lederer is Chair and Co-Founder of E2.