Sierra Club Lobbies for the environment, clean energy, open spaces

 

By: Richard Wrigley, communications specialist, Connecticut Chapter Sierra Club

 

 

HARTFORD, Conn. -- Environmentally-minded constituents from across the state of Connecticut came to together to lobby their Senators and State Representatives at the Legislative Office Building here March 8, in order to persuade their local legislators to support clean energy, end subsidies for expansion of fracked gas pipelines and to protect open space.

 

The Connecticut Chapter of the Sierra Club, the local chapter of the nation’s oldest and largest grassroots organization, established the Lobby Day recognizing that more needed to be done to protect the state’s environment. Word about the lobby day spread very quickly however, and ultimately lead to the indispensable co-sponsorship of three other state-level environmental activist groups, 350 Connecticut, Connecticut Fund for the Environment, and Citizens Campaign for the Environment.

 

With the support of so many, the lobby day was nearly guaranteed to be a success, and a success it was!

 

The day was filled with the high energy and excitement of people who care tremendously about the future of our state, and started with remarks from a number of local legislators that are like minded in their desire to preserve and protect our environment and our natural resources.

 

One of the legislative speakers was State Senator Ted Kennedy, Jr., 12th District representative and co-chair of the Connecticut Environmental Committee. He candidly shared his thoughts about the importance of the issues at hand.

 

“There are many other people wandering around the LOB right now that are advocating for their issues, and I think it’s important that the environment has advocates as well, because we know that what is happening right now at the federal EPA is a travesty and a direct threat to our clean air and clean water,” said Kennedy.

 

That seemed to be the message from the environmental committee as a whole, as another one of the chairs of the committee, State Representative Mike Demicco, gave similar remarks.

 

“Yes we can all be frustrated by what’s happening in Washington and what we fear will happen in Washington, but really our job...is to do what we can here in Connecticut to make sure we preserve what we have and to make sure that we protect the environment...” said Demicco. “...so yes, what happens in Washington is ugly, and will be ugly, but what happens in Connecticut, that’s within our control, and that is something we have to keep fighting for, to make sure we pass good legislation.”

 

Making sure good legislation was passed was just what the environmental advocates were there to do.

 

After the speakers were finished, the group received some very helpful guidance on how to be most effective in their lobbying, and then proceeded to lobby. However, the constituents quickly learned that getting face time with their representative was not the easiest thing to do. In fact, many had to leave written messages to their representatives who for one reason or another could not make it to the lobby area to meet with their constituents.

Yet there were a lucky few who were able to speak directly to their state representative.

 

Susan Miller, a member of both the Sierra Club and 350 Connecticut, was one of those lucky few when she met with 60th District State Representative Scott Storms, her representative in the state house.

 

“[Meeting with him] was great...he is a newer representative for our town and he seems eager to do a good job, and I appreciate that he came out here to speak with me,” said Miller.

 

Just because she was able to speak to her representative did not mean that Miller’s task-at-hand was simple.

 

In what seemed like no time at all, Miller had to explain what she wanted Storms to support, or not support and why.

 

Current state legislative endeavors that the Sierra Club supports:

Adopting S.J. No. 39 -- An act approving an amendment to the state constitution to protect real property held or controlled by the state.

 

This proposed legislation would amend the Constitution of the State to require a public hearing and a two-thirds vote of the General Assembly to authorize any sale, transfer or disposition of state-owned or state-controlled real property or interest in real property. The resolution is slated to presented to the electors at the general election to be held in November 2018.

 

Preserving Community Investment Act (CIA) Funds.

 

The CIA benefits all Connecticut residents. It was established as a dedicated source of revenue outside of the annual budget in order to provide consistent funding for open spaces, farmland/dairy support, historic properties, and affordable housing programs. However now the CIA is under threat of being raided to mitigate the state deficit. The funds need to be preserved to serve the purpose it was designed for.

 

Proposed S.B. No. 630 -- An act concerning clean and renewable energy opportunities and use of renewable energy sources.

 

S.B. No. 630 is intended to increase the renewable portfolio standard and better incentivize use of renewable energy sources within the state of Connecticut.

 

Proposed H.B. No. 6546 -- An act concerning prohibiting surcharges from being levied on utility customers to subsidize interstate natural gas pipeline capacity

 

The intent behind H.B. 6546 is to prohibit additional costs on utility customers to subsidize the cost of interstate natural gas pipeline capacity. Unfortunately, in 2015, CT state legislators passed Public Act 15-107 which made it so that all electricity rate payers would subsidize the construction and operation of future interstate gas pipelines. In Laymen’s terms, this is a law that forces the public to pay for privately owned infrastructure, which leads to profits for the privately owned corporation, at no need or benefit for the public.

 

As anyone could probably imagine, it was no easy task for Miller to relate all of this quickly and clearly in the very short time she had to do so. Yet she prevailed, something many of her fellow residents in Windsor, and indeed the state over, may come to appreciate.

 

“I didn’t used to [lobby] like this before, and I think I took it for granted that people were just going to do the things that I thought were the right things,” explained Miller. “But it turns out they don’t. People seem to have different agendas, and I found that it is really important to speak up for what is important, and for me the environment and clean energy – that’s extremely important.”