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You too could be a citizen lobbyist

| July 19, 2023 1:00 AM

What is it like to step into Sens. Steve Daines’ or Jon Tester’s office in Washington, D.C., as an ordinary citizen? How does it feel to push open the heavy doors to the offices of Reps. Matt Rosendale or Ryan Zinke? I know, because I just did that!

In early June I traveled to the Capitol with four other Montanans. All of us are volunteers with Citizens’ Climate Lobby, a nationwide nonpartisan nonprofit. We want our leaders to support American clean energy to lower climate pollution and strengthen our economy.

Our young people are calling on us to clean up our energy supply, as demonstrated in the recent Held v. Montana trial. Shifting to energy which doesn’t release heat-trapping gasses is so important to their future it shouldn’t just be left up to the courts. Big national policy can help.

I arrived in D.C. at midnight; just hours after the Canadian wildfire smoke had finally blown out of town. Coming from Montana, inhaling wildfire smoke is a familiar malaise which is only getting worse as our forests get drier each year.

Our state is particularly vulnerable to the economic impacts of a warming climate. Montana’s average temperature has increased nearly 3 degrees Fahrenheit since 1950. Agriculture is taking a hit with worsening drought and unpredictable weather. Much-needed jobs in our outdoor industries, such as fly fishing and snow skiing, are in jeopardy due to warming streams and shrinking snowpack.

Our Montana team trekked through the many Senate and House buildings on Capitol Hill to visit the offices of each of our four elected officials. I realized the friendly staffers who greeted us are likely the same delightful voices answering my calls! I frequently share what I care about with our Montana leaders by giving them a call.

In our meetings, everyone played an important role. We explained policy ideas and conveyed meaningful next steps to build more clean energy at the speed needed.

Clean Energy Permitting Reform is one policy we emphasized. It is a hot topic on both sides of the aisle in D.C. Did you know over 95% of energy projects currently crawling through the permitting process are for clean energy and storage? Average wait times over four years is too excruciatingly slow.

Montana has abundant wind resources and we deserve a place at the clean energy table. For that to happen we must speed up the deployment of wind farms and the transmission lines needed to connect them to the grid – this means speeding up the permitting process.

As CCL members, we advocate for early, meaningful community input in the permitting process, along with keeping bedrock environmental protections in place. We found opportunities abound for streamlining this creaky old process which both Democrats and Republicans agree on.

My trip to Washington D.C. to meet with Montana’s congressional delegation was an amazing experience. I felt heard and empowered. I experienced firsthand how democracy works. You too could be a citizen lobbyist, and there is no need to travel. Give Senators Daines and Tester, and Congressmen Rosendale and Zinke a call (cclusa.org/call) and tell them to support Clean Energy Permitting Reform and solutions that benefit all Montanans.

Robin Paone is a volunteer for Citizens' Climate Lobby. She lives in Whitefish.