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Joining E2 is the most effective way to stay informed about cutting-edge environmental issues, leverage your professional network, and use your skills to influence important environmental policy issues.

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Business Voice for the Environment
E2 Delegation Travels to Washington

On May 20th and 21st a delegation of 14 E2 members met with 28 Senators and Representatives in Washington, DC. The meetings exceeded our expectations as we established visibility for E2 in Washington, discussed up to six issues with each of the legislators and arranged follow-up activities.

E2 At A Glance

Our first objective was to introduce E2 to national lawmakers as a strategic tool for achieving economically sound environmental objectives. We did this in part by expressing the unique value of E2 in numeric terms.

- E2 now represents 400 members from 16 states, professionals and business people who support the economic benefits of good environmental policy.

-Those members have started over 800 companies.

-Those companies have created over 400,000 jobs.

- 15% of E2 members are in venture capital with over $20 billion in venture funds flowing to create new companies and new jobs.

We created a new E2 at a Glance document to describe ourselves to legislators. Our message and business credentials were well received. For example, Congressman Holt commented, "Environmentally unsustainable business practices are economically dangerous."
Pictured above are (first row) E2 members Nicole Lederer, Bob Epstein, Berl Hartman, Roger Ullman; (second row) Harry Cochran, John Cusack, Dan Goldman, Chris Kaneb and E2 coordinator Christine Koronides; (third row) NRDC staff Deron Lovaas, Karen Wayland, E2 members Dave Readerman, Reid Dennis and NRDC staff Priscilla Bayley; (fourth row) NRDC staff Lisa Speer, E2 member Wendy Neu, NRDC staff Alys Campaigne, John Grant. E2 members not pictured: Gordon Davidson, Bob Fisher, Bill Unger.

The Meetings

We requested meetings with over 70 members of Congress from both parties. We ended up with 28 meetings with 13% of the Senate and 3.5% of the House. Though we tried to meet with legislators who might be swing votes on our issues, in the end, a more diverse group was willing to meet with us from the Senate, while mostly only friends and supporters of our environmental agenda were willing to talk with us from the House. This disparity between the two houses was visible throughout the day. The House of Representatives is dominated by a solid Republican majority that gavels through most elements of the President's environmental agenda (such as drilling in the Arctic Refuge). The Senate, on the other hand, is more independent and is our best hope for preventing backsliding on environmental issues. Our meetings were with:

Senator McCain R-AZ Representative Matsui D-CA
Senator Jeffords I-VT Representative Waxman D-CA
Senator Clinton D-NY Representative Baird D-WA
Senator Inhofe (staff) R-OK Representative Oberstar (staff) D-MN
Senator Voinovich (staff) R-OH Representative Blumenauer D-OR
Senator Daschle (staff) D-SD Representative LoBiondo (staff)* R-NJ
Senator Sarbanes (staff) D-MD Representative Miller (staff)* D-CA
Senator Wyden D-OR Representative Tauscher (staff)* D-CA
Senator Boxer D-CA Representative Allen (staff)* D-ME
Senator Kerry (staff) D-MA Representative Boehlert (staff)* R-NY
Senator Schumer D-NY Representative Costello (staff) D-IL
Senator Kennedy (staff) D-MA Representative Holt D-NJ
Senator Feinstein (staff) D-CA Representative Solis (staff) D-CA
    Representative Filner D-CA
* Representative was called
to vote and unable to
attend
  Representative Nadler D-NY

"When I joined E2 last December, I wouldn't have believed that a few months later I'd be sitting in front of John McCain, Jim Jeffords, Ron Wyden, Barbara Boxer and other congressional leaders telling them my views on the environment." - Berl Hartman (E2-Massachusetts)

Our Issues

We were prepared to address six issues currently active in Congress (see links for complete background):

1. Oceans Conservation - Protect against weakening of current law governing oceans, rebuild New England fisheries, gain visibility for Pew Commission report on oceans to be released on June 4, which outlines specific proposals to increase the economic and environmental value of the oceans.

2. Clean Water Act - Reject proposed changes to the Clean Water Act that would reduce the nation's protected waterways by 60%. Support bill to reaffirm waters protected by the Clean Water Act, put pressure on EPA not to weaken the act further.

3. Energy Bill - The House already passed an energy bill that includes large public subsidies for fossil fuels and nuclear industries and drilling in the Arctic National Wildlife refuge. The Senate bill is similar to the House bill (but without drilling) but has not reached a final vote. We would like to move the useful portions of the energy bill to other bills and have the larger bill die on the floor.

4. Transportation Equity Act - Support reauthorization of popular transportation bill but maintain funding for non-road construction projects, including mass transit, and environmental protections.

5. Department of Defense Environmental Exemptions - Block provisions in the 2004 DOD authorization bill that would exempt DOD and other federal agencies from various environmental laws including the Endangered Species Act (ESA) and Marine Mammal Protection Act (MMPA). At the end of our trip, the House passed damaging proposals on ESA and MMPA while the Senate cast an important vote to scale back ESA exemptions. The fight now continues as the two bodies reconcile their positions in conference.

6. Forest Protection - Reject efforts to open national forests to unregulated logging. While we were in Washington the House voted on (and approved) legislation similar to the President's proposal to repeal essential forest protections, including the rights of public appeal and judicial review, in order to promote logging and weaken environmental laws under the guise of reducing wildfire risk.


"In just about every meeting, I was surprised by the immediate recognition that E2 is a uniquely positioned organization; the folks we met with "got it" very quickly and responded positively to our message." - Dan Goldman (E2-Massachusetts)

The Results

Forgive the baseball analogy but we feel like we had a terrific season opener - the delegation was well received and demonstrated knowledge and commitment - and the legislators expressed strong interest in following-up with us. At the same time, there are still 161 games left to play in a very long season, anti-environmental momentum is strong and these forces control most of government. After watching the methodical dismantling of 30 years of bi-partisan environmental progress, it felt very good to be there in person to try to make a difference.

"The clear message I received from the numerous meetings was that members of Congress will listen to the business community regarding environmental issues." - Gordon Davidson (E2-Virginia)

Oceans Protection

Senator McCain expressed interest in holding a hearing on ocean conservation once the Pew Commission report is issued. Senators Boxer, Kerry and Wyden were interested in pulling together events to draw attention to the Pew Commission report. In a wide-ranging discussion with Senator Kennedy's staff, we started to understand the dynamics of New England fisheries - reducing over-fishing without disproportional damage to the small fishing fleets, preventing the fish processors from having monopolistic control like they have in Alaska, and securing funding to manage the transition to a smaller fishing fleet. We are scheduling a follow-up meeting with Senator Kennedy in Boston. With recent editorials from the NY Times and LA Times coupled with the Pew Commission report, we feel the issue will get visibility but the challenge is likely to be funding - the non-ocean states need to understand why they should support increasing oceans protection.

Clean Water Act

In the House the bill we support is unlikely to come up for a vote. Both Representative Oberstar's staff and Representative Blumenauer felt that Don Young (R-AK) would not allow the bill to be heard in his Committee on Transportation and Infrastructure. Nonetheless, we should get a substantial number of co-sponsors for the bill from both sides of the aisle. Representative Waxman suggested getting every member from California. The Senate is in a better position. Many of the Senators we met with were already co-sponsors or were planning to become co-sponsors. We still need to secure the first Republican co-sponsor and hope to persuade Senator McCain to be the first. Our twin goals are to cause a visible vote on this issue and to keep pressure on the EPA.

Energy Bill

Because the House already passed its energy bill, our focus was on the Senate. The bill is currently a "filler bill", meaning it is worked on by senators on the Senate floor in between higher priority issues. Debate will begin for two more weeks when the Senate returns from recess on June 2. Senator McCain plans to propose his Climate Change bill as an amendment to the Energy Bill and also to force a new vote on fuel economy standards. Senators Feinstein and Snowe plan on bringing their fuel economy bill, S.255 to a vote as well. It would bring SUVs up to the same standard as cars by 2011. None of these amendments are likely to pass but they will help highlight the flaws of the current energy proposal.

Senator Jeffords suggested that alternative fuel tax credits and the ethanol proposals be moved to the tax bill and transportation bill. Moving those provisions might allow several Senators to drop their support for the energy bill. (Farm states like the revenue from producing ethanol.) Meetings with other offices indicate that this is a plausible solution.

Senator Wyden is conducting his own research into the total amount Congress has subsidized the nuclear industry. The current Senate bill proposes an additional $20 billion in subsidies and loan guarantees for nuclear power. Both Senator Wyden and Representative Holt are interested in pursuing energy plans that would make the US more energy efficient, less dependent on fossil fuels, clean the air and reduce the threat of climate change.

In our optimistic moments, we could imagine the current, environmentally destructive energy bill being defeated or dragged down by a lengthy floor debate. In other moments, we fear that vague concern that "we need an energy bill" could create enough momentum to carry the bill to passage.

Transportation Equity Act

The funding for non-highway projects and environmental protections are the key risks in the Transportation Reauthorization bill. In our meeting with Senator Inhofe's staff, it was made clear that the Senator (who is Chair of the Environmental Committee) wanted to pursue limiting environmental review and air quality standards for transportation projects and that Oklahoma saw no need to fund mass transit at the federal level because mass transit doesn't benefit rural states. However, the four key members of the Environment Committee (Inhofe, Jeffords, Bond and Baucus) have committed to develop a common proposal - which gives us great hope that Senator Inhofe's position will be moderated.

Representative Oberstar, the ranking member of the House Transportation Committee, had many positive things to say. The arguments offered for weakening environmental procedures are all based on "streamlining", i.e., reducing the time it takes to design and authorize a project. His own research demonstrates that most time is lost in state and local government coordination and serial implementations. He will be a leader against the "if it's pavement, it must be good" theories. Representative Blumenauer offered two interesting facts: (1) general tax reduction usually generates 1 or 2 jobs per million dollars (which can't be directly linked) versus transportation investments which generate 10 to 20 jobs per million; (2) 1/3 of all flights are 350 miles or less and can be better served through mass transit.

Department of Defense Exemptions


Because the DOD authorization bill is a required bill that no one wants to oppose, it is an easy target for special "riders". DOD originally sought exemptions from five environmental laws that regulate hazardous waste and Superfund sites, and protect marine and terrestrial wildlife and clean air. Environmentalists oppose these exemptions. In fact, EPA administrator Christie Whitman told Congress that she didn't know of any cases where environmental compliance put military readiness at risk, and the armed forces have never even asked for the temporary waivers they're already allowed under existing regulations. The Pentagon has achieved some success in managing resources on bases by working with surrounding communities to find local solutions.

The House-passed version of the bill provides exemptions from the Marine Mammal Protection Act and the Endangered Species Act. The Senate rejected exemptions and voted on a compromise amendment that sets criteria that must be met before DOD can be exempted from the Endangered Species Act. The Senate will consider MMPA exemptions later this year when that bill is reauthorized. We must now face a hostile conference committee with Senate Republicans including Chairman Warner and the House Republicans arrayed against us. The Pentagon did not expect us to do as well as we did in the Senate (51 - 48 vote in our favor).

Forest Protection

Our meeting with Representative Miller was deferred as he was on the House floor offering an amendment to the forest legislation. His amendment would have targeted fire risk reduction funds to areas near communities at risk, while retaining existing protections for our wild forests in remote areas far from homes. His amendment failed along mostly party lines, and as a result a "freedom to log" bill cleared the House. According to the New York Times, "In an effort to accelerate the burning and thinning, Mr. McInnis' legislation exempts the projects from certain environmental reviews. It would also put new restrictions on citizen complaints. It would abolish an administrative appeals process, would require citizens to challenge the projects within 15 days of an agency announcement that it was proceeding and would require judges to issue injunctions in 45 days." It also says that judges 'shall give weight' to findings by federal agencies when considering complaints raised by opponents. Our hope rests with the Senate to try to stop this.

Summary

Our trip was successful on several levels. First, many members of Congress and their staffs now know who we are, and we believe they will be more responsive to our communications. Second, several members are interested in working with us to bring a positive business voice to support the economic benefits of good environmental policies. For instance, Senator Wyden is willing to "inject E2 into the bloodstream of the Senate" by introducing E2 and our perspectives on environmental issues on the Senate floor. Third, we were able to elevate and reframe our issues in the minds of many of the legislators with whom we met. Finally, we helped open some doors for NRDC staff to continue their work with key members of Congress.

We would be remiss if we didn't emphasize the very dangerous situation that currently exists in Washington. There is a strong ideological power base that is against environmental regulations and is masking their behavior behind the issues of "national security", "preventing wildfires", "streamlining procedures", etc. in order to undo 30 years of environmental laws. We believe E2 can make a difference, and we have an increased admiration for the daily work of the NRDC staff.


"We have demonstrated that E2 can gain incredible access to people that count in Washington. Now it is up to us to stay in front of them on a periodic basis!" - Reid Dennis (E2-California)

"It takes tremendous effort to fight an anti-environment administration which has control of both houses of our legislature. E2 is the perfect platform from which to wage this battle." - Harry Cochran (E2-Massachusetts)

"Quick impressions: the detailed knowledge NRDC has, the respect with which NRDC and E2 were met, the dedication of the Senators and Representatives and of their staffs, and finally, the need to tell these folks how much we appreciate their efforts. They are weary but unwavering advocates for us." - Bill Unger (E2-California)



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