CCL efforts reflect high stakes in West Virginia

CCL efforts reflect high stakes in West Virginia

West Virginians sing “Hey, Joe” to the tune of “Hey, Jude,” urging Sen. Manchin to support legislation to fight climate change.

 

CCL efforts reflect high stakes in West Virginia

By Steve Valk

 

With so much attention focused on negotiations between Sen. Joe Manchin (D-WV) and Senate leadership over the Build Back Better legislation, the strategic importance of grassroots efforts in West Virginia can’t be overstated. Citizens’ Climate Lobby volunteers and staff have risen to the challenge over the past year with lobby meetings, emails, phone calls, letters to the editor and op-eds, and collaborations with other organizations.

In October and November last year, CCL West Virginia recorded 30 video messages from constituents around the state urging Senator Manchin to vote for strong climate legislation that includes a price on carbon. The messages were posted on the group’s Facebook page, tagging the senator. A compilation video is posted on CCL’s Twitter feed with a thread featuring messages from individuals. Likes and retweets will help to get the attention of Manchin and his staff. 

 

Messages to Manchin covered a wide range of voices, from children to senior citizens. In one video, recorded in a cow pasture, a young girl holds a chicken as her brother speaks: “I’m Silas Yates and this is my sister Sadie. We are both West Virginians, and we urge you to take action on climate change. Please, we would like to be able to raise our children in a world better than this one.”

 

CCL efforts reflect high stakes in West Virginia

 

In the absence of face-to-face meetings, CCLers found other ways to speak to Manchin, such as op-eds published in local newspapers. CCL’s West Virginia state coordinator, Jim Probst, got his message through in several op-eds, including a piece published on Nov. 23 in the Charleston Gazette-Mail. He opened his op-ed by noting that in 2019, Manchin said, “It’s past time to begin addressing the climate challenges we face both at home and across the world.” He then called on the senator to back up his words:

“Manchin could shape policies that both combat climate change and support communities most affected by a shift away from fossil fuels. The most important first step is for Manchin to support the Build Back Better legislation currently being considered and to support the inclusion of carbon pricing as a key element.”

Jon Clark, CCL’s regional coordinator for Appalachia, appealed to Manchin through op-eds, too. Knowing that Manchin is a big proponent of carbon capture and sequestration, he made the case for pricing carbon:

“The tax credits for carbon capture in the infrastructure bill will only go so far. A temporary influx of cash to reduce emissions will be just that: temporary. When the money runs out, businesses will go back to the cheapest way to operate…Subsidies alone won’t work. However, when paired with a carbon tax, subsidies can help attain the emissions reductions we need while addressing the market failure that discourages permanent carbon capture adoption.”

Throughout the year, CCLers in West Virginia kept up a steady drumbeat of messages, with hundreds of emails and phone calls urging Manchin to take climate action. Last spring, CCL volunteers, along with representatives from other West Virginia climate organizations, met with staffers in Manchin’s office and asked for the senator’s support on carbon pricing. Jim Probst briefed the aides on several House and Senate bills under consideration to place a fee on carbon.

As part of the West Virginia Climate Alliance, CCL West Virginia teamed up with 19 other organizations to put pressure on Manchin. One of the alliance’s projects was a music video, sung to the tune of “Hey, Jude,” called “Hey, Joe.” Featuring a chorus of 30 voices from around the state, the song urged Manchin to “do the right thing” by supporting legislation to fight climate change.

 

 

Aware of Manchin’s enthusiastic support for nuclear energy, the alliance hosted an event on the feasibility of advanced nuclear energy in West Virginia. Panelists included several delegates from the state legislature. The Build Back Better Act provides funding for nuclear energy, and a price on carbon would make the technology economically viable.

Work on Build Back Better is currently on hold as Senate Democrats focus on voting rights — a priority as our country enters a midterm election year — but the hope is that negotiations with Manchin will resume in the weeks ahead. We’re proud of the work our West Virginia folks have done. People using their political power is what CCL is all about.

Steve Valk is Communications Coordinator for Citizens' Climate Lobby. Steve joined the CCL staff in 2009 after a 30-year career with the Atlanta Journal-Constitution. Follow him on Twitter at @valklimate.