During August recess, CCLers highlight climate at town halls
By Flannery Winchester
Citizens’ Climate Lobby volunteers are known for how we fill the halls of Capitol Hill each June — but we don’t stop there. During the August recess, when senators and representatives are working in their state and district offices, CCLers find even more ways to connect.
During this year’s recess, we focused on attending town halls. Volunteers attended and asked thoughtful questions about climate action in at least 53 events all around the country. With those questions, CCL volunteers made it clear to members of Congress that “climate” isn’t a buzzword or a vague, far-off threat — it’s an issue their constituents at home care deeply about today. Let’s take a look at five of our volunteers’ town hall experiences from the last month.
Climate questions in drought-stricken Colorado
Aaron Hoffman, a volunteer in CCL’s Grand Junction chapter, got the chance to ask Sen. John Hickenlooper (D-CO) a question. He asked, “With your history of bipartisanship, how will you bring members of both parties together to advance more climate solutions?” Sen. Hickenlooper spoke about the importance of asking questions and hearing from multiple perspectives.
Aaron’s question and the Senator’s response were reported on by Colorado News Online and made into a reel shared on social media by the Senator’s office, with the caption: “Climate change is not a partisan issue — it affects Democrats and Republicans. That’s why working together is going to be critical to saving the planet.”
Encouragingly, Aaron wasn’t the only town hall attendee concerned about climate. “I’m estimating that 75-80% of the questions at the town hall dealt with climate or drought in one way or another,” Aaron says. “It’s clearly on the minds of Western Colorado!”
Making an impression in Iowa
A group of volunteers in Iowa attended a town hall held by Rep. Mariannette Miller-Meeks (R-IA-02), who serves as vice-chair of the Conservative Climate Caucus in the House. Pictured at right with the Congresswoman are Eric Johnson, who leads CCL’s Iowa City chapter, Gerry Denning, who serves as the CCL liaison to Rep. Miller-Meeks, Peter Rolnick, and Kieran Ruder.
The group’s participation in the town hall earned a shout out from Rep. Miller-Meeks in a recent appearance on The New Yorker Radio Hour. “I talk to my constituents the same way I talk to you,” she told the radio show host on Aug. 18. “I had a town hall last night in Iowa City […] the Citizens’ Climate Lobby was there. They had several questions. They appreciate the fact that I’ve gone to both COP26, COP27, and I will be going again this year.”
Relationships make the difference in Michigan
Michigan volunteers Annis Pratt and Julie Budde were among the CCLers who attended the town hall of Rep. Haley Stevens, a Democrat representing Michigan’s 11th congressional district. “We feel that we have made CCL familiar to and trusted by Rep. Stevens by steady input to her and her staff over the years,” Annis explains, which laid a solid foundation for their participation in the town hall. “She knows me well and insisted that her moderator call on me.”
“There were three or four total climate-related questions, which was great, and two by us!” says Julie Budde. They asked about speeding up the permitting process and about the shortage of critical minerals needed for clean energy technology. Rep. Stevens spoke about the job creation opportunities of the clean energy transition, in addition to emission reductions. “Also, she emphasized the importance of bipartisanship,” Julie adds.
Finding common ground in Louisiana
Laura McColm attended her first ever town hall during the recess. The event, hosted by Rep. Clay Higgins (R-LA-03), took place in a small town near the south of Louisiana.
At a packed Town Hall, Louisiana citizens gathered to discuss the fate of our country. In order to better serve the people, I must listen to their message. I answered questions for 4 hours. I listened until the last citizen had shared their thoughts and concerns. pic.twitter.com/ZRBGZocvwh
— Rep. Clay Higgins (@RepClayHiggins) August 21, 2023
Laura asked Rep. Higgins a question about his plans to increase Louisiana’s climate resilience. “It was the only question greeted with derisive laughter,” Laura says, but “he quelled it and answered the question in a straightforward way.” He characterized their state as “perfectly positioned to be a leader in all types of energy down the road.”
Attending the town hall was an encouraging experience, Laura says. “I got to hear him in person and find that we actually do share some common ground. And he — and his base — got to hear a climate question from amongst their ranks, and got to hear his vision for our energy future,” she says. “I call it a win.”
Making connections on a New York farm
It’s worth noting some in-district efforts with members of Congress don’t take the form of traditional town halls. Some CCL chapters in New York helped arrange for Rep. Marc Molinaro (R-NY-19) to take a farm tour of Kathie Arnold’s Twin Oaks Organic Dairy in Truxton, New York.
Larry Klotz, who serves as the CCL liaison to Rep. Molinaro, told CCL staff, “I know you asked for pictures of town halls — this is what they look like in the country.”
Thanks to all of our volunteers who took the time to thoughtfully engage their members of Congress and their communities at events throughout August! Every climate question builds more political will for lawmakers on both sides of the aisle to act.
Interested in attending a future town hall or lobbying your member of Congress for climate action? Find your local CCL chapter and join today.