CCL back on the Hill to talk about a carbon price

CCL volunteers spent Monday training for meetings on the Hill the following day.

CCL volunteers spent Monday training for meetings on the Hill the following day.

CCL back on the Hill to talk about a carbon price

By Steve Valk

When it comes to lobbying for a livable world, once a year just isn’t enough. That was the conclusion CCL Legislative Director Danny Richter came to last year when we decided to add a fall lobby day targeting members of Congress on key committees.

Following the 2014 election, about 60 CCL volunteers came to Washington for an afternoon of training and then lobbying the next day. Figuring we were going to need a bigger room than the cozy confines of the Liaison Hotel on Capitol Hill, our venue last year, we booked the Omni Shoreham for our training session and reception this week, which proved to be a good call. This year’s lobby day brought about 140 volunteers from as far away as California and Miami. They ended up covering nearly 170 meetings with congressional offices, mostly members on the Ways and Means and Energy and Commerce committees in the House and Finance and Energy and Natural Resources in the Senate. As we’ve learned from past experience, good things happen when we go to the Hill.

We met with House and Senate offices bearing the gift of information. After reading 487 meeting reports (several times) from our June lobbying, Danny prepared a report about the level of engagement congressional offices had with our legislative proposal. To put it another way, the report gauges the temperature in the room with regard to where Congress is at on climate action.

Our two-page briefing focused on…

  • The top concerns about Carbon Fee and Dividend.
  • The level of engagement in Republican offices.

In the June meetings, Republicans asked most about the border adjustments (71 offices) and the dividend (66), while Democrats were most interest in how CF&D would affect EPA rules (44) and how the dividend would work (42).

The information of most interest in the report was the level of engagement in Republican offices, which showed a marked improvement from 2014 to 2015. As the report says, “The data clearly show that Republicans are more interested in this approach [Carbon Fee and Dividend] than anyone gives them credit for.” In 2014, there were 124 GOP offices that showed clear and genuine interest versus 41 that were clearly hostile to our message, a ratio of 3 to 1. In 2015, there were 152 offices showing clear and genuine interest versus only 25 that were hostile, the good meetings outnumbering the disappointing by 6 to 1.

We also shared a report of the media that CCL has generated over the past four months. One of the campaigns highlighted in the report was the media CCL volunteers generated about the Gibson resolution on climate change, more than 150 pieces – editorials, op-eds, articles and letters to the editor. Staffers were, to say the least, quite impressed with what we generated. Our message, essentially, was “this is what we can do for members of Congress who are willing to take leadership on the climate issue.”

As for our requests, in the House, we asked Republicans to cosponsor the Gibson Resolution, and in the Senate we asked Republicans to join the recently formed Energy and Environment Working Group.

We also invited all offices to attend the briefings in both the House and Senate on Thursday that were presented by Rob Williams and Dallas Burtraw of Resources for the Future. They focused on how the carbon fee would affect the 50 states and Americans in different economic groups, depending on how the revenue is distributed.

As was the case last year, our Hill visits helped to produce a strong turnout for the briefings. We had 29 attending in the Senate and 45 attending in the House. More about the briefings in our next blog.

While it’s too soon to know whether we picked up additional cosponsors on the Gibson resolution, I would not be surprised to see more Republicans come on board in the weeks ahead. I participated in a meeting with one Republican office Tuesday afternoon where the representative had a great conversation with a constituent. The subsequent discussion with the energy and environment aide was extremely encouraging, and I got the sense that this particular Republican was ready to work with us.

Coming up this spring, get ready for more lobbying. This time, instead of coming to Washington, we’ll be encouraging all our groups to schedule in-district meetings with their members of Congress. While dates haven’t been set yet, Easter is March 27, followed by a week-long congressional recess when members will be back in their districts. Who knows? We may be asking them to cosponsor more than a resolution at that point.

Steve Valk
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.