I’ve always had a love for the study of public policy and politics, and I’ve always been passionate about trying to protect the environment. My time as an undergrad at Western Washington University (WWU) has let me explore my interests in public policy making. My time spent working as a policy intern for RE Sources has shown me the role that public policy can play in protecting the environment. Participating in WWU’s Associated Students 2017 Environmental Lobby Day from February 19-20 allowed me to bring these two areas together.
Environmental Lobby Day is an annual opportunity at WWU where students can voluntarily sign up to meet and lobby legislators on several environmental priorities before the Washington State Legislature. Environmental issues were identified beforehand by the WWU Office of Environmental & Sustainability Programs, with some guidance from RE Sources, and then approved by the WWU Associated Students Legislative Action Committee.
On Sunday, February 19, we spent the afternoon preparing for Monday’s meetings with legislators by participating in two workshops hosted by RE Sources and the Washington Student Association (WSA) Legislative Liaison Program, respectively. They gave us helpful tips and strategies on how to effectively conduct our meetings and organize what we wanted to say.
We were split into groups of four to five students based on location of our home voting address and Legislative District. I was put in the 40th district representing south Bellingham (my home address is in Portland, OR). Each of our groups got to meet with four legislators — two senators and two representatives and/or their staff. I really liked having the group structure because it assured that everyone got a chance to speak while having other students there to help give support and back up our points.
I was very nervous about meeting the legislators or their respective aids. But they were all very gracious and took the time to listen to us and what we had to say. Our last meeting was the best because we met directly with one of the representatives — all of the previous meetings were with legislative aids. Representative Monica Stonier from the 17th Legislative District in Vancouver was very kind and showed a strong interest in what we had to say. It turns out she was a proud Western alum, too. (Go Vikings!)
We lobbied on five key environmental priorities, many of which are still pending in legislature:
- Allocating enough funds to allow for protection of Blanchard Mountain/Oyster Dome from logging and future timber harvesting.
- Promoting oil transportation safety and improving oil spill prevention measures through SB 5462 and HB 1611.
- Making sure there is adequate funding for toxic waste clean-up projects in Washington by reforming the Model Toxics Control Act (MTCA) through SB 5501 and HB 1663.
- Assuring there is enough water for fish, farms, and people by taking the Hirst case into consideration when making state decisions on water use policy. We supported HB 1918 and expressed opposition to SB 5239.
- Supporting a carbon tax that is not revenue neutral and could use said revenue to create clean energy job transition programs for workers currently in the fossil fuel industry. We supported SB 5509 and HB 1646.
Lobbying on environmental issues was both an exciting and educational experience for me. I learned a lot about the legislative process and how to lobby effectively on environmental policies. I also gained a better understanding of some of the major environmental issues that are of concern for both WWU students and the larger Bellingham community. Environmental Lobby Day ultimately taught me the importance of engaging in the political process and having more confidence in my own public speaking abilities. I’m thankful I got to take part in such a meaningful opportunity.
By Kinsey Anuta, Clean Water Policy Intern (January-March 2017)