By Kaylin Gentz, Clean Water Intern
Like many Clean Water interns before me, I had the great privilege of attending Environmental Lobby Day in Olympia last month, where college students met with senators and representatives at the capitol to lobby for change on a wide range of environmental policy issues. Seventeen students and I descended upon the Washington State Capitol full of excitement and jitters; for many of us, this was our first time talking directly with elected officials.
Prior to the President’s Day event, we all had the opportunity to review Western’s legislative agenda and meet with group members to devise a plan of attack. Students gave personal testimonies of past experiences: the good, the bad and the ugly, in order to prepare us for the following day. For the 2018 lobby day, we had our eyes on three key pieces of environmental legislation:
- SB 6203, which works to reduce carbon emissions in ways that mitigate negative externalities that continue to be disproportionately placed on some socioeconomic groups, and move to a clean energy economy. Although this bill did not pass, we’ve filed a ballot initiative as part of the Alliance for Jobs and Clean Energy. Email Eddy Ury, Clean Energy Program Manager, if you’d like to learn about how you can help get bold climate action passed in 2018 despite inaction in the State Legislature.
- Support and encourage a tax surcharge to ensure more stable and predictable funding for the Model Toxics Control Act (MTCA), which aids in identifying and cleaning up hazardous waste sites.
- HB 1171, which would conduct a study of Ultrafine Particulate matter (UMP) degrading air quality in the SeaTac community, which is disproportionately nonwhite and/or low income. (This bill died before we were able to lobby, but we still expressed support for the importance of a future bill)
Each group was split into three or four students and assigned to several representatives and senators, that may or may not support or agree with our agenda. My group in particular decided to research each of our assigned representatives in order to better understand how they have voted in the past, how each bill or action impacts their district, and their life story, in order to connect with them on a deeper, more personal level.
Rising bright and early on February 19th, we excitedly made last-minute adjustments to our speeches and presentations. We had only 15 minutes to talk to each representative; we had to make sure everything was perfect.
With each passing meeting, we became more comfortable with our agendas and felt like professional lobbyists by the end of the day.
I have wanted to attend this event since I decided to minor in environmental policy, but have never had the opportunity to do so until now. After experiencing this exhilarating weekend, I would give anything to go back and do it again. It was so humbling to watch both branches of the government take steps toward passing important legislation that will impact our daily lives, and I’m proud to say I was part of it.