Gulf Voices) Non-Partisan Event, Washington, D.C.
June 16 & 17, 2010Linda Hawkins (NSDW Club member)
Clean Energy Works (CEW) sponsored an intense two-day “Gulf Voices Fly-In” in which I and over one hundred residents from the Gulf Coast traveled to Washington to present a message to gulf coast congressional officials and the media. We wanted to share our stories with various senators and the national media about the effects that the oil spill (gusher) is having on our lives, the local economy and the environment.
CEW is a coalition of organizations that includes The National Wildlife Federation, Environmental Defense Fund, Environment America, League of Conservation Voters, Sierra Club, The Audubon Society, The Alliance for Climate Protection and other groups working to pass clean energy and climate legislation in Congress this year.
The Message:”The Gulf Coast Oil Spill Disaster highlights the importance of developing a new approach to energy in America. While we hold BP accountable, Congress needs to act now to pass comprehensive energy and climate legislation that will cut our dependence on oil, create clean energy jobs and cuts dangerous pollution.”
Our group of residents from Louisiana (LA), Mississippi, Alabama and Florida shared their life experiences and future hopes. They represent a broad spectrum of individuals with a wide range of political and cultural orientations. We had training in dealing with the media and using lobbying approaches to our congressional officials through various speakers who provided education on the many topical issues.
We presented the senators and/or their staff with jars of oil filled water that had been captured from Grand Isle, LA during the previous week.While the majority of our experiences with the senators and/or their staff were very positive, our communications with our Senator David Vitter left many of us feeling disheartened. Although we had an appointment that he was aware of, he stated that he did not have time for us. This in and of itself would have not been a problem but the rest of the experience was troubling. When we arrived at his office we were not allowed in because they said that they had no room for us. We stood in the open hall and were sent to the open vestibule away from his office. A staff person was sent downstairs to meet with the LA delegation. The staffer was not prepared, took no notes and said that this area was not his focus. Therefore the encounter was disappointing to many in the delegation. Upon our return from D.C. four of us held a press conference at Sen. Vitter’s Metairie, LA office to request a meeting with him and once again ask him to support comprehensive clean energy legislation.
On the other end of the spectrum, Senator Mary Landrieu met with us in her office and provided us with a contact list of her Oil Spill Response Team. She outlined her goals for the immediate future and was supportive of clean energy legislation with a “bridge” to the future.