Earlier this month I had the pleasure of speaking before more than 30 Sierra Club Beyond Coal volunteers and staff who flew to Washington, DC, for training and in-person meetings with members of Congress. Participants joined from states critical to our effort to defend strong Environmental Protection Agency standards in Congress -- namely Illinois, Indiana, Missouri, Montana, Ohio, Pennsylvania, Michigan, and Wisconsin.
These amazing activists had some important goals while in our nation's capital - ask members of Congress to
1) Oppose anti-environmental amendments and riders,
2) Oppose standalone legislative attacks on EPA standards, and
3) Support full funding for the EPA and for worker and community transition.
— Mary Anne Hitt (@maryannehitt) March 16, 2016
I've written many times about how inspiring our staff and volunteers are, and their time in Washington, DC, just cemented that even further. They are parents, community leaders, people of faith, college students, business-owners, and more. They truly care about stopping climate disruption and the coal pollution that is poisoning the air and water in their communities. They believe in the strong public health and environmental standards that the EPA enacts and want political leaders to back up the EPA.
One of those volunteers who truly inspires me is MaryFran Troha, a lifelong resident of Waukegan, Illinois. MaryFran (pictured above, third from the left) was horrified to learn that for her entire life, the part of Lake Michigan in which she had been swimming in and eating fish from had all along been contaminated with toxic levels of PCBs. She had been breathing polluted air from smokestacks of the many factories, now closed leaving their toxic waste behind that once had made the city prosperous. All of this toxic pollution was unknown to local citizens, but not to the polluters who were aware that they were slowly poisoning them. So MaryFran joined the fight to restore health to Waukegan and hope for economic redevelopment through clean energy investment. MaryFran works to gain legislative support for pro-environmental standards that impose severe penalties against continued polluting industries.
In one day of their visit to Washington, DC, the Beyond Coal activists ended up attending approximately 10 Senate meetings, 25 House meetings and drop bys, and more than five constituent coffees. They also took part in a reception with representatives from more than 40 House offices.
And all of them returned home energized and trained to continue this advocacy in their respective states and districts. I know they'll work with more passion and determination than ever to spread the word, organize their friends and neighbors, and hold their members of Congress accountable for how they speak and vote on these issues. They will stand up to polluter-driven attacks on the EPA. And they'll ensure that we continue moving forward on clean air, clean water, clean energy, and climate action.
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