I had a blast in Washington today! Beautiful sunny weather and lots of adventures meeting people at anti-fracking protests, senators and representatives offices, and senate gallery coatrooms!
Solar panels in hand, I met up with some other renewables fans at the White House for the DC Global Frackdown. There were great speakers from Friends of the Earth, National Nurses United, Food & Water Watch, American University, and the Hip Hop Caucus- everyone had a great story to tell about how they came to be protesting today, and a message of hope and action for the future. Big news today included TransCanada’s decision to ask for a licensing suspension for the Keystone XL pipeline- something that I heard a lot about later on- as well as frustration with the TransPacific trade partnership.
Following up on that that, I walked around the city trying to find Senators and Representatives of Rhode Island- although they were all busy with their governmental duties when I found their offices, it was exciting to stop in and (for the congressmen) leave a note about opposing cuts to bicycle funding across the country. I do not in any way attentive my lack of success to wearing neon spandex- I prefer to think of it as attracting the attention of legislators to an important cause.
This afternoon, I got to sit in the Senate gallery to listen to some debate over the Waters of the United States bill, which redefines “navigable waters” to include many more bodies of water across the country, and consequently increases the EPA’s jurisdiction as well. Opposition to this came mostly from the West and Midwestern states, mostly due to the increased federal regulation that would be required for any infrastructure projects that encroach on these newly-defined navigable waters- including oil pipelines, highways, and other power development projects. These are challenges the offshore wind industry has had to grapple with for decades now, and even then it’s starting to pull through- personally, I think that it’s fair that other energy projects have to wade through the same mire of federal challenges as the wind farms do.
The one senator who I heard who supported the new legislation, Sheldon Whitehouse of Rhode Island, didn’t so much directly address the new powers of the EPA under this bill as he did the need for investment in new renewable energy sources, rather than relying on the same old technology we’ve used for decades, even citing a number of coal country newspapers and politicians who have conceded that renewables are able to compete with the fossil fuels on price and offer much better outlooks for the long run. Although his support for natural gas is a lame concession to fossil fuels at best, Whitehouse still makes me proud to be a Rhode Islander, and almost like my views are being represented in the nation’s capital.