Lobbying Georgia’s Delegation on Mountaintop Removal

Small feel good win update: Georgia congressman Hank Johnson (D) from the 4th district will sign on to be a co-sponsor of the the Clean Water Protection Act. The meeting lasted no more than 5 minutes and I received instant success. Feels good after a rough last week with the Georgia delegation. It makes me happy that there is at least 1 representative in Georgia who is concerned about public health, communities, and the environment in Appalachia. Please visit http://ilovemountains.org/ to learn more.

In the mean time watch this NASA satellite footage of MTR at the Hobbit Mine in West Virginia http://is.gd/BnA6q1

My last meeting was with Republican Phil Gingrey (GA-11). His staffer was very busy dealing with budget deliberations but still took the time to listen to what Don and I had to say. As of now we have not received any co-sponsors from Georgia but we are looking forward to John Lewis and Bishop Sanford Jr. signing on to the Clean Water Protection Act.

Wednesday 2:50 I just had a meeting with Tom Graves (R) from the Georgia 9th district. We met with his legislative assistant named Bud Whitmire. Unlike my last meeting with Rob Woodalls office, Bud was an attentive and courteous listener. I want to thank Bud for his time.Don and I did our best to explain the long term economic impacts of continued mining by large multinational corporations. Although we probably won’t ever see Tom Graves on the Clean Water Protection Act, we can still do our best to educate him and his staff so that one day he and fellow republicans won’t stand in the way. Later today we are meeting with Phil Gingrey (R-11) at 4:30. I’ll post an update later.

2:43 Wow! What a meeting with Valentina J. Valenta the Senior Policy Advisor for my Congressman Rob Woodall (R) from the GA-7th. I have never been treated so poorly on Capitol Hill before. I was often cut off and made to feel like she was a bigger expert on environmental policy than me. Not only that, her demeanor was hostile, her comments were rude and left no room for a response. She told me that the federal government has no business in making environmental laws that we cannot afford. She also was scared that the Clean Water Protection Act may add a burden to mining companies around the country. She expressed her gratitude for NEPA but feels like it is time for it to go. Apparently she thinks the states have the institutional capacity to manage their own environmental affairs. Not only that but she would not let me air my grievances by telling me that I had no business asking the federal government to do something about this. I am livid, next election I am going to work my hardest to remove this guy and his awful staff from Washington.

Hey folks, I just had a meeting with Sanford Bishop of the 2nd District of GA. His staffer was very receptive to the environmental and economic consequences of MTR for coal field communities. He also understood that this is a federal issue because water crosses state lines and the poverty rate is a humanitarian crisis.

My last meeting of the day was with civil rights icon John Lewis of the 5th district of GA. His office has been a champion of environmental issues for decades. He is a former sponsor of the CWPA and we expect him to resign onto the bill within the next few days. I have to say that I think the budget battles are taking a toll on all the staffers on the hill — they look drained, overworked, and dead.

I just met with Congressman Paul Broun’s staffer from GA-10. This was a very productive meeting. This office doesn’t know much about MTR but felt somewhat squeemish about how extreme this form of strip mining is. Although they are a “drill now, drill anywhere” kind of office I think that with more work they could support the Clean Water Protection Act. The main concern was the similar name to a previous bill called The Clean Water Restoration Act which would redefined the term ‘navigable waters’ in The Clean Water Act. The staffer was a really nice guy and I appreciated that even though we disagree on just about everything that we could still have a cordial discussion about policy.

The next three days I am going to be on Capitol Hill working with the Georgia Congressional delegation to end mountain top removal. I just met with Senator Chambliss’s environmental staffer. She spoke about Chambliss having a balance between cheap domestic energy and environmental concerns. My question is, what environmental concerns has Chambliss ever had? He has a 0% rating from the League of Conservation Voters. Meanwhile Georgia’s growing appetite for coal destroys more mountains everyday.

Stay tuned for more updates about my meetings with the Georgia congressional delegation or follow my twitter feed @jcherson
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– Jeremy Cherson

Jeremy Cherson is an Environmental Policy student at American University and an intern at The Wilderness Society. He is a contributor every Tuesday.


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