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A Word from EESI Executive Director Carol Werner
What an election! Now the hard work really begins: reconciling a fractured electorate and moving forward together on the pressing issues that face our nation, including protecting our climate, accelerating the pace of clean energy adoption, promoting cleaner transportation options—now to roll up our sleeves, and continue the work. And you play a key part in that!
There is no denying that all who care about climate impacts and clean energy are deeply concerned by the views of President-elect Trump. He has called climate change a hoax perpetrated by the Chinese to shackle American businesses, said that he would “cancel” the Paris Climate Agreement, and that the Clean Power Plan should be rolled back. His nominee to head the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), Oklahoma Attorney General Scott Pruitt, has sued the EPA to block the Clean Power Plan.
Trump wants to reinvigorate America's coal industry, though market forces have contributed significantly to its decline, as they have for decades. Moreover, the health impacts of coal use are severe, especially for children and other vulnerable populations. EESI has been working with federal agencies and Congress to help coal country reduce its dependence on coal mining and develop new jobs.
Trump’s positions are worrying. Climate change is already happening (2016 is very likely to be the warmest year ever recorded). We cannot afford to back away from climate action at the national level: we must prevent rollbacks and move to protect our climate, enhance jobs, and make our air cleaner. Delaying action makes action much more expensive later on, and may make it impossible to keep global warming under 2 degrees Celsius, the dangerous threshold scientists say we should not exceed.
With your support, EESI will do its utmost to engage with the new Congress and administration on clean energy as a huge opportunity for the country, no matter what your political inclinations and no matter where you live. We will also help Congress understand more about the risks and costs of climate impacts by bringing forward the voices of scientists, concerned businesses, and state and local government officials.
For more than 30 years, EESI has had a history of working productively with Congressional offices on both sides of the aisle, and under both Republican and Democratic administrations. Protecting our environment is a decidedly bipartisan issue. Polluted air, dirty water, extreme weather, and rising sea levels do not discriminate among Republicans, Democrats, or Independents: they affect us all. We can disagree about the path to take. But we shouldn’t disagree about the final destination: sustainable growth that leaves an intact environment for future generations. Our children will thank us for it.
In January, the new Congress will bring in many eager, new staffers charged with providing advice to Members of Congress on a wide-ranging portfolio of issues, more than they can master on their own. These are critical issues that affect us all: budgets for climate science and monitoring, clean energy research and development, infrastructure plans, federal land management, and tax policy—among many others. EESI is a trusted source of information for Congressional staff, whether new or old hands. You can help make sure staffers hear the stories about how cutting energy waste saves families money; how retrofitting homes creates jobs that can’t be outsourced; how expanding transit systems and using renewable energy all help build supply chains that create jobs across the country.
With your support, we will continue to emphasize this bipartisan clean energy message and showcase sustainable solutions. Our work to improve financing options for families to upgrade their homes’ energy efficiency is one such solution. We are helping spread this innovative, inclusive approach across the country (see our article below). We are also addressing important related issues, such as climate resilience; a just transition for coal-dependent communities; how jobs can be created in rural areas through clean energy, reclamation of abandoned mining lands, agriculture, and advanced manufacturing.
We know Appalachia has endured great pain as coal mines closed and miners lost their jobs. Coal country needs help to shift to new revenue sources. With your crucial support, you can provide champions on Capitol Hill with information and stories about effective ways to address the pressing needs of coal-dependent communities (and help win some new Congressional friends too!).
You and I know that the world needs to transition to clean energy to address dangerous levels of climate change. We also know that climate and global security go hand-in-hand as our military leaders have said over and over. We know that climate and humanitarian concerns also go hand-in-hand. We will make sure those voices are heard in this new Congress and Administration. I am grateful to you, as we steadfastly pursue commonsense solutions for our shared goals: a safer, more sustainable world with an economy that can offer opportunity for all.
The Time is Now: Give to Advance Clean Energy and Protect our Climate Under President-Elect Trump and the New Congress!
A new President and Congress will take office next year, and EESI’s powerful stories and win-win solutions will be more needed than ever. A new Congress will make critical decisions that affect us all. EESI receives no Congressional funding, but depends on you and others like you to help make our work possible. Help advance energy efficiency, renewable energy, better buildings, resilient infrastructure, and win-win, sustainable solutions.
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Thank you for putting your commitment to sustainable energy to work in so many ways – including by giving to EESI. You are needed more than ever!
Harmon "Monty" Cooper is an attorney in an environmental law practice in Washington, D.C., Sedgwick LLP, and a proud member of EESI’s board.
He spoke about his board service with EESI, his dedication to the people of Prince George’s County, and the origins of his nickname.
Q. Why did you decide to join EESI's board?
A. Part of my practice is in the environmental space. I'm a litigator overall, with an emphasis on product liability and environmental law. But my work also involves environmental counseling, so I'm familiar with environmental policy issues. A good friend of mine, Elliott Laws [another environmental attorney], was a member of EESI's board for a number of years and thought that I might be interested in joining and participating. So, it was really Elliott who introduced EESI to me. And then of course the great work that we're doing with EESI encouraged me to participate and join the board.
Q. What are some of the things you admire most about EESI?
A. I love that EESI provides information to policymakers and decision makers on a wide variety of topics, from climate change, to renewable energy policy and energy efficiency. There was just a briefing on environmental justice issues not so long ago. I think we provide a real service to folks on the Hill, staffers, Congressmen, and Senators on an individual level. For example, the Rachel Carson Jubilee Celebration, an all-day affair, was held on November 30 with folks like Senator-elect Chris Van Hollen speaking in the morning. It just shows the level of respect that EESI engenders on the Hill. So that's what I admire the most.
Q. How is EESI, in your opinion, making strides in promoting sustainable solutions for communities and small towns?
A. On-bill financing is one way in which EESI is helping communities. I'm originally from South Carolina, Congressman Jim Clyburn’s district where the on-bill financing project began. Providing low-income people with home energy upgrades that make their homes more energy efficient is a big deal. It's a great thing that, as an organization, puts our money where our mouth is and is really practical for people. The program is one of the reasons why I admire the work that we do at EESI (see article below for more information).
Q. You've spent some time promoting sustainable and affordable buildings in Prince George's County. What drew you towards such work?
A. I’ve lived in Prince George's County in Maryland for more than a decade now. It's a great community with great neighbors. It’s really vibrant there. I’ve gotten involved in the community and was asked by the county executive to chair the Redevelopment Authority of Prince George’s County. We do a couple things: 1. We help people find affordable housing options and 2. We develop and redevelop infill development projects – very large land projects where we'll find developers to come in and redevelop property. All this relates to sustainability because with any Request for Proposal (RFP) we put out, we're asking developers: what are they doing to think about efficiency, sustainable communities, and walkable communities? We want them to incorporate those principles in whatever designs they submit to us. And we score submissions, and a large part of what we score is sustainability because we want Prince George’s County to be a leader in sustainable communities. In fact, we’re building net-zero energy homes in inner-beltway communities in Prince George’s. So we’re excited about the work.
Q. What are you excited about working on next?
A. First, continuing to practice law and be a better professional every day. I’m also excited about our redevelopment work in Prince George’s County. And, with EESI, I’m excited about just continuing to do what we're doing in terms of providing information to stakeholders and expanding the on-bill financing program. In Prince George’s, I want to continue to help redevelop communities in positive ways, bring businesses into the county, and at the same time provide affordable housing options so that when we incorporate change, people in our communities don't feel as if they’re being pushed out. That's important to our board and important to me.
I think overall it's to continue to do more of what we're doing, better.
Q. I'm curious, why do you go by the name Monty?
A. My middle name's Lamont and that's the short answer. But I was almost going to be Harmon Cooper III until my mother stepped in and saved the day. I say that in jest – I’m proud of the name “Harmon,” as it is my grandfather’s and father’s name. But my middle name is Lamont, my dad is Harmon and to avoid confusion, I just go by Monty.
Holland, Michigan, is launching an on-bill financing program with EESI's help (credit: Great Lakes Fisherman's Digest)
This fall, EESI has been able to help bring new energy efficiency programs to the small cities of Holland, Michigan, and Bloomfield, Iowa, thanks to foundation grants and support from individual donors. Families in these small cities are now able to work with their public power utilities to obtain upgrades for their homes—with no upfront costs to get in the way! EESI has had the pleasure of working with the public power utilities for Bloomfield and Holland to help them design and implement their respective programs to help their residents save energy and money. EESI staff traveled to both towns to hear from utility personnel and stakeholders and make sure that the program designs were tailored to each community’s needs.
Since 2011, EESI has worked with non-profit utilities to help them establish programs that cut their customers’ energy bills. Specifically, EESI helps set up “on-bill financing” programs: the utility or a partner organization pays for home energy upgrades and is then repaid through a monthly charge on the participating customer’s utility bill. When the program is well-designed, customers see a big reduction in energy use and end up with lower utility bills overall!
Bloomfield wants its program to help meet the community's goal of improving the energy efficiency of one-third of its households, part of a larger plan to become an energy-independent community. Holland developed its program to help meet its 50-percent carbon reduction target by 2050.
Both utilities share EESI’s view that these programs should serve the entire community, particularly those who cannot afford to pay hundreds or thousands of dollars upfront for upgrades—and would most benefit from lower bills. As a result, both programs approve applicants by looking at their bill payment history rather than their credit scores, which would exclude many.
To help more communities follow in Bloomfield and Holland’s footsteps, EESI is about to publish its How-to Guide: Launching an On-Bill Financing Program. The 40-page technical resource guide will share our expertise, walking utilities through each stage of the program design-and-launch process. The Guide is broken into five main sections, and includes a program development checklist and a directory of additional resources. Check out the Guide (soon!), case studies, and more at eesi.org/obf.
EESI's fact sheet on hybrid buses just keeps on trucking (credit: Mindraker2)
You probably know that EESI’s briefings, factsheets, and white papers serve a vital function for the policy community. But did you know that the media often uses EESI briefings to get access to experts? That our fact sheets serve as primers for reporters writing articles? And that journalists regularly interview EESI staff for our insights? Media coverage gives the issues we cover more traction, bringing them to the attention of the public. Public education and engagement is critical for our country to move forward on clean energy, climate, sustainable transportation, water issues, and many more concerns!
Reporters often write articles based on information they gather at our timely briefings or from our up-to-date fact sheets. Reporters want their news fresh after all! For instance, four articles came out within three days of our July 19 briefing on the ability of the United States to sustainably produce 1 billion tons of renewable non-food biomass every year. Our fact sheet on public opinion polls on climate change generated two news articles the day after its release. Reporters noted that national polls consistently show solid bipartisan support for the federal government to do more to combat climate change—something their readers find newsworthy and interesting!
Fortunately, the impact of our work continues long after this initial buzz. A paper by Ellen Vaughan, EESI's Policy Director for Sustainable Buildings, on the value of building codes was used in a leading trade industry publication, Construction Dive, three years after its release—and it was still relevant! The same EESI paper was also referenced in a World Bank publication on global climate resilience, Building Regulation for Resilience, two years after its release. But it would seem the longevity prize goes to our 2007 fact sheet on the costs and benefits of hybrid buses: it was cited in a local paper, the Marin Independent Journal, an impressive nine years after its release!
It's gratifying to know that our work is valued by the media, as part of their overall work to inform the public on vital issues. And we are glad that our work pays dividends long after it's been completed! This impressive staying power is made possible by the generous support we receive from our donors. This helps us take on timely issues quickly, without being dependent on project specific support. It also gives our work staying power through our website, which showcases 112 publications and 299 archived briefings. Thank you!
You can see EESI’s media coverage www.eesi.org/media.
A special thanks to our amazing interns!
For information on EESI internships, visit the Internship section of our website.
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