Bay State Activists Make Case for Clean Air and Green Jobs
By Drew Grande, Associate Organizer, Beyond Coal Campaign
On March 3, I went with three Masachusetts Sierra Club volunteers to visit with Senator Scott Brown's staff concerning EPA funding. I was joined by Shreena Bindra of Worcester, Jon Gensler, an Iraq War veteran from Cambridge, and Ernie Edwards, the Chapter Energy Chair, from Framingham. (The three are pictured above.) We went in with an agenda of health, jobs, and national security. We also brought 60 signed pictures with messages of clean air for Senator Brown that we had taken at Coal Country screenings.
I acted as moderator for our 40-minute meeting. Shreena spoke about the health affects of burning coal and oil and the 17,000 children in Worcester County afflicted with asthma. She told the story of growing up with a brother who had asthma and watching helplessly as he struggled to breathe during one of his attacks. Shreena also talked about the autistic children with whom she works, and the neurological disorders mercury poisoning can cause.
Jon spoke about the economic benefits of clean air and the potential for new job creation in the state. Even with the detailed health and jobs statistics he presented, the strongest case was made when he related a personal story. He said it all came together for him last December when he was burying a friend in Arlington National Cemetery who was killed by a roadside IED in Iraq. He questioned why we were fighting a war over natural resources and terrorism funded by the profits of fossil fuels when we have resources in efficiency, wind and solar to supply our demand here. He emphasized that for domestic renewable resources to move ahead we need a strong EPA to protect our clean air and force polluters to clean up their act.
Ernie talked about the immediate potential of green jobs in Massachusetts, noting the race between Virginia and Massachusetts to be the first state to have offshore wind, and making a convincing argument that the first Commonwealth to have offshore wind will be center of the offshore wind industry in the years to come, as Silicon Valley is to the tech industry. He concluded by making the point that holding back the renewable industry is holding back job growth for the people of Massachusetts.
Senator Brown's staff was most interested in the economic advantages inherent in maintaining a strong EPA, with the potential for a healthy workforce, green job creation, and especially the national security perspective that had not been successfully argued to them before. We asked where the Senator stood on EPA funding but did not get an answer. We will be following up again in two weeks to make our case and check in again.