On November 18th and 19th, E2 members gathered in Washington DC for the annual Washington Forum. The Forum is one of our signature events, showcasing how E2 membership provides one of the best value propositions for business people who want to make a difference on environmental issues. This year’s Forum focused on the President’s Climate Action Plan, the Clean Power Plan and federal clean energy policy in light of changing power dynamics in Washington. Through a series of panel discussions it gave participants the opportunity to meet with the policy makers and thought leaders who are designing, implementing and deciding the future of today’s important environmental policies.

The Forum offers members a unique opportunity to both learn about some of the most complex policy and political issues surrounding environmental progress, and immediately (and directly) engage with Senators, Congressmen and Administration officials on those issues. With a full day of panel discussions, media and advocacy training, and a day of lobby meetings, E2 members learn how to become highly effective environmental advocates. The Forum also provides a benefit to policy makers, who look to E2 to connect them with businesspeople who can vouch for the impact of policy on business and investments. The Forum reinforces the reputation E2 has earned over the last 15 years of bringing key business voices to the table and successfully shaping the conversation surrounding economy and environment.

This year’s Forum occurred in the wake of an election which saw Republicans taking over the Senate and gaining control of both chambers of Congress, creating a great amount of uncertainty about the fate of important federal environmental and energy policy. As you are likely aware, E2 has been strongly advocating for the President’s Climate Action Plan and its main component – the Clean Power Plan – since the policies were announced in June 2013 and June 2014 respectively.  We have also been working on supporting extensions and improvements to federal renewable energy (wind, second generation biofuels) and energy efficiency tax incentives. With a new Congress coming in we thought it would be very useful to invite in experts to examine where these policies stand, what the likelihood of changes might be and how E2 members can best engage as advocates for better policy outcomes.

The first session featured in-depth analysis from NRDC’s Director of Policy Advocacy, Wesley Warren, on how the trends of political division in Washington are affecting the development of environmental and energy policy. This was followed by a panel with three prominent political reporters, Mark Drajem from Bloomberg News, Darren Goode from Politico and Valerie Volcovici from Thomson-Reuters, who spoke about the media’s perspective on the election outcomes and how they felt the new Republican led Senate would affect the energy and environmental policies they cover. Following that panel we were given an update on the status, successes and challenges in implementing the President’s Climate Action Plan from three key administration officials; Angela Barranco, the Associate Director for Public Engagement at the White House’s Council on Environmental Quality; Dr. Jonathan Pershing, the Deputy Assistant Secretary for Climate Change Policy at the Department of Energy; and Beth Craig, the Director of the Climate Protection Partnership Division at EPA. The largest component of the Climate Action Plan is the Clean Power Plan, which will reduce carbon pollution from existing power plants. After hearing from EPA, we held another panel focused on how states are implementing the plan. On this panel we heard perspectives from Kathy Kinsey, the Deputy Secretary for Operations and Regulatory Programs at Maryland’s Department of Environment; Gabe Pacyniak, the Mitigation Program Manager at Georgetown Climate Center (which is working with many states on this); and our own Gail Parson, E2’s Midwest Advocate. Finally, we wrapped up our policy panels with a visit from Kevin Rennert, the Senior Energy Advisor on the Senate Finance Committee, who discussed his outlook on upcoming energy legislation. Following these great panels our members heard about E2’s recent analysis of the clean energy industries in several states (FL, IL, PA) and received media and advocacy training to improve their effectiveness in talking about these issues with lawmakers and the press as needed.

The day was rounded out by a fantastic dinner at a classic D.C. restaurant, Vidalia. Here we were joined by Sen. Brian Schatz, a climate champion from Hawaii; Rep. Jared Huffman, a great ally representing Northern California; and Patrick Holmes, the special assistant to the Assistant Secretary of Agriculture who filled us in on the innovative work USDA is doing to promote on-farm clean energy and sustainable farming. We also heard from NRDC’s outgoing President, Frances Beinecke, who has been a strong champion of E2’s work over the years.  Along with regional members and some new friends, this line up of guests made for an enjoyable evening in true D.C. fashion.

The following day, participants were able to put their new knowledge to use, combining their own unique perspective with some of the latest thinking inside the Beltway.

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Senator Markey with Joanna Marvin, Bob Keefe, Berl Hartman, Ron Kamen, and Barbara Blumenthal

In a day of meetings in the Senate, we broke into small teams to discuss the President’s Climate Action Plan and the need to extend critical tax incentives for clean energy. Below is a list of Senate offices our teams met with. Asterisks means the Senator stopped by as well.

Sen. Barbara Boxer (D-CA) *
Sen. Cory Booker (D-NJ)
Sen. Sherrod Brown (D-OH)*
Sen. Maria Cantwell (D-WA)
Sen. Bob Casey (D-PA)
Sen. Dianne Feinstein (D-CA)
Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand (D-NY)
Sen. Ed Markey (D-MA) *
Sen. Robert Menendez (D-NJ)
Sen. Jeff Merkley (D-OR)
Sen. Patty Murray (D-WA)
Sen. Rob Portman (R-OH)
Sen. Harry Reid (D-NV)
Sen. Pat Toomey (R-PA)
Sen. Mark Warner (D-VA)
Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-MA)

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Senator Brown with Gail Parson, Nicole Lederer, David Noble, Dave Belote, and Jeremy Stone

In all these meetings, our teams engaged on the issues, supported by briefings on Clean EnergyClimate Change and Other Issues created by E2 policy staff. Participants also gained valuable insight on how Senators are approaching these important issues in the face of the change in power in the Senate and how we can best work together to ensure positive outcomes. Whether meeting with the Members themselves or with their staff, it was made clear that E2’s stories and advocacy are an important part of demonstrating the real world effects of federal policy and that we need to repeat our message as much as possible.

The Washington Forum is a unique opportunity for E2 members to learn about and become a part of the today’s most important environmental policy debates. Once again, participants were able to make a huge impact within a relatively short period of time, and contributed to making E2 a stronger advocacy organization. Thanks to all those who attended. We look forward to next year’s participants.

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