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How we do our work | Part 1: Seats at the tables

Ken Miller at IRP

Snake River Alliance Clean Energy Program Director, Ken Miller, watching a presentation at an IRP

When I was in college, I was fortunate enough to participate in the Campus Outreach Opportunity League (COOL) Conference for student leaders. It was quite the experience. My team and I presented a workshop on “Student Government as a Service Organization,” and I attended several other workshops, including one on individual activism through a vegan lifestyle and one on how to organize large groups effectively. Throughout my 20s, I was exposed to a variety of tactics used by people who care to get their point across and get their important work done.

Through these experiences, I realized that advocacy exists on a spectrum. From the boisterous rallies that capture the attention of the masses, to personal interactions resulting from letter writing and door knocking, to strategic and high stakes political negotiations, there is no one way to advocate. True change happens when committed people make their voices heard in the way that feels most authentic to them.

At the Snake River Alliance, we get our work done by calling upon this spectrum of advocacy and engaging our supporters and staff in determining the “right” tactic at the “right” time. We seek to create different opportunities for people to get involved in a way that is meaningful to them, and to achieve our mission through skill, wisdom, and courage – resources we are lucky to have a lot of.

One of the many tools we employ is getting a seat at the table and using that space effectively. Our two program directors have established deep knowledge and understanding and have earned the respect of their colleagues and those in adversarial positions. Because of their credibility, the Snake River Alliance has opportunities to share our message with the political and business leaders who make the decisions that affect our core issues.

Beatrice Brailsford, who began her work with us as a volunteer, leads our nuclear program and is dedicated to the long-term goal of ensuring a future for Idaho that includes as little nuclear harm as possible. The nuclear waste cleanup program at the Idaho National Lab (INL), while being one of the better ones in the nation, is facing challenges from those who seek to weaken protective standards and bring more nuclear activity to Idaho. INL and nuclear proponents are trying to woo new nuclear R&D programs to Idaho, construct small modular reactors, and consolidate commercial spent fuel for eventual reprocessing. Beatrice monitors the federal budget, rule changes, and management choices, and her voice is well known in eastern Idaho and Washington, D.C. Her work in the cleanup arena, particularly, is respected by the State of Idaho, the EPA, and the Site and, even though our position is not always adopted, we ARE heard. Most recently, she was asked to join the Bipartisan Policy Center’s nuclear waste project, “America’s Nuclear Future: Taking Action to Address Nuclear Waste.” Beatrice’s representation of the Snake River Alliance at these levels ensures that our vision is communicated and we move towards our goals.

On the clean energy front, Ken Miller has excelled at understanding complex policy issues and persuading corporate and political decision makers to address climate change and work towards the eventual elimination of reliance on coal-fired power generation. Ken strategizes with regional colleagues addressing PacifiCorp’s use of coal plants. He serves on Idaho Power’s Integrated Resource Plan Advisory Council and participates in Idaho Power’s solar and coal working groups connected to the IRP work. These meetings involve supply and demand forecasting, regulatory projections, and technological expertise, and the members are held to high standards of professionalism. Through Ken, the Alliance has been and is a party to various PUC dockets that affect generation and pricing of energy in Idaho. These dockets are often resolved after complicated negotiations, and we cannot overstate the importance of being at the table to ensure energy efficiency and clean energy are prioritized. Ken works with local colleagues and regionally with the NW Power Council, NW Energy Coalition, and other organizations to develop ambitious energy targets, analyze the proposed EPA Rule 111(d) coal plant emission reductions and communicate the recommendations to Idaho’s utilities and policy makers.

In our next Snake Byte, I’ll address another aspect of how we do our important work – community outreach and education. But today, I hope you enjoyed learning more about the high-level policy work executed strategically by our program directors, Beatrice and Ken.

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