Amidst a backdrop of cherry blossoms, extreme weather patterns, and frantic, last minute federal budget negotiations, I had the privilege of joining the Snake RiverAlliance and the Alliance for Nuclear Accountability for the 23rdannual DC Lobby Days in our nation’s capital. The first week of April found eighty plus activists from across the globe in Washington, DC, ready to talk to legislators and officials about nuclear issues in America.
Hunkering down for an intense day of pre-lobbying training, I joined other DC Days first-timers in cramming piles of information into my ever more crowded brain.By the end of the day I felt ready to contribute, but very thankful to be surrounded by experts with years of experience.
The half dozen meetings I made it to over the next three days were a rigorous mental workout, leaving me to marvel at the DC Days veterans making mad dashes across Capitol Hill and the city in general to squeeze in as many meetings as possible. In three days, our lobbyists went to more than 120 meetings at legislators’ offices, the Department of Energy, the Nuclear Regulatory Commission and more.
Our team of Idahoans – Liz Woodruff, Beatrice Brailsford, Katherine Daly, Lou Landry and I – was part of DC Days because of the generosity of our fellow Snake River Alliance members. We had meetings in the offices of all four of our representatives and senators. Through our Idaho meetings and others, I quickly learned that you can’t know what to expect until you are in the meeting itself. Will you get an aide with limited knowledge of the topic trying to hurry you out? An energy policy expert ready to challenge you on the details? Or the congressman himself, with the inevitable caveat on his lips that he “only has a minute”? Twice I watched my amazing team make a compelling enough case to stretch that single promised minute into many more minutes of focused attention. Touching primarily on issues of cleanup at the Idaho National Laboratory, the dangers of mixed oxide fuel, and the inadvisability of federal loan guarantees for new nuclear reactors, we asked our representatives for their support. There were points of decided resistance, points of common ground, and for the most part, a lively conversation all around.
At the end of the week, I was left feeling satisfied at the part I had played in the democratic process and ready for DC Days 2012. When the call goes out for citizen lobbyists next year, maybe you’ll consider joining us. I promise, it’s all the adrenaline rush of extreme sports– minus the risk of severe bodily harm. Unless you count your aching feet at the end of the day!