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Ms. Yury Goes to Washington

By Tom Osborne

Unlike actor Jimmy Stewart’s character (Jefferson Smith) who won a seat in Congress, in the Oscar award-winning movie of 1939, “Mr. Smith Goes to Washington,” Laguna resident Marcia Yury went to Washington in November 2019 to lobby Congress to pass a climate bill, advocated by Citizens’ Climate Lobby. But like Jefferson Smith, Ms. Yury was unsure of herself when she arrived in the capital, but found with CCL training she could learn fast and do the job expected of her. The training she received took place at the Omni Shoreham Hotel, near Capitol Hill.

That job entailed meeting in two Congressional offices to lobby for passage of the Energy Innovation and Carbon Dividend Act (HR 763). This bill, which just recently received a glowing assessment from climate scientists at Columbia University, puts an annually escalating fee on carbon emissions originating at the well, the mine, and the port. Virtually all proceeds would be returned by the Treasury Department to taxpayers in monthly dividend checks.

What are the arguments for passage of the bill? Ms. Yury and her team pointed out to Congressional staffers that this market-based approach is effective: it would reduce carbon emissions by nearly 40 percent by 2030, and 90 percent by 2050. Economists’ studies (Regional Economic Models, Inc., for example) back up these figures. Lives would be saved because of the resulting cleaner air; the monthly dividend checks would enable struggling families to pay the increased price at the pump; and some 2.1 million new jobs would be created because of consumer spending of the dividend. The fossil fuel industry, accordingly, would be incentivized to put their research dollars into sustainable energy. All this would be accomplished, Ms. Yury’s lobbying team pointed out to Congressional staffers, without growing the government.

“What was your Washington, D.C., lobbying experience—your first ever—like for you?” I asked. She replied: “The day was intense…not a minute was wasted.” She and her team met with staffers at the offices of Harley Rouda (48th CD, Orange County) and Norma Torres (35th CD, Inland Empire). Congressman Rouda was the first MOC in Orange County to cosponsor HR 763. Congresswoman Torres has not yet cosponsored but a staffer in her office was intrigued by the measure, and after spending 55 minutes with Ms. Yury and her team, promised to pass on information regarding the pending bill.

Yes, Ms. Yury and the more than 700 other CCLers on the Hill felt a sense of urgency about advocating for the pending bill. About the same time they were in D.C., the World Meteorological Organization reported concentrations of carbon dioxide in the Earth’s atmosphere had reached a record 407.8 parts per million, a level not experienced since 3-5 million years ago when sea levels were 10-20 meters higher than today. In short, quick Congressional action on HR 763 is imperative. As the climate peril has accelerated, CCL has exploded in size and sophistication. Ms. Yury related to me that an employee at the hotel told her: “Your group is amazing. Ten years ago only 70 of you were here and they didn’t seem to know how to proceed. Now there are more than 700 of you and you’re highly organized.”

Like the fictional Mr. Smith who struggled at first but found his voice and used it in the movie referenced above, Ms. Yury has found her voice and become part of the solution. Asked what was her biggest takeaway, she exclaimed: “Optimism.” Will she go back to the nation’s capital again? “Definitely.”

 

Tom Osborne is an historian who is volunteering with the Citizens Climate Lobby, Laguna chapter: [email protected].

 

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