A Meeting with Sen. Harris’ Office on Environmental Policy

By Elizabeth Douglas

On January 3, 2019, Indivisible East Bay met with staff at Senator Kamala Harris’ office in Washington, D.C. to discuss environmental policy. We thanked the Senator for her record of pro-environment votes and her opposition to climate-change deniers like Andrew Wheeler, we asked that she continue supporting and introducing legislation that protects our environment and communities, and we discussed other ways IEB would like Senator Harris to support climate action.

At the meeting we spoke with Dr. Ike Irby, one of the Senator’s policy advisors. We were very interested in Harris’ take on the new House Select Committee on the Climate Crisis and the Green New Deal. Dr. Irby stated that while Harris supports broad climate action as well as collaboration with the House on climate issues, climate policies that create equity in communities and have an immediate impact to those most affected by climate change are her top priority. These types of policies will also need to promote resilience and sustainability in communities harmed by the current effects of climate change, such as more intense and frequent natural disasters.

Here are a few environmentally-focused legislative actions that Senator Harris will work on in the new Congress:

  • Outdoors for All Act. Originally introduced in September 2018, S. 3499, the Outdoors for All Act, would create equity for public spaces, providing a permanent source of funding for green spaces in urban areas. As we discussed, many city kids don’t have easy access to pleasant outdoors areas, and it’s hard to raise a generation of environmentalists when children may not even be able to play and learn in public parks. Creating these spaces would also help areas reduce their greenhouse gas emissions – a double win! Work on this type of legislation does come with an additional challenge, however, as funding for the grants issued under the Outdoors for All Act would depend on re-authorization of the Land and Water Conservation Fund (LWCF), which will also need calls of support from your friendly neighborhood Indivisibles!
  • Living Shorelines Act. Originally introduced in July 2018, S.3087, the Living Shorelines Act, would protect our coastline communities through natural and sustainable solutions (read: not concrete seawalls!). This bill would provide these communities with grants for projects to respond to sea level rise, for example, and also to preserve the delicate ecosystems on their coasts and even on islands.

Senator Harris plans to reintroduce both these bills during the new legislative session. Taking climate action is a collective commitment to both our present and future; we need to express our support for these bills and educate others about them so that our communities can feel hopeful and empowered despite the daily (and sometimes daunting) reports of the impacts of climate change. The clear message from our meeting with Dr. Irby was that the time is right to show that climate change legislation should be top priority. We’ll have plenty of actions on environmental issues in the months to come!

Photograph of Senator Harris’ D.C. office by Elizabeth Douglas

Elizabeth Douglas is a mom, runner, and activist from Alameda. She is also a Climate Reality Leader (Seattle 2017) with a strong interest in protecting our ocean and corals.