By Jarett Zuboy, Golden chapter
Ed Perlmutter has been a U.S. Representative for 16 years—long enough to remember vividly the contentious House passage of carbon cap-and-trade legislation in 2009 and its disappointing Senate defeat the next year. When we first met Ed in 2014, lessons from that experience were fresh in his mind, especially the importance of public education and public support for any climate bill. “I need to know that people care,” he said.
We took his advice. For the next eight years, we collected comments about climate change from his constituents in Colorado’s District 7, primarily through CCL tables at events such as Lakewood Cider Days, the Jefferson County Fair, and Evergreen’s Earth Day celebration. Hundreds and hundreds of comments. We gave new batches to Ed or his aides at each of our meetings. We presented a comprehensive list to him on a scroll. We mapped the location of each commenter within his district—a format he found particularly impactful. We also lobbied for specific CCL asks through write-in and call-in campaigns. And we kept educating Ed and his staff about the benefits of the fee-and-dividend approach and the growing support for it from economists, politicians, business owners, and other leaders.
Ed’s backing of CCL priorities grew in tandem with our efforts. He signed letters to the administration advocating for stronger environmental and climate policies. He became an early member of the bipartisan Climate Solutions Caucus, bringing a Republican from Illinois with him. After CCL’s top priority—the Energy Innovation and Carbon Dividend Act—was introduced, he quickly became a co-sponsor. He spoke passionately in the House about the importance of climate science. He supported the Build Back Better bill. He introduced bills on climate-related topics including wildfire mitigation and energy efficiency in buildings. He maintained steadfast support for the National Renewable Energy Laboratory. And all along he and his amazing staff found time to listen to our concerns, provide sage advice, and sustain a dialog based on common sense and intelligent optimism.
Ed decided not to run for reelection in 2022. On July 16, nine members of our chapter visited his Lakewood office to pay tribute to him and his staff. After expressing our appreciation for the long-time support, we presented him with two fitting mementos: framed versions of “There is No Planet B” and other constituent comments produced by a local artist, and a word cloud based on constituent comments (below). Ed was visibly moved by the gifts and encouraged us to continue our efforts.
He also imparted final words of wisdom. He first recounted his recent Congressional trip to Yosemite National Park, where he learned about the impacts of climate change including wildfire damage, degraded forests, and reduced water flows. Then he suggested we link the beauty of the newly redrawn District 7—which encompasses some of Colorado’s most renowned alpine areas—with the need to protect it. “The new 7th District is the prettiest district in America,” he said, noting that we can expand our message into its mountain communities. We mentioned CCL’s Chaffee County chapter in the new district and our intention to combine forces with them.
Ed wrapped up with more words of encouragement in his uniquely upbeat style, and we parted with mutual gratitude and respect. We learned a lot during eight years of collaboration with him, and we look forward to applying those lessons to climate policy efforts in 2023 and beyond. Whoever represents us next, we will remember the foundation of our successful relationship with Ed, based on his simple but powerful advice: “I need to know that people care.”