Last week, representatives of 36 IPL’s around the country gathered in Washington, DC to share best practices, be updated on pressing energy and climate issues, and to advocate to their state legislators.
The conference began with an interfaith prayer and ritual, grounding the next three days on the basis for why IPL exists – to put into practice the commn religious goal of caring for and protecting all of creation.
Workshops were led by IPL state leaders and invited guests: a Fireside Chat with Rabbi David Sapperstein and Rev. Mitch Hescox showed the common goal the faith community has in caring for all beings; Matthew Sleeth of Blessed Earth exhorted all participants to honor their particular day of rest; and Dr. Sayyid M. Syeed of the Islamic Society of North America, Kolya Braun-Greiner of the Catholic Coalition on Climate Change, and Rabbi Fred Shcherlinder Dobb held a lively and sometimes humorous dialogue on how the faith community has been strengthened by working together on justice issues. CIPL staff member, Allis Druffel, was part of a panel on strengthening diversity among IPL, and CIPL Program Director, Greg Bedard, gave a presentation on how to conduct a successful lobby day.
Wednesday, April 10, was a day that had been in the works for several months. IPL staff and representatives descended upon The Hill to speak with their state’s legislators about current and upcoming energy and climate issues. A main priority was the protection of the Clean Air Act and EPA safeguards, in particular carbon pollution reduction standards for new power plants. The emphasis was for Congress to stay out of the way of the EPA’s implementation, and to oppose any attempts to block EPA regulations. Another priority was to extend tax incentives for energy efficiency measures for businesses and housing.
On a related note, legislators were also reminded of IPL’s – and the larger faith community’s – opposition to the Keystone XL Pipeline, as well as our support for the nomination of Gina McCarthy to head the EPA.
California staff met with 26 offices. There were various levels of responses from the legislative staff visited. Some were very enthusiastic and excited to share their plans for climate and energy action, such as Congressman Scott Peters of San Diego. Some were a bit more reserved; open to the message but non-commital; and some expressed their difference of opinion. California, which has a majority of progressive legislators, appeared to have more champions than other states.
In all, the national IPL conference was inspiring to both attendees, who had a chance to see what their national colleagues were doing, and to some legislative offices, who were thankful to see the support of the faith community in helping to work for a healthier planet.