Air Quality Team Makes Moves at Cap-to-Cap
As usual, the Metro Chamber’s annual Capitol-to-Capitol program was jam-packed, tightly-scheduled, well-run – and very large. This year’s delegation numbered 375, including the business community, local electeds, nonprofit leadership, and representatives from our academic institutions.
The Air Quality team’s seventeen members took an equal number of meetings in two-and-a-half days, with plenty of bike-share commuting as well, despite this being one of the chilliest and rainiest Cap-to-Caps in memory. The four issue papers we “carried” (on federal funding, forest resilience, biomass, and broadband access) were well-received by the majority of our regional Congressional delegation, as well as by Senators Feinstein and Harris.
More challenging was our conversation with the Environmental Protection Agency, which focused significantly on vehicle emissions standards and the importance of not weakening the Clean Air Act, given all the benefits it has brought to the nation since its inception. Administration appointees debated with us the significance of vehicle emissions and particularly the issue of California continuing its higher standards.
Our discussion with the Majority staffer for the Senate’s Committee on the Environment and Public Works featured a slightly broader range of topics, with two pieces of welcome news and one piece of less ideal, though unsurprising, news. We learned that cuts to EPA’s budget are “not a high priority for many in Congress; that’s more the Administration,” and also that the Committee’s Republican Chair and Democratic Ranking Member are jointly sponsoring a bill that would fund the Diesel Emissions Reductions Act (DERA) at its statutory maximum of $100M. The not-surprising topic was that of CAFÉ standards (vehicle emissions standards), where our team’s strong points in support were acknowledged but met with a “we’ll have to agree to disagree” response.
As one final note, we were fortunate to benefit from two strong “freshmen” members of the team, who each set a high bar. Alberto Ayala of the Sacramento Metro Air Quality Management District was an able leader of “sub-team Ayala,” while Breathe Board member Paul Adams of Capital Public Radio arranged a special side-tour of the NPR headquarters for Cap-to-Cap attendees.
All in all, it was a successful Cap-to-Cap and the Air Quality team enjoyed a fun and impactful time in D.C. We are all looking forward to next year!
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Meg Arnold is Managing Director of Valley Vision, leading the Clean Economy and Innovation and Entrepreneurship Strategies.