News / USA

Gulf Residents Affected by Oil Spill Pushing Congress for Clean Energy Legislation

A man from the gulf coast region brings a sample of oil tainted water to a meeting with senators in Washington.
A man from the gulf coast region brings a sample of oil tainted water to a meeting with senators in Washington.

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Nearly 100 residents from America's Gulf Coast converged on Capitol Hill this week.  They wanted to meet with their representatives and senators to relay their personal stories about the effects of the oil spill.  They also wanted to encourage passage of a clean energy bill that would transition the nation away from fossil fuel and toward alternative energy.  

A visit to a U.S. senator involves a lot of waiting.  A jar of cloudy seawater and oily black-speckled sand sits on the ledge in the hallway of the Senate Office Building.  A staffer announces the senator is ready and escorts the group into a conference room.  A man plops the jar directly in front of the empty seat at the head of the table where the senators will sit.  It's a sample from their Florida cities, areas just now being affected by the oil spill.  

They want to tell Democratic Senator Mark Udall of Colorado to speed through an energy bill.  Their chance to do that comes quickly, as Senator Udall walks into the room.

They meet with the senator for 15 minutes and he meets with us for five.

"What I assured them was: given their plea and call and demand in a polite way for us to have a clean energy future, that was job one for me," said Udall.  "That has long been one of my main motivations for being an elected official."

Udall says he plans to bring a climate energy bill to the floor of the Senate by July 4.  This was Meggin McPhee's second appointment with a senator.  She flew up from Destin, Florida.

"It's enabled us to bring a real voice to some in Washington, D.C. who watch the news and see the pictures and realize what's happening, but when they're able to put a true voice to what's going on down there and I think we've been well received," said McPhee.

Nearly 100 residents like Meggin were flown to DC by Repower America, an organization promoting clean energy, run by former Vice President Al Gore.  

The group went on to meet with several other elected officials.  David Augustine of New Orleans says his group met with a staffer of Republican Senator David Vitter, who also represents Louisiana.

"[Vitter] said to be patient, but my mindset towards this situation is that 'sorry' is not enough anymore."

David feels so strongly, that as a rapper, he's written a song about politicians and the gulf.  One line in the song is particularly relevant:

"Yeah, you apologized, you admitted you're wrong, but we're the ones that got to suffer.  You all get to go home. Sorry ain't enough no more."

This group wants immediate action.  But there's a lot left to discuss on Capitol Hill, with Senate Democrats trying to combine an energy bill with a climate bill and Republicans opposing the idea and calling it an energy tax.

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