A few of us visited our West Virginia Senators in Washington last week for a little discussion on renewable energy. Our focus was industrial wind since, at least in West Virginia and the Appalachian Mountains, that’s the major thorn in our paw.
We promised we wouldn’t consume their time repeating the laundry list of issues they may have come to expect from industrial wind opponents, but instead provide facts to better inform the Senators to specific dangers and failures of industrial wind. While most so called “NIMBY” concerns are valid, we didn’t want to experience the immediate eye-glazing that seems to take over when a politician suspects such issues will be raised.
I’m happy to report that we held pretty much true to our oath. In fact, thanks to Lisa Linowes, the substance of the meeting with Senator Joe Manchin’s folks exceeded my expectations. Ms. Linowes discussed in detail an evolving critical issue which, it appears from the discussion with staff, may have been flying under the Senator’s radar, so to speak. This is, by no means, a reflection on Senator Manchin for it appears this issue may not be widely known. Ms. Linowes will remedy that very soon, and we’ll link you to her commentary.
But, the focus of this post is really about style, and what other folks from West Virginia might expect should they venture to DC to discuss issues.
The gentlemen who met with us during our visit to Senator Joe Manchin’s office were cordial and attentive. There was ample time for each of us to speak, however our interest was to focus on the critical issue Ms. Linowes sought to bring to the attention of legislators. While professional and courteous, Senator Manchin’s staff played excellent poker, as you would expect from individuals who hear from hundreds or thousands of folks each representing their side of every conceivable issue.
While not committing to take our statements and immediately mount the cavalry charge on our behalf, I felt reassured that they would, at least, convey the message to Senator Manchin. I felt certain the issue raised by Ms. Linowes, which seems to us to deserve the attention of a Senate Committee on which he serves, would reach Senator Manchin. In addition, we offered our future assistance and walked away with hope this discussion would be the beginning of discourse about industrial wind issues. Time will tell.
Overall, I was very pleased with our visit to Senator Manchin’s office and felt welcomed.
Our visit to Senator Jay Rockefeller’s office was less rewarding. The time was necessarily short, but we knew that restriction going in. The gentleman explained when we made the appointment that we were placed between critical meetings. Not a problem, we focused immediately on Ms. Linowes’ critical issue. While courteous, I didn’t sense the same level of interest. Whether the gentleman had his mind on the prior meeting or the one following, I felt we were simply going through the motions.
To wrap up, Senator Rockefeller’s assistant explained his energy position, to paraphrase – ‘we need them all.’ When we attempted to venture beyond this boilerplate, we again received the exact statement. It was not a surprise, but the ease in which it was quoted led one of our members to suggest that perhaps this gentleman may have written the position statement for the Senator. All in all, I felt the visit to Senator Rockefeller’s office was a waste of time. I would like to think the issue raised by Ms. Linowes raised the hair on the back of the gentleman’s neck and that he would move this to the top ten of discussion issues with Senator Rockefeller, but frankly, I didn’t go away with the feeling that would happen.
But, only time will tell how seriously each Senate team will take our visit and, in particular, the serious issue presented by Ms. Linowes. Maybe each Senator will ignore what was presented and the issue, which should be led by them, will surface in a manner lacking their leadership. We won’t know until we know.
I’d like to be proven wrong, but I don’t believe Senator Rockefeller looks to his constituents for advice. The past responses I’ve received from his office bear this out.
And sure, some of my friends insist Senator Manchin is wearing sheep’s clothing in preparation of the 2012 election and, if successful, will fall in lock step behind Senator Rockefeller’s policies. I hope not. He has a golden opportunity and, many of us believe, the talent to greatly benefit his constituents in West Virginia and the entire Country. To do so, he must remain as independent as he has so forcefully demonstrated he can be.
I can’t speak for my traveling companions, but I saw in these two meetings the night and day of Washington. Senator Manchin’s staff demonstrated a spirit of sincere interest in constituent concerns. Senator Rockefeller’s staff gave a sense of the rigid, set in its ways, politics of the past.
We’ll keep you posted!