USGBC Congressional Advocacy Day

On September 29th, USGBC hosted their 3rd annual USGBC Congressional Advocacy Day. 40 advocates representing 26 states met with 100 congressional officials to promote green building legislation under consideration in both the House and Senate. These bills included the Home Star Energy Retrofit Act, the Green Credit Enhancement Program Act, the PACE Assessment Protection Act, and the Federal Building Personnel Training Act.

I represented USGBC-Missouri Gateway Chapter and met with staffers from the offices of Senator Claire McCaskill, Representative Todd Akin, and Representative Russ Carnahan.

USGBC Congressional Advocacy Day 2010From L-R at USGBC’s 3rd Annual Congressional Advocacy Day: Congressman Russ Carnahan, USGBC CEO and Founder Rick Fedrizzi and Tony Ruebsam, chair of USGBC-Missouri Gateway’s Higher Education subcommittee.

For someone who had never participated in government advocacy, the entire experience was new to me. I have never advocated at any level of government, so there was certainly an intimidation factor going straight to the US Congress. Considering it was also my first time in Washington DC, I also had to adjust to the grandiosity of the Capital. To quote a fellow advocate, ‘I felt like a plebeian walking into Rome.’

Thankfully, the staff at USGBC headquarters did a great job preparing us for the seemingly chaotic nature of day to day activity in DC. They told us what to expect, what not to say, and most importantly to be on time (but not early).

Regardless of all the reassuring things USGBC staff told me the day before, I was still nervous as I walked into my first meeting in the office of Senator McCaskill. As one her staffers greeted us, I heard another on the phone with a constituent: ‘Sir, I understand you disagree with everything the President does, but there is no need to use profanity. If you continue to do so, I will have to end this conversation.’  I immediately relaxed, figuring if they are polite to the guy on the phone, they certainly won’t get upset with anything I have to say.

My meetings all went very well. I was able to speak to my experience as a general contractor and how the highest unemployment rates are within the construction industry. I explained how these pieces of legislation would infuse money into local economies and help this struggling industry recover and put the country on the path to a cleaner energy future.

As I asked the staffers to consider these pieces of legislation, I received requests for similar information: job creation potential, economic benefits, a list of LEED projects, and a list of companies that perform energy audits and efficiency upgrades.  Thankfully, Missouri is full of organizations that have been compiling this information for many years, such as USGBC-Missouri Gateway Chapter, St. Louis RCGA, Missouri Department of Economic Development and Missouri Department of Natural Resources.

I returned from my trip invigorated about what USGBC and the thousands of volunteers are dedicated to achieving. Seeing the effort and commitment from both sides of the political spectrum gave me the sense not only that our elected officials understand the value of green building technology, but they are going to see it through. The cynic in me might say that is just political posturing, but the pragmatist wonders how they could argue against it.

Submitted by Tony Ruebsam, Chair of the USGBC-Missouri Gateway Higher Education subcommittee of the Advocacy committee and a project manager for S.M. Wilson & Co.

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