From Washington State to Washington D.C. - Another Hill Days in the Books!
Earlier this month, a hardcore team of dedicated volunteers representing our Washington chapters flew across the country to advocate on behalf of our ocean, waves, and beaches. We were joined by over 150 other advocates representing 57 chapters and clubs, all coalescing in our nation’s capital to lobby for coastal conservation. Collectively, we held 131 congressional meetings with Senators and Representatives from 23 states!
Our WA delegation met with staff members from the offices of Rep. Pramila Jayapal, Rep. Adam Smith, Rep. Marilyn Strickland, Senator Patty Murray, Rep. Marie Glusenkamp-Perez, Rep. Derek Kilmer, and a direct meeting with Rep. Kim Schrier, all in the course of two very busy days. I could not be more impressed with our delegation - they brought all the passion, dedication, and intelligence that drives our mission forward here in Washington State to the steps of Capitol Hill to demand action from our federal leaders!
We came together in D.C. to ask for policies aimed at one goal - clean water and healthy beaches for all. We focused our discussions on our three federal priorities: plastic pollution, climate change, and clean water.
1. Plastic Pollution
Every year we advocate for passing the Break Free From Plastic Pollution Act, which would completely overhaul how our country manages our plastic waste. We came armed with our beach cleanup data showing the types of trash we continue to remove from our beaches and compelling stories about why we need federal policies focused on source reduction.
In addition to meeting with members of Congress and their staff, Surfrider sent teams to the Department of Interior to encourage a faster phase-out of single-use plastic from public lands and to the General Services Administration to support eliminating single-use plastics from federal purchases. Each of these actions represents a huge opportunity to not only reduce demand for single-use plastics but to also drive the markets toward reusable and other sustainable materials.
2. Climate change
For years we’ve been asking for comprehensive climate legislation, such as last session’s Ocean-Based Climate Solutions Act. Last August, Biden signed into law the Inflation Reduction Act, which represents the largest investment in climate and coastal resiliency in US history. However, some provisions within the Act allow for continued investments in offshore oil drilling, which is one of the reasons why we’re specifically asking for a prohibition on new offshore oil and gas development through the West Coast Ocean Protection Act and Coast Anti-Drilling Act. Because let’s be real - any actions we do take to address the climate crisis are negated if we continue to extract and burn fossil fuels.
Each year, we also advocate for increased funding for NOAA, the federal agency responsible for monitoring our weather and climate, managing our coasts, and supporting important programs like Coastal Zone Management, National Marine Sanctuaries (including our very own Olympia Coast Sanctuary), National Estuarine Reserves, and Sea Grant (shout out to Washington Sea Grant, who conducts valuable research and leads statewide efforts to document king tides).
3. Clean Water
Everyone deserves feces-free water to recreate in (am I right?!), which is why every year we push for increased funding for EPA clean water programs. Surfrider is one of the only organizations actively pushing for increased funding for the BEACH Act (Beaches Environmental Assessment and Coastal Health), which sets national standards for recreational water testing and authorizes grants to support monitoring and public notification. In Washington, many of our Blue Water Task Force volunteers work directly with BEACH Program staff to monitor our recreational waters for harmful bacteria. Our efforts at Hill Days have very real effects on our ability to know if it’s safe to play in Washington waters.
One of the primary ways that bacteria enter our waters is through stormwater runoff and wastewater discharges. Our infrastructure is old, and heavy rain events (which are getting more extreme thanks to climate change) cause overflows. But many municipalities can’t afford the costly upgrades. That is why we also advocate for fully funding the Clean Water State Revolving Fund, which provides funding for critical improvements in our wastewater infrastructure. Again, here in Washington, we have numerous wastewater treatment plants that spill raw sewage into the Sound. This funding matters for our own public health and safety.
Flying across the country is not without its costs. Chapters must fundraise to provide travel and accommodations to volunteers, and volunteers must take time away from work and school and family. Also, the irony of burning fossil fuels to fly cross country to advocate for action on climate change is not lost on us. So why do we do this?
Because it matters. Industry groups have highly paid lobbyists whose sole job is to speak with elected officials. They live in DC, they attend meetings and functions, and they can dominate the narrative if we let them. It is absolutely critical that we raise our collective voices and demand action on climate change, the right to clean water, and the end to plastic pollution. Our leaders need to hear from we, the people, and Coastal Recreation Hill days is an incredible opportunity to demonstrate Surfrider’s national reach and credibility on key coastal issues.
From cleanups to capital hill, this is activism at its strongest!
To read more about this year’s Hill Days, check out the national coastal blog post.