Field Dispatch: Activists Meet with Congressional Staffers on Dirty Biodiesel

This is a guest post from Mighty Earth Atlanta volunteer Colin Poe.

Following Mighty Earth’s Forests + Food ≠ Fuel event at SouthFace in May, event attendees and volunteers wanted to do more than just raise awareness on biofuels—they wanted to act!

During the event, attendees were encouraged to reach out to members of the House of Representatives Ways and Means Committee to oppose this legislation. Atlanta’s own Rep. John Lewis, of the 5th Congressional District, is a senior member of the committee, which has jurisdiction over the federal biodiesel tax credit. Historically, John Lewis has been reliably strong on environmental and climate issues, and we need to make sure he steps up as a champion in the movement to combat dirty biodiesel.

Heeding this call-to-action, a volunteer-led group of event attendees banded together over the next week to plan, create, and mobilize a petition delivery team. Their mission was simple yet effective: hand-deliver over 4,000 anti-biofuel petitions to Rep. John Lewis’s office in downtown Atlanta and request that he oppose the renewal of the dirty biofuel tax subsidy.

On June 14, despite demanding work schedules, dreadful Friday Atlanta afternoon traffic, and grumbling stomachs (this was their lunch break after all), members of the passionate volunteer-led anti-biofuels petition delivery team all converged on downtown Atlanta’s Five Point District to execute their mission.

Mighty Earth volunteer Colin Poe receives a tour of Rep. John Lewis’ personal office after delivering over 4,000 petitions and leading the lobby meeting with one of the Congressman’s senior staff members.

Upon arrival, the team was met by Lewis’ Outreach Director. The team engaged with Lewis’s staff to emphasize the ongoing, negative effects biodiesel production has on the environment and the importance of not extending the dirty biodiesel tax subsidy as a means to prevent further environmental damage.

Following the delivery, Rep. Lewis’s team pledged to mail the petitions directly to his senior policy advisors in Washington, D.C.

In the week after the meeting, the Ways and Means Committee passed H.R. 3301, which includes an amendment to extend the biodiesel tax credit. We were deeply disappointed with this development, but will keep fighting. We can still nix it in the full House, in the Senate, or when the two chambers’ versions are merged in the reconciliation process.

As we seek to protect forests, prairies, and other natural areas as carbon sinks and as habitat, it is critical that we refrain from endorsing policies that support reckless agricultural expansion and fail to address the climate crisis. For the past three years, Mighty Earth has championed pro-environment reforms to the Renewable Fuel Standard (RFS), which currently mandates increasing biofuel consumption through 2022.