Emily Repech
February 27th, 2020

In the last week of February, 150 Surfrider representatives met with federal elected officials to encourage them to support our federal lands and waters, plastic pollution reduction policies, take drastic actions on climate change, and ensure the ability of everyone in the United States to have access to clean water. I attended along with other constituents from the Northern California Coast, and met with Representatives from Monterey County all the way to the Oregon border.

Our group met with the following offices:

  • Congresswoman Speier CA-14
  • House Speaker Pelosi CA-12
  • Congresswoman Eshoo CA-18
  • Congressman Panetta CA-20
  • Congresswoman Lee CA-13
  • Congressman Swalwel CA- 15
  • Congressman DeSaulnier CA-11
  • Congressman Huffman CA-2

As someone who majored in Environmental Studies and Politics in college, I couldn’t believe this opportunity to advocate for our oceans to congress. D.C. is an inspiring city and makes our federal government feel more tangible than what I usually experience through the news on the west coast 2,000 miles away. Walking around the capital I bumped into the US Forest Service building, NASA headquarters, the FBI, and my walking route to dinner one night happened to take me right past the white house. It was so exciting to be there to make change for our oceans along with the rest of the passionate delegation from Surfrider.

Federal policy making is a lot less pomp and circumstance than you may think. There are continuously hundreds of bills circulating the hill, and not all representatives or their staff could possibly be in the know of the importance of each one at all times. One of the major policies we were advocating for was the newly introduced Break Free from Plastic Pollution Act, a bill created by the Surfrider national policy team and Senator Udall (NM) and Representative Rosenthal (CA-47). This bill proposes drastic changes to our national production and consumption of plastics. It requires manufacturers to take on the burden of disposing of these products instead of leaving it to the consumer. The bill also states that single use items such as plastic bags, utensils, and straws will be distributed on an ask only basis. One of the most striking components of the bill states that all new construction of plastic manufacturing plants will be halted for three years in order to get a hold of the issue before it gets even more out of hand. Until now, policies like these have been mostly locally based creating confusion and weaker regulation between differing states, counties, and cities. This bill takes plastic pollution seriously as a national issue to reduce our production and consumption.

When meeting with our Representative’s and their staff, most had heard about the Break free from Plastic Pollution Act, and many had already signed on as co-sponsors. But other programs we were advocating for were lesser known. Representatives were eager to know what kinds of policies environmental organizations such as Surfrider support in order to reflect their constituents’ positions on issues. It was encouraging to see that our representatives truly cared about their constituents and were eager to listen.

On clean water, our focus was to share our concerns with the Trump administration’s rollback of funding and regulations in recent years including the Clean Water Act and the Beach Act.

Our third federal agenda was the protection of our national lands and waters. This includes supporting permanent funding for the Land and Water Conservation Fund. We also advocated to support NOAA funds for their research and local grant programs, as well as the Antiquates Act which is the legislation behind our National Monuments and Marine Sanctuaries.

Finally, we were asking for strong leadership from our representatives on climate change. In our northern California group, we were lucky to have three high schoolers from Marin county take charge on this issue. As the faces of those who will be dealing with the consequences of climate change in the future it was powerful to hear them advocate for themselves and the planet. Surfrider supports the Green New Deal, as well as the 100% Clean Economies Act which sets a goal of reaching zero net emissions by 2050. We also advocated for our representatives to oppose offshore oil drilling, an issue that has been of great concern with this current presidential administration.

Our day on the hill was a rush of activism. In total, Surfrider Recreation Hill day brought 150 people together, with 150 meetings with representatives. It was the largest lobbying day on record advocating for our oceans. We would like to thank our representatives and their staff who met with us that day, leaving us feeling encouraged for the future for our oceans!