Practicing to Get Good at Public Comment Letters

The White House got a lot of email from me today… sorry about that.

I wrote in my recent multiproject update that I wrote a public comment letter for the first time (about the SEC proposed climate disclosure rule):

I followed the guidelines from the Public Comment Project, and squeaked my email in just before their extended deadline of June 17th. I was worried I had bungled the submission because I didn’t see my comment on their public comments page, and I still might have, but according to this article it typically takes a month or two before the comments are posted. So I’ll be keeping my eye on that page to see if I did it right. I definitely want to keep doing these in the future, because it’s an effective way to influence climate policy. (If you want to read my comment, I’ve appended it at the end of [that] post!)

I wrote three more today. These were easier, because the advocacy newsletters I’m on sent me a form-letter to personalize. For each of them, I ended up mixing their talking points with some of my own that I’ve collected through my research quest. I’ve appended my three letters below.

I think advocating in writing is a great skill for an environmentalist to have! The first was kind of nerve-wracking, but hopefully by the 200th this will be a breeze.

If you want to start sending comment letters of your own, I’ve linked the three campaigns I wrote for below, and here are a couple of super-quick (US-centric) tips:

  • To find issues to write about, you can sign up for environmental email lists that will send them to you, complete with a form letter for you to modify. I favor League of Conservation VotersGreen New Deal Network350.org, and  Climate Hawks Vote. They may sometimes ask for donations, but I have found these particular organizations’ emails informative and infrequent.
  • If you’d rather not get emails, you can also go on mobilize.us and search for the keywords ‘climate’ and ‘letter’.
  • Check out the examples on the Public Comment Project (and generally that whole site) to get an idea of the tone to strike.
  • If you plan on modifying the templates (which I believe is optional, but I always do for self-expression reasons), you may want to make a master research document for yourself, so you can repurpose your personal set of talking points.

These are the three campaigns the letters were for:

  1. Letter for the Action Network letter campaign: Tell Biden and BLM to say no to the Willow Project!

    The Willow is a massive project that includes up to 250 new drilling wells, as well as hundreds of miles of roads, airstrips, and a new fossil fuel processing facility. All this in an area of the Arctic that is already warming at twice the rate of the rest of the country and is affected most by climate change.

    Not only would Willow break a promise Biden made not to expand fossil fuel drilling in the sensitive arctic, it would make it impossible for him to achieve his goals of limiting global temperature increase to 1.5 degrees Celsius.

    Send a comment now and tell BLM and Biden that they cannot permit the Willow plan, or any fossil fuel project with this kind of impact on the climate or the Arctic.

    https://actionnetwork.org/letters/tell-biden-and-blm-to-say-no-to-the-willow-project?source=email&

  2. A campaign from the the League of Conservation Voters to prevent more oil drilling leases. “For years, we have fought (and won!) against attempts to expand offshore drilling. But a new round of drilling leases in our federal waters is now under consideration. We cannot hand our public waters over to private oil companies.

    If Big Polluters get their way, oil companies would be able to drill in new waters and lock us into decades of fossil fuel destruction and dependency. This puts our coastal communities, marine life, public health, and the climate at an unimaginable risk.

    To protect our climate, oceans, and communities, we must prevent these drilling leases from moving forward! Submit a comment to the Department of the Interior to keep Big Oil out of public waters!”

    https://actnow.lcv.org/afimpis

  3. Another from the League of Conservation Voters, urging the Biden admin to use their executive powers.

    “The White House and the Biden administration have significant power to cut pollution and curb the climate crisis — and they must use it boldly and swiftly.”

    https://actnow.lcv.org/TzX1s0G

* * *

Here are my letters. (Note that they are not entirely original; some passages are from the form letters. Feel free to borrow points from it as well.)

Letter 1: Against Willow Master Development Project.

I am writing to express my strong opposition to the Willow Master Development Plan Supplemental Environmental Impact Statement.

Willow is a massive project that includes up to 250 new drilling wells, as well as hundreds of miles of roads, airstrips, and a new fossil fuel processing facility. All this in an area of the Arctic that is already warming at twice the rate of the rest of the country and is affected most by climate change.

President Biden has already taken the admirable step of committing to a 50-52% reduction in GHG emissions by 2030 and net-zero emissions by 2050 as a part of the US Nationally Determined Contribution, and issuing an Executive Order on January 27, 2021 to place the climate crisis at the forefront of this Nation’s foreign policy and national security planning.

Unfortunately, allowing the Willow Master Development Plan will certainly place the fulfillment of these promises out of reach.

The International Energy Agency issued a report (https://iea.blob.core.windows.net/assets/deebef5d-0c34-4539-9d0c-10b13d840027/NetZeroby2050-ARoadmapfortheGlobalEnergySector_CORR.pdf) stating that pathways to net-zero by 2050 should include NO new investment in oil and gas. In contrast, the Willow project will lock in oil and gas production infrastructure for decades to come.

Additionally, this project will do nothing for decreasing gas prices. Rising gas prices are a real and burdensome problem for Americans, caused primarily by global markets and shameless price-gouging by producers.

As the administration is no doubt aware, global gas prices are based on too many factors to be controlled through domestic production, and this project will not add to the gas supply in the near term.

In contrast, investment in renewables will favorably affect gas prices by decreasing the demand for gas from power generation, as explained by the World Resources Institute (https://www.wri.org/insights/why-renewable-energy-solution-high-prices).

While the Biden administration has taken admirable steps in the promotion of renewables, they must not undercut their results by allowing needless expansion of oil and gas infrastructure, while also causing massive disruptions and hardships to Arctic communities and ecosystems, who are already under severe strain from the impacts of climate change.

President Biden, BLM staff, you MUST say no to the Willow project this summer.

Letter 2: Against New Offshore Drilling Leases.

I’m writing to urge you to prevent new offshore drilling leases.

President Biden has already taken the admirable step of committing to a 50-52% reduction in GHG emissions by 2030 and net-zero emissions by 2050 as a part of the US Nationally Determined Contributions, and issuing an Executive Order on January 27, 2021 to place the climate crisis at the forefront of this Nation’s foreign policy and national security planning.

Any new oil leases will place the fulfillment of these promises out of reach.

The International Energy Agency (IEA) issued a report (https://iea.blob.core.windows.net/assets/deebef5d-0c34-4539-9d0c-10b13d840027/NetZeroby2050-ARoadmapfortheGlobalEnergySector_CORR.pdf) stating that pathways to net-zero by 2050 include NO new investment in oil and gas. New offshore drilling leases can lock-in long-term fossil fuel infrastructure that’s inconsistent with our efforts to solve climate change and pose huge risks to the health of communities, workers, and wildlife.

Additionally, new leases will do nothing for decreasing gas prices. Rising gas prices are a real and burdensome problem for families, caused primarily by global markets and shameless price-gouging by producers. The oil and gas industry is currently trying to exploit Russia’s unjust invasion of Ukraine by making a call for new drilling that they claim will lower prices.

But in reality, offshore drilling leases take years before they produce any oil, so they do nothing to bring down the price of gas at the pump today.

In contrast, investment in renewables CAN favorably affect gas prices by decreasing the demand for gas from power generation, as explained by the World Resources Institute (WRI, https://www.wri.org/insights/why-renewable-energy-solution-high-prices).

While the Biden administration has taken admirable steps in the promotion of renewables, they must not undercut their results by allowing needless expansion of oil and gas infrastructure, while also causing massive disruptions to vital coastal ecosystems, increasing the risk of dangerous oil spills, and negatively impacting Americans’ enjoyment of the ocean.

We constituents are counting on President Biden to seize the historic opportunity to lead the way to an equitable and just clean energy future by finalizing an offshore drilling plan that removes the lease sales in this draft plan and ultimately offers no new leases.

We must put in policies today that will help limit the warming of the earth for decades to come and center frontline and coastal communities who already bear the brunt of climate change burdens. We will continue to fight to ensure there is no new leasing in the final Five Year Plan in line with what science (as demonstrated by the IEA and WRI) and justice require.

Letter 3: In Favor of Using Executive Powers for Climate Action.

As your constituent and a supporter of the League of Conservation Voters, I want you to know that climate change is my top voting priority. Climate change is an unprecedented emergency, and must be treated as such. Conventional, incremental action will not do.

Our government must listen to the thousands of scientists and experts around the world — not to mention tens of millions of climate voters like me — and take immediate, transformational action to prevent widespread global destruction, displacement, and loss, using every possible lever within the Executive Branch.

President Biden has already taken the admirable step of committing to a 50-52% reduction in GHG emissions by 2030 and net-zero emissions by 2050 as a part of the US Nationally Determined Contributions, and issuing an Executive Order on January 27, 2021 to place the climate crisis at the forefront of this Nation’s foreign policy and national security planning.

However, there is a narrowing window for the government to take action to keep the fulfillment of these promises within reach.

The International Energy Agency (IEA) issued a report (https://iea.blob.core.windows.net/assets/deebef5d-0c34-4539-9d0c-10b13d840027/NetZeroby2050-ARoadmapfortheGlobalEnergySector_CORR.pdf) stating that pathways to net-zero by 2050 include NO new investment in oil and gas. 

For this reason, I call on you to immediately take action to block ALL new onshore and offshore drilling leases, since these leases will lock in emissions for decades to come, with no appreciable benefits. (These leases will not alleviate the current high gas prices, which are primarily caused by shameless and opportunistic price-gouging by oil producers.)

Additional necessary measures are: to require carbon capture from power plants and other major emitters of climate pollution, place strict limits on air pollution to safeguard all communities, strengthen standards for cleaner cars and trucks, protect communities from methane, conserve our public lands and waters, and declare a climate emergency, among other actions.

Furthermore, investment in renewables WILL help in by bringing down gas prices for families, since it will decrease the demand for gas from power generation, as explained by the World Resources Institute (https://www.wri.org/insights/why-renewable-energy-solution-high-prices). 

While the Biden administration has taken admirable steps in the promotion of renewables, including in the Executive Actions of July 21, 2022 this one avenue of investment is not sufficient.

I’m looking to you, President Biden, to rise to this historic occasion and keep your pledge to cut planet-warming emissions in half by 2030 and move swiftly on all possible executive climate solutions. 

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