At a moment when North Carolina’s strong clean air legislation seemed under attack on the federal level, Appalachian Voice volunteer Brenda Huggins showed how leadership and common sense can make an important political point.
Huggins was concerned about the possibility that a 2005 federal bill would dilute strong state air pollution laws such as the North Carolina Clean Smokestacks Act of 2002.
Over the past yhear, she visited about 40 different county and city government offices asking them to sign on to a resolution supporting clean air and the efforts of the state legislature. Nearly all of them formally endorsed the clean air resolution.
“Visiting these city halls and county government offices was overwhelmingly positive,” Huggins said. The warm reception to her message came from both conservatives and liberals, Republicans and Democrats.
Another positive experience involved taking 31 resolutions from the Congressional 10th District to the offices of conservative US Congressman Patrick McHenry (R-NC). McHenry said that the state “has some of the highest clean air standards in the nation” because of its citizens’ “practical environmental stewardship.” And he agreed with Huggins that NC should “maintain its clean air leadership by supporting common sense, constructive policies.”
Following the shift in Congressional power to the Democrats in the 2006 mid-term elections, proposals for weakening state clean air standards through a federal law are dead in the water. Even so, the demonstration of support for tough standards by cities and towns, led by moderate Republicans like Huggins, shows that support for environmental protection is strongly bipartisan.
Huggins said her strategy was to visit with city managers and others in city government, introducing herself as a volunteer with Appalachian Voice, and to discuss the state legislature’s support for tough clean air standards and the need for local governments to help with that support.
“This was a way local people could make thei8r voices heard in Washington,” she said. “We’re not lobbyists, we can’t go to Washington all the time, but this is a way we could send the voices of the people to Washington.”