As the new board chair of Rachel’s Action Network, I’m nervous and excited to take on the leadership of our small but mighty organization! I’m eager to work to empower women leaders to influence the political process, and I look forward to working with RAN members to raise our voices on behalf of the environment. It’s clear that our current environmental policies are not enough, and there’s no time to waste!

Environmental Priorities

The 114th Congress was sworn in three weeks ago, and already both the Senate and the House have brought the issues we care about to the forefront–and not necessarily for the better.

As one of its first orders of business, the House passed legislation that would approve the Keystone XL pipeline, and the Senate is currently debating amendments on their version of the bill.

I was, however, encouraged to see the overwhelming support last week for an energy efficiency amendment on the Keystone bill. The amendment was put forth by Senators Portman (OH) and Shaheen (NH) and was approved in a 91 to 5 vote–a small victory for bipartisanship. But then, the Senate turned ridiculous on Thursday with votes on whether climate change is a hoax and whether humans contribute to it. It’s a frustrating reminder of how much work there is ahead of us and what it could take to get meaningful action from our elected officials.

We can expect a growing number of attacks on environmental legislation in the new Congress. RAN will be watching closely for threats to renewable energy and public lands, as well as efforts to weaken regulations that support clean air, clean water, and clean food. In the upcoming year, I hope to find ways we can leverage our philanthropy to protect our existing environmental regulations and advocate for stronger policies.

Women Leaders

While the political forecast for the environment looks a bit stormy, one bright spot is the number of women in leadership positions in the U.S. Senate.

For the first time ever, Congress now has over 100 women serving (104 to be exact). I’m eager to support the work of the following women senators in particular and hope to connect them with RAN in 2015:

-Senator Maria Cantwell (WA) is a ranking member of the Energy and Natural Resources Committee and a staunch environmentalist. She has pledged not to accept PAC money and is a strong voice for campaign finance reform.

-Senator Susan Collins (ME) is a member of the Appropriations Committee, and the Interior and Environment Subcommittee. She is a consensus builder, well-known for her moderate politics, and a past RAN endorsee.

-Senator Kristen Gillibrand (NY) is a member of Environment and Public Works Committee–an important position to be in with the retirement of Senator Barbara Boxer in 2016.

-Senator Patty Murray (WA) is a member of Senate leadership. She serves on the Energy Subcommittee of Appropriations and on the Health, Education, Labor, and Pensions (HELP) Committee. She is up for re-election in 2016.

-Senator Jeanne Shaheen (NH) is a longtime champion for environmental issues and vocal advocate of energy efficiency. She is a member of the Appropriations Committee. RAN endorsed Shaheen last year.

-Senator Elizabeth Warren (MA) is a member of Senate leadership and serves on the Banking and HELP Committees. She is a dedicated supporter of environmental policies.

I admire these women for their efforts to make a difference on behalf of everyday Americans and am excited to find ways that RAN can support their work. These are the women who will be champions of our causes, and we need to let them know we have their back. I hope you’ll join me!


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