Tips on Meeting US Senators or Staff About FERC Vacancies

Senate Goes On Recess from April 10 to April 21.

Plan a meeting with your Senators in their district offices to say:

  • FERC approved pipelines are damaging communities and devastating the climate.
  • FERC is so biased that its approval of pipelines is a foregone conclusion.
  • FERC is abusing communities — stripping them of their legal rights and undermining the authority of state protections.
  • Be a champion to demand that Congress take steps to dissolve FERC and replace it with an agency that is dedicated to a just transition off fossil fuels.
  • Vote NO on Trump’s nominations to FERC until steps are taken to replace FERC.

Tips on Meeting With Your US Senators or Their Staff

The first thing to do is to contact the Senator’s office and request a meeting. Do not take “no” for an answer. Their job is to represent the people of their state. You have an important and very timely issue to discuss with them.

You can find your two Senators’ contact information at the link below. Go to the Senator’s website page and find the local office closest to you and your group and call that number. Here’s the link:  https://www.senate.gov/senators/contact/senators_cfm.cfm?State=MA

Explain to the person who answers the phone that you want to meet with the Senator or a member of his staff while the Senator is back home from DC. Tell the staff person that you are representing an organization, or organizations, and tell him/her the name(s). Explain that you want to discuss the issue of the nominations by President Trump to the leadership of FERC, the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission. If there is any hesitation by the staffer, explain that your group knows about FERC, that it has a history of abusing communities and misusing the law when it comes to reviewing and approving new natural gas infrastructure like pipelines, compressor stations and LNG facilities, and the Senator needs to be aware of these issues before he votes to confirm anyone.

The staffperson may ask you to send an email with the specific request. You should send it right after the phone call, and follow up with another call the next day if you don’t hear back by then.

If there is continued hesitation or resistance after the call and the email, and especially if you are told no one will meet with you, you might want to firmly but calmly tell the staffer that if neither the Senator nor his staff are willing to meet, they can expect to see you outside his/her office with signs and that you will be alerting the local press.

If that doesn’t get them to agree to meet, then you should organize a demonstration at the local office on a date and time that you determine is best for your group, or the coalition of groups you’re part of.

If you do get a meeting date and time, be sure to reach out within your organization or coalition to recruit a decent-sized and effective delegation. A good goal as far as numbers is 10-20 people, not too big to fit into an office but big enough to give a sense of your organization representing many people.

Designate the person from your group who will begin the discussion. That person should plan an opening presentation of 2-3 minutes summarizing why we want the Senator to vote “no” on all of Trump’s nominations until there are Congressional hearings on FERC and action taken to make reforms.

During the meeting people should be respectful but direct. If the Senator or staff person says something that you know to be wrong, respond and correct them. Listen carefully to see if there is something said that indicates an openness to what you are saying, so that you can follow up afterwards with additional information.

Use this handy Education and Ask Sheet to help plan your meeting and guide your discussion: http://bit.ly/FERCDoesntWorkMessageSheet

Here is some helpful information from the ACLU about meetings with elected officials:

Additional tips from the ACLU

https://www.aclu.org/meeting-your-elected-representatives

Be prompt and patient. Elected officials run on very tight schedules. Be sure to show up on time for your appointment, and be patient — it is not uncommon for legislators to be late or to have your meeting interrupted by other business.

Keep it short and focused! You will have 20 minutes or less with a staff person, and as little as 10 minutes if you meet with your elected official. Make the most of that brief time by sticking to your topic.

Bring up any personal, professional or political connections to the elected official that you may have. Start the meeting by introducing yourselves and thanking the legislator for any votes he or she has made in support of your issues, and for taking the time to meet with you.

Stick to your talking points! Stay on topic, and back them up with no more than five pages of materials that you can leave with your elected official.

Provide personal and local examples of the impact of the legislation. This is the most important thing you can do in a lobby visit.

Saying “I don’t know” can be a smart political move. You need not be an expert on the topic you are discussing. If you don’t know the answer to a question, it is fine to tell your legislator that you will get that information for him or her. This gives you the chance to put your strongest arguments into their files, and allows you to contact them again about the issue. Never make up an answer to a question — giving wrong or inaccurate information can seriously damage your credibility!

Set deadlines for a response. Often, if an elected official hasn’t taken a position on legislation, they will not commit to one in the middle of a meeting. If he or she has to think about it, or if you are meeting with a staff member, ask when you should check back in to find out what your legislator intends to do about your request. If you need to get information to your legislator, set a clear timeline for when this will happen. That way, you aren’t left hanging indefinitely.

For the full ACLU text, go to https://www.aclu.org/meeting-your-elected-representatives

Finally, AND IMPORTANTLY, be sure to fill out this google form to let us know how things went and so we can report publicly how much our groups are doing to oppose these nominations: http://bit.ly/2nDXRgs