Campus Notebook: Pre-Emptive Greening

Posted February 27, 2009 at 5:49pm

Even a pledge by Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) and Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) to rid the Capitol Power Plant of coal is not enough for some people — more than 2,500 activists still plan to disrupt the plant’s operations today.

[IMGCAP(1)]“It doesn’t change anything,” Greenpeace’s Mike Crocker said. “We’ve welcomed this announcement all along, but the protest is proceeding as planned.”

Organized by dozens of groups in the coalition Capitol Climate Action, the protest is about pushing “comprehensive climate legislation,” Crocker said. Attendees plan to sit in front of the entrances and exits, risking arrest if necessary.

The plant is a major polluter in Washington, D.C., spewing a constant stream of carbon dioxide and other emissions into the air as it provides heating and cool water to the Capitol complex.

In 2007, Pelosi pushed to switch away from coal, and it now uses 65 percent natural gas and 35 percent coal. But that figure has been stagnant since the shift, a situation some attribute to Sen. Robert Byrd (D-W.Va.) and Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.), powerful Senators from coal-heavy states.

It was only on Thursday that Pelosi and Reid asked acting Architect of the Capitol Stephen Ayers to devise a budget to make a complete switchover by the end of the year. In a letter, they argued that the coal-burning plant is a “shadow that hangs” over greening efforts.

Free Speech, Coming Soon. Congressional employees may soon be able to freely speak about any fraud or abuse, now that Sen. Chuck Grassley (R-Iowa) has introduced a bill to include whistle-blower protections in the Congressional Accountability Act.

Grassley originally authored the CAA back in 1995 to ensure that the legislative branch has to follow the same discrimination and work safety laws as the private sector. Its passage spawned the Office of Compliance, which ensures the laws are being followed.

But the CAA lacks specific protection for whistle-blowers, prompting Grassley and Sen. Claire McCaskill (D-Mo.) to introduce a bill that would add the Whistleblower Protection Act to the CAA. The act prohibits employers from retaliating against employees who have witnessed and spoken out against fraud or abuse.

Submit your Campus Notebook tips here.