By Isabel Van Dyke and Madison Wailes April 10, 2018

Defend Our Future Colorado supporters traveled to Gillette, WY, on March 27th to testify at the EPA listening session on the repeal of the Clean Power Plan. Two of our Colorado State University supporters, Isabel Van Dyke and Madison Wailes, shared their experiences.

Isabel Van Dyke, Freshman

When I heard that there was an opportunity to go fight for the Clean Power Plan, I was beyond excited to participate in something so important. Upon arrival, we were immediately met with a giant floor mat that read, “WE SUPPORT COAL,” in the lobby of the hotel. Gillette, Wyoming was a very strategic spot to hold the hearing in – it is one of the largest coal-producing cities in the country, so us environmental activists were drastically outnumbered. Despite this, we enjoyed our time at the hotel to practice and rest, and Tuesday morning we drove to Gillette College for the hearing. After listening to a several coal business owners claim that climate change wasn’t influenced by their products, and painfully listening to the Mayor of Gillette claim that coal wasn’t affecting them because “clearly the snow outside is white, not stained black with coal,” we finally had our turn.

In my testimony, I asked EPA Administrator Scott Pruitt to listen to the millions of people around the country fighting against his decision to repeal the CPP, and I invited Pruitt to Fort Collins where he could witness the beautiful Earth that will be impacted by this decision. I reminded him that political affiliation shouldn’t matter in protecting the environment – we disagree on so much, but this is really one thing that is inarguable. I noted that the outdoors is a critical part of my existence, and many others as well, and pleaded that he protect my future.

When I finished, a silent room of coal-supporters met the applause of the other wonderful organizations that attended, including Mom’s Clean Air Force and the Natural Resource Defense Council. Then, a very quiet and solemn-looking man took my place, and spouted a myriad of likely false information, and was met with a great round of cheers and smiles from the mediators. Although unwelcome at times, we had our place in that room. We showed up and gave our testimonies, and that’s what truly matters. I highly recommend everyone to do something like this – stand up for what you believe in and go to great lengths to make change. Despite the difficulty, it’s worth it intrinsically, knowing that you helped save the Earth. It’s worth it because of the changes that will be made because of what you did!

Madison Wailes, Freshman

My trip into coal country was surreal and unforgettable. It certainly felt a lot like walking into a lion’s den. After all, Gillette, Wyoming is one of the largest coal-producing communities in the country. Coal isn’t just a part of industry up there – it’s a way of life. This was daunting, but it was still important.

The Clean Power Plan means a lot to me as well as those back in Colorado, across the country and abroad. One of the most moving experiences I had was being approached by a friendly Gillette native asking about Defend Our Future and what we stood for. We informed him that we sought to protect the planet and defend the Clean Power Plan. He asked us many questions, and by the end, he found our goals were not so different from his own, and that he could get behind our message.

During my testimony, I spoke of how neither financial gain, nor economic advantage could ever match the risk we face as a country should the Clean Power Plan be repealed. I know many of the people attending the hearing do not believe in the reality of climate change or are skeptical of it. This worries me, and I hope that my fellow interns and I opened some eyes to the impending danger facing our environment.

Overall, I had a wonderful time with our small team and this experience was something I wouldn’t trade for the world! I strongly advocate for more millennials to get involved in the political process – I can’t deny that it can be intimidating, but it is worth it. That euphoric, proud feeling you get after delivering testimony for something you believe in deep in your core is insurmountable. Moreover, I made some really meaningful connections with my fellow interns and am proud to consider them my friends and colleagues.