Monthly Archives: June 2023

For Climate Action, lobbying Congressional offices June 2023

Brian Ettling in front of the U.S. Capitol getting ready to lobby Congressional Offices for climate action on June 13, 2023.

“It’s not enough that we do our best; sometimes we have to do what’s required.”
Winston Churchill

As a climate organizer, one of my favorite actions is traveling to Washington D.C. to lobby Congressional Offices to urge them to pass effective climate policies. Since November 2015, I traveled eight times to Washington D.C. to attend Citizens’ Climate Lobby (CCL) conferences and lobby days on Capitol Hill. In 2015, I blogged about my first experience lobbying in Washington D.C. In 2016, I wrote about lobbying in Washington D.C. and Ottawa, Canada . Plus, I blogged about lobbying on Capitol Hill with CCL in 2017. That same year, I shared how climate Lobbying is very hard, but it is so rewarding. Indeed, it has been very meaningful to lobby at the U.S. Capitol because I once persuaded a member of Congress to co-sponsor a climate bill in 2020.

I got injured the first time after I lobbied as I returned from Washington D.C. for climate action, but I have no regrets. I love traveling to the U.S. capital, but it is a very long flight from Portland, Oregon. Washington D.C. is a very beautiful city, with similar weather as my hometown of St. Louis, Missouri. It can be quite humid and hot in the summer and frigid at times in the winter. The iconic monuments to Lincoln, Jefferson, Washington, the Vietnam Memorial, the White House, the Supreme Court, and the U.S. Capitol Building are all sacred sites to see. It is very convenient to get around the city with the Washington Metropolitan Area Transit Authority commuter rail system (or the Metro). The trains roar like a lion as they loudly enter the subway stations. They carry up to 8 passenger cars that seems to stretch for over a mile.

On the lobby day, I love walking out of the Metro Union Station to be greeted by the shiny white Capitol dome above the trees several blocks away. It is a hassle but a necessity to go through airport like security to get inside the Senate and House office buildings. Walking inside the Congressional office buildings, it is a fun and complicated maze to try to find the exact offices of Senators and Representatives to arrive at our CCL scheduled lobby meetings. Arriving inside the offices of the members of Congress, one is greeted by friendly staff and exquisite artwork, photography and mementos that represent that Congressional district or state.

The best part is the scheduled meeting with the Congressional staff or possibly even a member of Congress to urge them to support specific climate legislation. It feels very empowering as a citizen to petition them to support climate bills. At the same time, the Congressional staff often provides valuable information where the member of Congress stands on a particular bill. The staff or member of Congress can be very helpful on what information they need before supporting or co-sponsoring a bill, who they like to work with across the political aisle, and what’s happening in Congress that can help or impede getting a climate bill passed. It is very fascinating to hear what the staff or member of Congress has to say.

Many other things make lobbying Congressional Offices in Washington D.C. amazing. The shiny marble hallways and floors with people walking about and talking in quiet voices. The national media gathered at various spots to try to snag a quote from a U.S. Senator. Recently, I playfully posed in front of them for a second pretending like they were interviewing me for a story.

Brian Ettling very briefly posing in front of reporters at a hallway in the Dirkson Senate Office Building on June 13, 2023.

The Congressional cafeterias have an amazing variety of food for whatever you are in the mood to eat that day: pizza, sushi, tacos, spaghetti, hamburgers, garden salads, wraps, soups, ice cream, etc. You name it!

You never know who you are going to run into walking down the Congressional hallways. On my most recent visit on June 13, 2023, I said hello to U.S. Senators Ted Cruz of Texas and John Kennedy of Louisiana. In addition, many other groups are lobbying Congressional offices the same day as the CCL lobby days. I chatted with volunteers with the Susan G. Koman Foundation in a Congressional cafeteria as they lobbied Congress for funding to research to prevent and cure breast cancer the same day CCL was there. As you can tell, I love everything about lobbying the Congressional Offices for climate action in Washington D.C.

My disillusion with Citizens’ Climate Lobby in recent years

Sadly, with the 2020 COVID pandemic I was not able to travel to Washington D.C. for the last three and half years. During the pandemic, I participated in some Zoom lobby meetings with Congressional staff. That was enjoyable, but it was not same as traveling to Washington D.C. and the U.S. Capitol to lobby Congressional offices.

Since I last lobbied in Washington D.C. in November 2019, I became disillusioned with CCL. As I blogged about previously, it always felt like national staff in the organization and leaders in Oregon CCL kept me at arm’s length. They emphasize a core value of treating people with appreciation, gratitude, and respect. However, it never felt like the organization treated me that way.

By far, my lowest moment in my climate organizing, was in 2016. Then Vice President of CCL, Madeleine Para, did not want me to do my own fund raising to organize a speaking tour across Missouri to promote CCL and climate action. My friend and Missouri state CCL Coordinator, George Laur, organized a Missouri speaking tour for me in March 2017. It left a bad taste in my mouth though that Madeleine and CCL national did not want to support me for devoting myself to a tour across Missouri to promote them.

In October 2018, I organized a climate action speaking tour across Missouri. I spoke to over 200 students, faculty and alumni at my alma mater William Jewell College, just outside of Kansas City, Missouri. I then gave talks at Missouri University in Columbia, my alma mater Oakville High School, St. Louis University, and teaching a Climate Change 101 continuing education class at the Meramec campus of St. Louis Community College. It was a very successful tour with my presentations across Missouri. By giving these talks, I hoped it might inspire other climate organizers to speak to their alma mater colleges and high schools. I requested to write a blog on the CCL website to report on this Missouri tour, but CCL was not interested. They offered to feature me on their Citizens’ Climate Higher Education website, but not their main website.

In 2017, I decided that I really loved climate lobbying and wanted to a career doing this. I was very impressed at that time with Jay Butera, a volunteer with CCL from Gladwyne, PA. In 2016, after years of effort, “Jay was the concept-originator and driving force behind formation of the bipartisan Climate Solutions Caucus in the U.S. House of Representatives.” For several years, Jay served as CCL’s Senior Congressional Liaison in Washington, working to maintain a continuous year-round presence for CCL in the Halls of Congress. In January 2017, I invited Jay to be the guest speaker at the last St. Louis Climate Reality Meet-Up event I organized before moving to Portland, Oregon a week later. Over 80 people attended this event, packing the room at Schlafly’s Bottleworks in St. Louis.

Pennsylvania business man and CCL Senior Congressional Liaison speaking to over 80 people at the St. Louis Climate Reality Meet Up group on January 29, 2017.

In April 2017, I emailed the Vice President of Government Affairs at CCL, Danny Richter, and Jay Butera to see if I could shadow Jay and learn how he lobbies in Washington, D.C. Both flatly turned me down. Their responses really stung. I felt like neither one of them wanted to advise me at all to be an even more effective climate lobbyist and make a career out of it.

Feeling like I frequently got the door slammed in my face by CCL hurt badly. However, I kept picking myself back up to try again. My last straw with CCL when I organized a state resolution in the Oregon Legislature in 2021 to urge members of Congress to support the federal bill, the Energy Innovation and Carbon Dividend Act (EICDA).

This Oregon resolution became known as became known as Senate Joint Memorial 5 or SJM 5.
It passed the Oregon Senate on April 7th by a vote of 23 to 5, with 6 Republican Senators, half of the Oregon GOP Senate caucus, joined all the Democratic Senators present to vote to support it. Unfortunately, SJM 5 fell short of receiving a floor vote in the Oregon House in June 2021. It was exciting was that 30 House members, including 7 Republicans, signed on to co-sponsor it. The Oregon House has 60 members. Half the chamber was SJM 5 co-sponsors.

The worst part of this defeat was Oregon CCL leadership becoming very angry when the OR House Democratic Leadership refused to give SJM 5 a floor vote. After I experienced two dreadful GOP walkouts that defeated the 2019 and 2020 cap and invest bills, I never believed SJM 5 would pass until I saw it with my own eyes. In June 2021, the Oregonian published an opinion editorial from Oregon CCL leadership, and I disagreed with the tone. Former Rep. Tiffiny Mitchell advised us not to publish it since it seemed to attack OR House Democratic Leadership.

After that happened, I lost nearly all respect for CCL and I stepped away from volunteering from the organization. I then focused my energy on my climate writings, volunteering for the Oregon League of Conservation Voters (OLCV) and canvassing for Democratic legislative candidates in 2022. CCL challenges its volunteers to ‘step out of their comfort zone’ because ‘that’s where the magic happens.’ However, whenever I tried to step out of my comfort zone to promote and organize for CCL, I felt like I only received pushback from the organization.

To this day, I still love CCL. They are the only environmental and climate organization that I know that truly strives to empower their volunteers to build positive relationships with elected officials, the media and their local community for climate action. I learned so much volunteering with them. At the same time, they have broken my heart at times and left me feeling demoralized as a climate organizer. I first wrote a blog about them in February 2013, Want to change the world? Be Persistent! If I could go back in time to when I wrote that blog or when I first became involved with CCL in May 2012, I would have lots of words of caution for myself.

Brian Ettling promoting Citizens’ Climate Lobby during an Oregon Stewardship Tour event in La Grande, Oregon where he he was the main speaker on October 25, 2017.

Deciding to attend the CCL Conference and Lobby Day in Washington D.C. in June 2023

In early 2023, CCL announced it would be lobbying for the first time in person in Washington D.C. since November 2019. This would be their first in-person conference and lobby day on Capitol Hill since before the COVID-19 pandemic. After my setbacks interacting with CCL, I was not sure if I wanted to attend.

In late April, I reached out to friends in the Washington D.C. are to see if I could stay with them. In my previous eight times that I attended CCL conferences and lobby days in Washington D.C, I stayed with friends in the D.C. metro area. If either of my friends indicated that I could stay with them, that would be a deciding factor if I would register and attend the conference. If those friends did not offer for me a chance to stay with them, I would not travel to Washington D.C. because I cannot afford the hotel rooms in the D.C. metro area.

On May 2nd, I heard from my friends Tom and Reena that I could stay with them. Sadly, that same day, I received the news that my car needed over $2000 in repairs. On May 18th, I started crafting an email to Reena to say that I could not afford to travel to stay with them. On the bright side, my wife felt bad seeing how much I had to pay to repair my car. Thus, she bought me a brand-new Mac Book Pro laptop because I desperately needed a new and faster laptop. To my relief, the final car repair bill turned out to be a little less expensive at $1650. May 21st was the final day to register, so I needed to decide to attend or not to attend quickly.

The final straw that pushed me to register to attend the CCL conference and lobby day was the CNN town hall with Donald Trump on May 10th. It upset me that CNN allowed this twice impeached, indicted, disgraced former president to say a lot of false information with very little real time fact checking. The day before, a New York jury found Trump liable for battery and defamation in the lawsuit filed by E. Jean Carroll. She claimed that Trump raped her in a Manhattan department store in the mid 1990s and the jury basically agreed. Trump used that townhall to call her a “wack job.” It was appalling that town hall audience laughed and clapped when Trump called her that name. Even worse, the audience cheered with approval when he lied about the 2020 Presidential election was stolen from him. It still seemed like our democracy was under severe threat from Donald Trump and this modern Trumpist movement.

Thus, I decided I was going to Washington D.C. to lobby for climate action to celebrate our democracy and stress the importance of climate action. Yes, I felt raw how CCL treated me over the years. However, my love for our democracy and passion for climate action was a higher priority for me than my misgivings about CCL. Thus, I bought my airline tickets and registered for the CCL conference and lobby day just a couple of days before the May 21st deadline. I really do try to live my life by the Winston Churchill quote:

“It’s not enough that we do our best; sometimes we have to do what’s required.”

Attending the CCL Conference in Washington D.C. in June 10-12, 2023

My flight arrived in Washington D.C. around 5:40 pm on Friday, June 9th. I told Tom and Reena that I would not be arriving at their house until sometime after 7 pm. In the previous days, Washington D.C, New York City, and much of the northeast U.S. coast experienced hazardous and smoky air due to wildfires in western Canada. I felt a sense of dread receiving that news.

In past years, my wife and I experienced very unhealthy air from western wildfires while living in Portland and Crater Lake National Park, Oregon. It was very dispiriting to be trapped indoors, especially during the 2020 pandemic, due to wildfire smoke causing awful air conditions. I would not wish those smoky conditions on my worst enemy. I had compassion for people living on the northeast coast experiencing this extremely poor air quality in the second week of June. I worried about experiencing those smoky conditions when I arrived in Washington D.C.

I was very fortunately the Canadian wildfire smoke had mostly dissipated when I arrived in Washington D.C. The weather was pleasant and sunny. I hopped on the Metro to head to Tom and Reena’s home in Tacoma Park, Maryland, which bordered Washington D.C.. The outdoor conditions were nice enough that I decided instead to get off the Metro at Union Station to walk a couple of blocks to the U.S. Capitol to see the building for the first time since November 2019.

The U.S. Capitol Building looked majestic and peaceful on that lovely late Friday afternoon. I loved seeing the exterior of this temple for democracy in all its glory. The building and the Capitol grounds looked very serene and relaxing. As a climate organizer, the U.S. Capitol area seemed like it was welcoming me back to do my first in-person lobbying there in three and a half years. A positive spirit was in the air as I took several “selfies” with my iPhone. A friendly person asked me if I wanted my picture taken. At the same time, it felt heavy and sad that January 6th took place there only a year and a half before. It was hard to believe that a very dangerous and unruly mob wanted to vandalize the building and hurt elected officials on the inside.

Brian Ettling by the U.S. Capitol Building. Photo taken on June 9, 2023.

I then took the Metro to Takoma Park, Maryland to stay with Tom and Reena. They were happy to see me for the first time in three and a half years. They very generously had a comfortable guest room for me to stay. They were one block from a local food co-op where I could buy all my own groceries to make my own breakfasts while I stayed with them.

Late the next morning, I planned to attend the first sessions of the Citizens’ Climate Lobby conference. On the way there, I got off the Metro near the White House to walk by the building on Pennsylvania Avenue and view it from Lafayette Square. As always, the President’s Executive Mansion looked beautiful, a bright color in the summer afternoon sun. Seeing the building in person, looked different how it is seen on TV. It looked a bite like a southern slave plantation house in keeping to the style when it was first completed around 1800. The scene on Pennsylvania Avenue was lots of tourists admiring the building and taking pictures. A religious man shouted into a megaphone deriding gay pride as a sin, since June is Gay Pride month. Nearly everyone there ignored him and his message as they enjoyed the scene of seeing the White House.

I then took the Metro to the first day of the CCL conference at the Omni Shoreham Hotel where author and environmentalist Bill McKibben spoke via video from his home in Vermont for the CCL monthly conference call. Bill promoted his new group, Third Act, to build “a community of Americans over the age of sixty determined to change the world for the better.” The goal of Third Act is to use the resources and energy of people over 60 years old to “use our life experience, skills and resources to build better tomorrow” in areas such as divesting large banks from fossil fuel investments, safeguarding our democracy, and powering up communities with clean energy. In addition, McKibben spoke in favor of CCL’s top priority for reforming the permitting process to speed up the pace to build new clean energy projects.

After Bill McKibben’s presentation, I enjoyed attending the CCL breakout session for the En-ROADS climate Workshop. For years, I found the En-ROADS climate solutions simulator to be an excellent tool to model the various solutions needed to reduce the climate crisis. I enjoyed the Saturday and Sunday sessions of the CCL Conference to prepare us to lobby Congressional Offices at the U.S. Capitol on Tuesday, June 13th. It was invigorating for me to see friends from across the U.S. who volunteer and work for CCL that I had not seen in three and a half years.

Lobbying Senator Ron Wyden’s D.C. office on permitting reform on June 13, 2023.

Over 850 CCL volunteers registered to lobby Congressional offices on the CCL Lobby Day of Tuesday, June 13th. As with all previous June CCL lobby days, all the volunteers lined up on the steps of the Capitol at 8:15 am for a large group photo. We then went our separate ways to our scheduled lobby meetings.

Citizens’ Climate Lobby group photo taken on the steps of the U.S. Capitol on June 13, 2023. Brian Ettling is located somewhere in the upper left corner of this group photo.

I had three scheduled lobby meetings that day with the staffs of Senator Ron Wyden, Representative Earl Blumenauer, and Representative Andrea Salinas, who are all members of Congress from Oregon. My first lobby meeting was not scheduled until 10 am, so I had time to call my wife Tanya, plus my mom and dad to let them know I was in front of the U.S. Capitol Building getting ready to lobby Congressional offices that day.

My first scheduled lobby meeting was a 10 am lobby meeting with staff of Senator Ron Wyden. Ten of us Oregon CCL volunteers were scheduled to attend this meeting. All of the roles for this meeting, such as appreciator, time monitor, notetaker, asker, follow-up, and listener, were divided up at a planning meeting on Friday, June 10th. I could not attend that meeting since I was flying from Portland to Washington D.C. that day. From that meeting, the remaining role assigned to me was the photographer. My task would be to make sure that we took of picture of all of us CCL volunteers by or in Senator Wyden’s Office, plus the staff member if they were willing to be in the group photo with us. At the lobby meeting, I made sure we got the group photo.

The Citizens’ Climate Lobby volunteers including Brian Ettling (second from right) after their lobby meeting with staff of Senator Ron Wyden on June 13, 2023.

On Sunday afternoon, June 11th, Tamara Staton, Education and Resilience Coordinator for CCL, announced that that she had to back out of our Tuesday Wyden lobbying meeting. The leader of this meeting, Teresa Welch, asked for someone to step into Tamara’s role for this meeting to share with Senator Ron Wyden’s staff CCL’s position on permitting reform. I immediately jumped at the opportunity. I felt like I absorbed CCL’s detailed reasoning why permitting reform was a top priority during the CCL Conference that happened between Saturday, June 10th to Monday, June 12th. From what I learned about performing reform at the CCL conference, I was eager to share understanding of this issue in the lobby meetings.

When I texted Teresa on Sunday offering to explain CCL’s stance on permitting reform during the Wyden lobby on Tuesday, Teresa responded “Are you OK with doing that whole job (introduce the topic, share CCL’s perspective, and ask a question to start the conversation)?”

I texted back that I was. I then wrote out CCL’s position on permitting reform, which is:

CCL’s position that clean energy permitting reform is a top priority for us:
• We can’t implement the IRA without it. Over 80% of the potential emissions reductions delivered by IRA in 2030 are lost if transmission expansion is constrained.

• We can’t reduce US greenhouse gas emissions by 50% by 2030 without it. It’s a key policy action if the US is going to meet the 2015 COP Paris commitments.

• More than 92% of new energy projects currently awaiting permits are solar and wind, and just 7.5% are natural gas. We need permitting reform to get the good projects implemented more quickly.

• It takes an average of 4.5 years for federal agencies just to complete environmental impact statements for major energy projects. That’s way too slow! These are important assessments, but we need speed up the pace with which we build new clean energy projects.

• We want a bill that will be:
– bipartisan
– improves community engagement.
– makes federal agencies more efficient,
– allows transmission lines to be permitted and built much faster.

We want a permitting reform bill that allows for the good clean energy projects to be approved more quickly and the bad ones to be rejected faster.

Basically, we want a permitting reform bill that speeds up approval of clean energy projects with community engagement.

In addition, I shared with Senator’s Wyden’s staff a printed graph from CCL that shows the U.S. is projected to have a 28% decrease in greenhouse gas emissions by 2030. However, if we enact permit reform, we could get to a 40% decrease in greenhouse gas emissions by 2030. With permitting reform, it gets the U.S. a giant step closer to its 2015 Paris commitment of a 50% reduction of greenhouse gas emissions below the 2005 level by 2030.

Source of graph: Citizens’ Climate Lobby

When I was finished explaining all of this, I asked Senator Wyden’s legislative aide what the Senator’s position was on permitting reform. The aide’s response was very positive. I can’t say anything beyond that because the CCL meetings with Congressional staff and members of Congress is confidential. Overall, all the Oregon CCL volunteers and I in the meeting with Senator Wyden’s staff felt like we in near agreement about permitting reform.

Meeting with staff of Rep. Earl Blumenauer about CCL’s carbon pricing bill

For our noon meeting with staff of Rep. Earl Blumenauer, the meeting leader, Walt Mintkeski, asked me to do the brief asks at the end of the meeting. Specifically, I would be asking Congressman Blumenauer to support permitting reform. Even more, we were asking him to support our carbon pricing bill, The Energy Innovation and Carbon Dividend Act (EICDA) when it is re-introduced soon in the U.S. House of Representatives.

The EIDCA was introduced in the two previous Congressional sessions in 2019 and 2021. In the previous Congressional session (2021-2022), the EICDA reached 95 House co-sponsors. I strongly support their advocacy for a price on carbon such as the EICDA bill. This policy puts a steadily rising fee on carbon at the source, such as the oil well, methane well, coal mine, or fossil fuel imports at the U.S. border.

The fee starts at $15 per metric ton of greenhouse gas emissions and increases by $10 or $15 each year, depending upon future emissions. The revenue from the fee is then returned to American households in a monthly dividend check. It is one of the best policies to protect American businesses while holding international polluters accountable with a carbon border adjustment mechanism (CBAM).

The EICDA targets 90 percent emission reductions by 2050 compared to 2016 levels. The United Nation’s Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (the IPCC) urges all nations of the world, especially the U.S, to reduce its greenhouse gas emissions to net zero by 2050 to avoid possible catastrophic consequences from climate change.

In the graph on U.S. Greenhouse Gas Emissions from CCL that I showed above in the previous section, a carbon price is a vital tool to reduce greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions. Implementing effective permitting reform, plus a carbon price, help the U.S. reduce its GHG emissions by 52% by 2030. As I mentioned previously, the U.S. has a 2015 Paris commitment of a 50% reduction of greenhouse gas emissions below the 2005 level by 2030. Permitting reform, plus a carbon price, helps the U.S. exceed its 2030 goal to reduce GHG emissions.

The United States and Australia are the only developed economies without a nationwide carbon price in place. The European Union, the largest foreign market available to U.S. producers, will begin implementation of a CBAM on imports (including American exports to the E.U.) this year based on its existing carbon price. Thus, a carbon fee and dividend with a CBAM, such as with the EIDCA, can help the U.S. reduce its harmful greenhouse gas pollution that causes climate change while helping make American products more competitive in the E.U.

Climate change is a high priority for Congressman Earl Blumenauer. In past years, he introduced his own carbon pricing bills. In our previous lobby meetings with Rep. Blumenauer and his staff, he has indicated that he would vote for the EICDA on the House floor if it came up for a vote. However, with his concerns about environmental justice, he resisted co-sponsoring the EICDA. On our June 13th lobby meeting, we asked his staff to pass along to Rep. Blumenauer that the EICDA will most likely be introduced soon. We asked that he please consider voting for it if it came up for a floor vote in the U.S. House, like he indicated in the past that he would do.

Like the meeting I attended with Senator Ron Wyden’s staff, we felt like we had a positive exchange of information with the staff of Congressman Earl Blumenauer.

The Citizens’ Climate Lobby volunteers including Brian Ettling (second from left) after their lobby meeting with staff of Rep. Earl Blumenauer on June 13, 2023.

Briefly Chatting in the Halls of Congress with Rep. Andrea Salinas about carbon pricing

After my meetings with staff of Senator Ron Wyden and Rep. Earl Blumenauer, I had over two hours before our 2:15 meeting with staff of Rep. Andrea Salinas. My friend and fellow CCL volunteer, Walt Mintkeski, who led the Rep. Blumenauer meeting and would be leading the Rep. Salinas meeting, decided that we would hang out together until the Rep. Salinas meeting.

Walt informed me that our meeting plans for the Rep. Salinas meeting had changed. Originally, we were scheduled to meet with her office staff for 30 minutes. However, halfway in this meeting, the legislative aide would then walk us to the door of the nearby committee room, where we would have a brief chat with Rep. Salinas as she came out of her committee hearing.

Unfortunately, the committee meeting time had changed the day before. The legislative staff then informed Walt that the brief meeting with Rep. Salinas was cancelled. We felt a little disappointed since we hoped to say hello to Congresswoman Salinas. At the same time, we totally understood because the schedules of members of Congress change quickly. When that happens, face to face meetings with the Senator or Representative then gets cancelled.

As Walt and I walked towards one of the Congressional cafeterias, Tamara Staton, a staff person for CCL, joined us. She also was scheduled to be at the 2:15 pm meeting with staff of Rep. Salinas. As Walt, Tamara, and I waited for an elevator to go to a Congressional cafeteria around 12:48 pm, I noticed Rep. Salinas walk right by us. I said to Walt: “That’s Andrea Salinas!”

Walt is in his mid 70s, but he bolted after her like a kid running on a racetrack. I then ran to catch up to both of them in a quick instant.

Walt said hello to Rep. Salinas and she quickly remembered Walt and me. Walt mentioned that we were supposed to have a brief chat with her at 2:30 pm, but that was cancelled. Rep. Salinas confirmed that. Walt then asked if we could chat with her while she was briskly walking to her office. Rep. Salinas welcomed that idea and seemed very happy for us to walk with her.

I lobbied in Washington D.C. eight previous times. However, this was my first time directly lobbying a member of Congress while they were very quickly walking to their next scheduled event. Walt brought up permitting reform. She had interesting but confidential thoughts on that.

I was very excited to chat with her in person. I thanked her for being one of the first Oregon Legislators to endorse the EICDA in October 2020. I then thanked her for agreeing to be one of the first co-sponsors Senate Joint Memorial 5 (SJM 5) in the Oregon Legislature when it was first taking shape in December 2020. SJM 5 urged Congress to pass the Energy Innovation & Dividend Act. She was very supportive of all my climate organizing in Oregon in 2020 and 2021. Thus, this was a dream come true for me to talk with her directly on Capitol Hill. When I asked if she would support the reintroduction of the EICDA in this Congress, her response was positive. However, she said she wants to see the bill first.

She was then nearly at her office. I wanted to give her time and space to go to her next scheduled commitment. In the rush of everything happening, I asked if we could get a picture with her. She happily obliged to get a selfie photo on my phone with Walt, Tamara, me, and her.

Brian Ettling, Tamara Staton, Walt Mintkeski, and Congresswoman Andrea Salinas. Photo taken at the Cannon House Office Building on June 13, 2023.

It was a sublime and exhausting experience to briskly walk to directly engage with her. She explained to us the political atmosphere in Congress. She had good insights on what was happening in Congress. At the same time, it frustrated me because I could not hear her well with the background noise. The acoustics of the Congressional hallways were terrible with lots of other people walking by and the sounds bouncing off the marble floors and hallways. Overall, I was very thrilled for a chance to chat with her and directly ask her to support climate legislation.

We then had over an hour to debrief from that experience and then get ready for our 2:15 pm meeting with staff of Rep. Andrea Salinas. Unlike the hallway frantic chat with Rep. Salinas an hour earlier, it felt much more relaxing to be sitting in her office exchanging information with her staff about permitting reform, carbon pricing, and other climate bills that CCL supported.

Final thoughts

That evening, I enjoyed attended the CCL reception at the Omni Shoreham that evening to see Congressman Scott Peters from California speak. It was great to connect with friends that I got to know from over the years in CCL and scarf down some free appetizers at the event. I then took the Metro back to Takoma Park to briefly visit with my hosts Tom and Reena before they went to bed. I flew back from Washington D.C. to Portland, Oregon the next day.

After feeling burned over the years with my involvement with CCL, I feel rather leery to be involved with them again. I do really love lobbying in Washington D.C and possibly attending a future CCL conference there. As a climate organizer, I am not sure what the future holds for me. I hope to find a way to successfully urge Rep. Andrea Salinas to co-sponsor the EICDA if it is introduced soon, but we shall see. I know for sure that I will find some way to feel productive and useful in the climate movement, whether I am involved with CCL or not.

Brian Ettling in front of the U.S. Capitol getting ready to lobby Congressional Offices for climate action on June 13, 2023.

For Climate Action, writing newspaper opinion editorials 

Brian Ettling holding up his guest opinion in The Oregonian that was published on May 12, 2016.

Growing up in St. Louis, Missouri in the 1970s and 80s, our family enjoyed getting the daily newspaper delivered each morning to our front lawn. Yes, we also watched the news on TV. However, our daily subscription to the St. Louis Post-Dispatch was how we primarily received our local and national news. Whoever woke up first in the morning was then asked by the second person, “Did you bring in the newspaper this morning?”

I remember my dad and older sister enjoying reading the daily newspaper from cover to cover, from the headlines to the comics on the last page. We enjoyed reading the newspaper’s analysis of the previous day’s local, national, and international events. Our family felt like we had a better grasp of what was happening in the world and could discuss it in a more meaningful way by reading the newspaper. Even more, it felt like the people who truly made a difference in the world, somehow got their name in the newspaper.

As a kid, I somehow wanted to get my name in the newspaper. I did not know how, but I was going to find some way to make it happen. Since my parents loved reading the newspaper, I knew it would make them proud if I could get my name in the newspaper in a positive way.

I kept a low-key life not drawing any media attention to myself graduating from Oakville High School in St. Louis in 1987. I then graduated from William Jewell College in Kansas City, Missouri with a degree in Business Administration in 1992. I then started working seasonally in the national parks, spending my summers working at Crater Lake National Park, Oregon and my winters in Everglades National Park, Florida.

Getting my name in nationally known newspapers as an Everglades Park Ranger

In 1998, I became a naturalist guide narrating the concession boat tours at the Flamingo Outpost in Everglades National Park. Flamingo and the Everglades would attract travel writers looking to write stories about what saw and their recommendations for visiting the Everglades. On February 27, 2000, Chicago Tribune staff writer Robert Cross wrote about his experience visiting the Everglades. He was a passenger on an Everglades boat tour that I narrated.

Writing about my boat narration, Cross observed: “Everything about the park filled (Brian) Ettling with excitement. His energy compensated for the lack of snowcapped mountains.”

He went on to report: “Out of the Buttonwood Canal, Brian Ettling began rattling off the names of birds and animals that were nesting, wading or soaring overhead. He saw a lot, and so he had to speak so fast that he ended up sounding like a tobacco auctioneer.”

I enjoyed that description of me talking so fast like a ‘tobacco auctioneer’ because that did describe me to a T. I did talk very fast then. Partially because this was my first job narrating tours in a national park and I wanted to share all my knowledge and love for the area. If I could go back in time, I would encourage myself to speak slower so the park visitors could understand me better. Even with my very fast talking, Robert Cross described me as “alert and energetic.”

Brian Ettling narrating a boat tour in Everglades National Park. Photo taken around 1998-2002.

This was the first time I had recalled getting my name in any publication. I have kept a hard copy of that article to this day. In 2003, I landed a winter job as an interpretative/naturalist ranger at the Everglades City Visitor Center in Everglades National Park. At this location, I regularly led ranger guided canoe trips into the Ten Thousand Islands area on the Everglades on weekends. On one of those trips was New York Times travel writer Beth Greenfield.

I was told in an advance by my supervisor that she would be on my canoe trip. Even more, we ended up sharing the canoe with her in the front rowing. I was in the back steering and narrating for her and the other visitors in canoes who signed up for this ranger led canoe trip. Beth Greenfield quoted me several times for this NY Times article, “Slipping Slowly Into South Florida’s Grassy Water.” She wrote:

“(Beginner paddlers) are best off joining the short, organized trips on more navigable creeks, led by park naturalists like (Brian) Ettling, 38.

‘I never get tired of this area,’ he said one day this winter as he led canoeists paddling single file beneath a cathedral of arching mangrove branches. He excitedly pointed out blue herons, jumping mullet fish and skittish tree crabs.”

She then reported how I pointed out and described of other Everglades wildlife. I will never forget when I and the other Everglades Park rangers saw that we were quoted in this article in the travel section of the New York Times. It felt at that time like we had accomplished something big to be quoted in the New York Times. I still have hard copies of that newspaper article to this day.

Looking back at it now, nearly all the rangers I encountered working in the national parks were extremely knowledgeable and very enthusiastic about sharing their vast knowledge with park visitors. In some ways, it is a matter of luck for a ranger or naturalist guide to be at the right place and at the right time to be quoted for one of these articles. It had little to do with us as individuals. These travel writers just needed good quotes and names for their travel articles.

I loved being a park ranger. Every day was lovely wearing that park ranger uniform while working in magnificent national parks. Being a park ranger was the best job I ever had, but it started to feel like a theme park mascot after a while. Visitors are really enthralled with the ranger uniform. They wanted to get their pictures with a ranger, ask a ranger questions, and attend a ranger program. They were not as interested in the individual wearing the uniform.

Many visitors did ask me the same monotonous questions such as ‘Where did you come from?’ ‘How did you get this ranger job?’ and ‘What other national parks have you worked?’ Those questions still seemed superficial to me. The visitors asked those questions because they really wanted to be a park ranger. They asked about my background to see if their background could lead to a job like that. Or they loved national parks and park rangers, so they wanted to compare my story with other park rangers they encountered.

As the years went by working in the national parks, I wanted to be known more as Brian Ettling. Not just Park Ranger Brian Ettling interacting with visitors at their national parks vacations.

In my desire to learn all I could about the Everglades to answer visitor questions and give nifty quotes to travel writers, I discovered my lifelong passion that eventually led me away from the national parks. This journey led me to get my name in newspapers for the pressing issue of our times, climate change.

Brian Ettling leading a ranger led canoe trip in Everglades National Park. Photo taken around 2004-2007.

Discovering Climate Change while working in the national parks

In 1998, I started giving ranger talks in Everglades National Park. Visitors then asked me about this global warming thing. Visitors hate when park rangers tell you, “I don’t know.” Soon afterwards, I rushed to the nearest Miami bookstore and to the park library to read all I the scientific books I could find on climate change.

The information I learned really scared me, specifically sea level rise along our mangrove coastline in Everglades National Park. Sea level rose 8 inches in the 20th century, four times more than it had risen in previous centuries for the past three thousand years. Because of climate change, sea level is now expected to rise at least three feet in Everglades National Park by the end of the 21st century. The sea would swallow up most of the park and nearby Miami since the highest point of the park road less than three feet above sea level.

It shocked me that crocodiles, alligators, and beautiful Flamingos I saw in the Everglades could all lose this ideal coastal habitat because of sea level rinse enhanced by climate change.

I became so worried about climate change that I quit my winter job in Everglades National Park the year in 2008. I started spending my winters in St. Louis Missouri to find some way to organize for climate action. I started giving climate change talks at my nieces and nephews grade schools in the spring of 2010. In the winter of 2011, I joined South County Toastmasters to become a better climate change communicator. That same winter, I worked at the St. Louis Science Center at their temporary climate change exhibit from March to May 2011.

Up until 2017, I still worked my summer job Crater Lake National Park. While working there for many years, the impacts of climate change became apparent with the average annual snowpack diminishing. I noticed more mild winters with below average snowpacks. The summer wildfire seasons became more longer, hotter, dryer and more intense. By August 2011, I had gathered enough information to start giving a climate change ranger evening program at the campground amphitheater to the park visitors.

Getting involved with Citizens Climate Lobby and The Climate Reality Project

While attending a St. Louis Science Center lecture about how climate change is impacting the weather in April 2011, I met and became friends with St. Louis businessman Larry Lazar. We had a mutual longing to do something about climate change. Thus, Larry and I co-founded the St. Louis Climate Reality Meet Up group in November 2011 (now called Climate Meetup-St. Louis) to organize regular meetings and promote events to create more awareness about climate change in the St. Louis area.

Larry and I had our first meeting at Cafe Ventana in St. Louis on December 11, 2011. Larry organized the meeting around all of us getting to know each other and our concerns about climate change. We had about 16 people attend the meeting, including Tom and Carol Braford. Larry did a great job making our initial Meet Up meeting a success. After the meeting, I will never forget Carol personally inviting me to a Citizens Climate Lobby (CCL) conference call meeting.

Brian Ettling with Citizens’ Climate Lobby St. Louis Chapter Leader Carol Braford. Photo taken on January 27, 2013.

She had an enticing way to describe the group. She mentioned conference calls on the first Saturday of each month listening to national experts on climate change. Then the group plans actions to lobby Congress to pass effective laws to protect us from climate change. I was interested. One big problem: I just took a job at the St. Louis Science Center where I agreed I would be working weekends. Thus, it would be really hard for me to attend these meetings.

Over that winter of 2011-12, Larry Lazar and I kept leading our Climate Reality Meet Up meeting on the third Sunday of each month. Up to 20 people attended our meetings, including Tom & Carol Braford. Carol kept mentioning CCL. I felt in a bind because attending their meetings intrigued me, but my job schedule made it hard.

Finally, the timing was right when my winter seasonal job ended at the Science Center at the end of April. I had a free Saturday, May 5th. I arrived at Tom & Carol’s house around 11:30 am. She had a lot of delicious and healthy snacks for us to eat, especially wonderful cheese, crackers, fruit, and amazing homemade bread. There was 5 of us in attendance. Then Carol connected us to the conference call, and I was blown away.

All these groups from North America were calling into the conference call: Atlanta, New York, Chicago, San Diego, San Francisco, Toronto, Phoenix, Minneapolis, Albuquerque, Madison, Seattle, and new groups in Portland and Eugene, Oregon. The Executive Director of CCL, Mark Reynolds began this call with a quote from Dr. Peter Joseph: “Action is the antidote for despair.”

This amazed me because I first met Peter in San Francisco just 5 months before at a party while I was attending the American Geophysical Union Fall Meeting. We happened to attend a Union of Concerned Scientists reception and we struck up a conversation. Peter mentioned that he was a Climate Reality Leader, trained by Al Gore. I told Peter that I wanted to be a Climate Reality Leader, so we exchanged business cards and we kept in touch. I was blown away that Peter was mentioned by CCL Executive Director Mark Reynolds on that May 2012 CCL monthly call.

Even more, during that May 2012 CCL conference call, I connected with the elegant and effective solution that CCL championed to reduce the threat of climate change, a carbon fee and dividend. At that time, I was thinking: ‘Where has this group been my whole life?’

At the close of the meeting, I boldly told Carol that I was going to establish a CCL group in southern Oregon when I returned to Crater Lake National Park to work as a park ranger that summer. It took all summer, but I eventually helped establish the southern Oregon CCL chapter that regularly meets in Ashland, Oregon.

Thanks to the help of Peter Joseph putting in a good word for me, I attended a Climate Reality Training in San Francisco, August 2-4, 2012. The training is a great way to network and help participants become more effective taking action to reduce the threat of climate change. At that training, I met Dr. Lucas Sabalka. His name tag stated he was from St. Louis. At the time, he was an Assistant Professor of mathematics at Saint Louis University. I encouraged Lucas to get involved with the St. Louis group of Citizens’ Climate Lobby (CCL). When Lucas returned to St. Louis, he immediately attended the local St. Louis CCL group meeting.

A St. Louis Post-Dispatch editorial leads to my first op-ed published for climate action

When I was finished with my seasonal job at Crater Lake National Park, I returned to St. Louis in late October. It was a thrill to be involved with the St. Louis CCL group when they made a huge accomplishment this winter. Steve Valk, Director of Communications of CCL at that time, came to visit the St. Louis CCL chapter in early December. Carol and Tom Braford arranged for a group meeting that included Steve Valk, Lucas Salbalka, and me. Carol then scheduled our group to have a meeting with Kevin Horrigan, the Managing Editor of the St. Louis Post Dispatch.

We persuaded Kevin for the Post-Dispatch to write a supportive editorial about the danger of climate change. Even more, the newspaper strongly affirmed need for Congress to pass a carbon fee and dividend, which is the priority of CCL. On December 27, 2012, The Post-Dispatch published the editorial, “Save the Planet. Save Social Security, Save Medicaid, Tax Carbon.”

Brian Ettling, Carol Braford, Tom Braford, Steve Valk, and Dr. Lucas Salbalka getting ready for our meeting with the editorial board of the St. Louis Post-Dispatch on December 12, 2012.

Kevin Horrigan gave each of us his business card at that meeting. He told us that if we ever wanted to write an opinion editorial (op-ed) for the Post-Dispatch about CCL and carbon fee & dividend, he would make room to publish our op-ed. This really intrigued me because I grew up reading the St. Louis Post-Dispatch. I had always wanted to get my name in the newspaper. After that editorial board meeting and the December 2012 Post-Dispatch editorial endorsing CCL’s carbon fee and dividend, I was determined to an op-ed for the Post-Dispatch to publish.

After that Post-Dispatch editorial meeting, I talked with CCL friends for months about writing and submitting an op-ed to the newspaper for climate action. On the Saturday, April 6, 2013, monthly meeting, CCL Executive Director Mark Reynolds urged the volunteers on the national call to submit LTEs and op-eds around the time of Earth Day. He pointed out that there is a heightened sense of awareness in the media with environmental and climate issues that makes it more likely that newspapers would publish submitted LTEs and op-eds focused on those issues. That certainly intrigued me to try to write and submit something.

When I mentioned this to Lucas at the CCL meeting, he said in an exasperated tone: ‘Brian, you have talked about writing something for months. I think it is time for you to just do it.’

I had a lot of respect for Lucas. I didn’t want to let him down. He was correct that I had talked about it, but had procrastinated about it for months. I loved that Lucas pushed and challenged me to step out of my comfort zone to write an op-ed for the St. Louis Post-Dispatch. That Saturday evening, I stayed up super late and wrote the op-ed. I immediately took up his challenge, wrote out the op-ed and submitted it by email to the Post-Dispatch that night.

The Post-Dispatch published this op-ed on April 19, 2013, close to Earth Day:
“For Earth Day, a GOP free-market solution to climate change.”

I will never forget waking up that morning to retrieve the newspaper from the front lawn. When I brought the newspaper inside, opened, and went to the opinion section, I noticed that my op-ed was published in the Post-Dispatch. It was a feeling of joint elation, since I was staying with my parents at their home for the winter. My dad’s cousin from Los Angeles was visiting, plus two of my parents’ good friends from Anaheim, California. It was a house full of people to celebrate my parents’ 50th wedding anniversary party that was happening the next day. I fulfilled a childhood dream to get my name in the newspaper in a positive way!

Everyone was very proud of me for getting this op-ed published in the newspaper. My parents responded like I gave them the perfect 50th wedding anniversary gift. It certainly added to the joy of the party. I felt elated getting published in the newspaper for an op-ed promoting climate action. Even more, it was great to weave into the article support for CCL, their carbon fee and dividend solution, and urging by name the local members of Congress to support this policy.

It felt like a very sweet accomplishment. I wanted to find ways to duplicate that success again to get published in more newspapers to elevate climate action.

A scan of a hard copy my first op-ed published in the St. Louis Post-Dispatch on April 19, 2013.

My second published St. Louis Post-Dispatch op-ed kept me up late at night in July 2013

With the success of my first published op-ed, I wanted to get a second one published. I waited a few months so the Post-Dispatch would not become tired of me. For my second op-ed submission, I decided to talk about a different subject besides CCL and carbon fee & dividend.

Besides my involvement CCL, during the winter of 2012-13, I also volunteered for the Missouri Sierra Club and the Sierra Club’s Beyond Coal Campaign. With the climate organizing that Larry, Lucas, and I did during the winter of 2012-13, I met Sara Edgar, an organizer with the Missouri Sierra Club’s Beyond Coal campaign. I then stumbled across a news article that I learned how dependent St. Louis was on burning coal for electricity.

On December 31, 2012, the headline for St. Louis Post-Dispatch grabbed my attention: “One in five kids in parts of St. Louis area struggles with asthma.” Underneath the headline was an 8-year-old African American boy, Xavier Miles, with a big smile on his face before receiving his spirometry test, which shows the function of the lungs, at his school. The caption stated that “Xavier has asthma and met with various educators who reminded him how to take off himself during an asthma attack.”

The article then mentioned that St. Louis has twice the national average of children suffering with asthma. In an amazing coincidence at that time, St. Louis got around 84% of its electricity by burning coal, that is over twice the national average of 39%. Even worse, Ameren, the local electric utility, operates 4 three coal-fired power plants in the St. Louis metro area, 3 of which run without modern pollution controls.

According to the Clean Air Task Force, retiring one coal plant prevents annually 29 premature deaths, 47 heart attacks, 491 asthma attacks, and 22 asthma emergency room visits.

Just a couple of miles from where I grew up in my childhood home was the Meramec Coal Plant. It was originally built in 1953. Its health costs to society is larger than profits from production. According to the Environmental Integrity Project, the plant causes about 1,000 asthma attacks and 57 to 100 premature deaths each year.

On March 2, 2013, my dad had surgery to remove a six-inch cancerous tumor below his kidney. The doctor asked my dad if he was a smoker because my dad’s cancer was typical of a smoker. However, my dad has been a non-smoker his entire life. I was worried for my dad living 36 years just a couple of miles from the Meramec coal plant increased his risk of cancer.

From the awareness I learned how bad it is to burn coal, especially in my hometown St. Louis, I gave a speech at the April 17, 2013, St. Louis South County Toastmasters meeting called “What Keeps Me Up Late at Night.” The goal of that speech was to urge my fellow Toastmasters to request the Missouri Department of Natural Resources (DNR) to require Ameren, the local electric utility which operates Meramec Plant, to lower its sulfur dioxide emissions to levels that are safe for our families according to the Clean Air Act.

That Toastmasters speech led me to write an opinion editorial published in the St. Louis Post-Dispatch on July 10, 2013. Just like my Toastmaster’s speech, the title of this op-ed was called, “What Keeps me Up Late At Night.” This op-ed asked St. Louis area residents to urge Ameren to retire the local coal plants because of the health risks from the polluted air.

A scan of a hard copy my second op-ed published in the St. Louis Post-Dispatch on July 10, 2013.

My dad was a retired 40-year employee of Ameren, the utility that operated the Meramec coal plant. My parents had concerns about me speaking so publicly against Ameren and the Meramec Coal Plant since my dad received a retirement pension from Ameren. Even more, my parents knew a lot of people in the St. Louis area, including Ameren employees. They felt like my op-ed had put them in an awkward position. This led to some strained conversations with my parents. We eventually moved on and forgot about this subject. However, the difficulties it caused within my family did probably keep me up late at night more than my first published op-ed. We came to an agreement to let them know before I had an article published like that again.

The good news is that my op-ed did generate a conversation in the St. Louis area about the Meramec Coal Plant. Ameren first announced its plan to retire the Meramec Coal Plant in 2014. It officially closed Meramec on December 31, 2022. Meramec was Ameren’s oldest and smallest coal-fired power plant. Would this plant retirement happened without my op-ed? Probably. It is obvious now that this was Ameren’s oldest and possibly most inefficient power plant. Thus, its future looked limited.

At the same time, it felt good to put a spotlight on that unhealthy and polluting power plant to put more pressure on Ameren to retire it. In time, my parents seemed to also come around to be proud of my advocacy to urge the retirement of the Meramec Coal Plant.

10 Oregon Newspapers publish my 2013 op-eds promoting CCL and carbon fee & dividend

After I had success in 2013 getting two op-eds published in the St. Louis Post-Dispatch, I wanted to get climate change op-eds published in Oregon newspapers. As a seasonal park ranger at Crater Lake National Park, I worked there from mid-May to the end of September in 2013. Even more, I had co-founded the southern Oregon chapter for Citizens’ Climate Lobby earlier that year. Thus, I aimed to create more success and publicity for this group. The CCL Chapter Leader for the southern Oregon group, Susan Bizeau, knew I had written and published op-eds in St. Louis. She also thought I should write op-eds to submit to be published in Oregon newspapers.

I first emailed a guest opinion submission to the Medford Mail Tribune on September 9th. It amazed me that it was quickly published on Thursday, September 12, 2013, “2013 drought, wildfires call for action on climate change.” The day it was printed, I was running errands in Medford, Oregon with my Crater Lake National Park ranger job. Medford is about 76 miles or an hour and a half drive southwest from Crater Lake. I occasionally was assigned to go to Medford with my job pick up or drop off vehicles, pick up park newspapers, etc. By chance, I happened to be in Medford that day with work errands which enabled me to buy a hard copy of the newspaper with my guest opinion on page 9. It was exciting to have my first op-ed published in Oregon.

As a side note, unfortunately, the Medford Mail Tribune shut down abruptly in early January 2023. As of this writing, they don’t have an active website to share an online link to my op-ed. Therefore, here is a screenshot of the print edition:

A screenshot of my Medford Mail Tribune published on Thursday, September 12, 2013.

With my breakthrough Mail Tribune op-ed in September 2013, I next submitted a guest commentary to the Klamath Falls Herald and News. It took a while for the Herald and News to publish my submission, but they did on September 22nd. Southern Oregon experienced a bad drought in 2013, so I stuck with the same theme that I used for the Mail Tribune. My guest commentary for the Herald and News was called “2013 Oregon drought calls for action on climate change.”

Klamath Falls is only about 60 miles or a little over a one-hour drive directly south from Crater Lake. Klamath Falls and Medford are in opposite directions from Crater Lake. The cities are separated by the Cascade Mountains. When I was driving back from Medford on the weekend of September 22nd as it was getting dark, I happened to find a newspaper vending machine in the small town of Rocky Point. I just happened to have one remaining hard copy of the Herald and News with my guest commentary printed inside towards the back page.

With these two published op-eds, I decided to try for the other large city newspaper in southwestern Oregon, The Grants Pass Daily Courier. It published my submission on Friday, September 20, 2013. The Daily Courier gave my guest opinion a different headline, “See Crater Lake as climate bellweather.” On that weekend of September 21st, I traveled down through Medford to see friends in Talent. I purchased a copy of this Grants Pass newspaper among the newspapers for sale by the checkout stand by the Fred Meyer’s supermarket in Medford.

It is hard for me to access this Daily Courier op-ed online because it is behind a pay wall subscription fee. Here is a screenshot of the print edition:

A screenshot of my Grants Pass Daily Courier op-ed published on Friday, September 20, 2013

Around that same time, The Bend Bulletin published an op-ed by me on September 18th, “2013 Oregon drought calls for action on climate change.” I emailed a submission to them around the same time I emailed my other submissions in early September. Bend is a two-hour drive north of Crater Lake. It was my only op-ed where I was not able to get a printed copy. At the same time, it was still exciting to be published in their newspaper.

I felt like I was on a roll getting op-eds published in southwestern Oregon’s three largest newspapers within a week, plus The Bend Bulletin. On that Saturday evening, I had dinner with Susan Bizeau, the Group Leader of the southern Oregon CCL chapter. Susan was ecstatic that I got op-eds published in so many local newspapers in the past week. She responded to my Medford Daily Tribune guest opinion with a supportive letter to the editor that was published. She was eager to show me and read it to me as a group of us went out for Thai food in Talent, Oregon.

Since I was having success getting published in newspapers, Susan challenged me to submit op-eds to more Oregon newspapers, even the largest newspaper in Oregon, The (Portland) Oregonian. I did not want to let Susan down and I loved being challenged by friends in this way. I wrote it the submission and emailed it on September 27, 2013. I forgot about this submission because I then had too many other things on my mind. I was totally focused on wrapping up my season at Crater Lake, packing up my belongings, cleaning out my seasonal park residence, loading my car, and planning about my cross-country drive back to St. Louis.

During my cross-country drive, I woke up in a motel room in West Wendover, Nevada, on the second day of my journey on October 4, 2013. As I was getting ready to brush my teeth, I received a phone call Steve Valk, Director of Communications of CCL. He wanted to congratulate me for getting a guest opinion published in The Oregonian. This was a complete surprise to me. I asked Steve how he knew about this. He responded that it popped up on his Google alerts for “Citizens Climate Lobby” that day. This was a thrill to get this news out of the blue. I immediately had to turn on my laptop to see for myself. It was so cool to see it online for the first time, “Shrinking Crater Lake snowpack argues for carbon tax: Guest opinion.”

This was now my seventh published op-ed for the year, two in the St. Louis Post-Dispatch and now five in Oregon newspapers. It felt like I was still surfing a good wave, and I was not ready to quit yet. After I returned to St. Louis for the winter, I decided to email another Oregon newspaper, the Eugene Register-Guard, to submit an op-ed. The Register-Guard published my guest opinion on October 23, 2013, “Crater Lake snowpack shows climate change.”

This was now my eighth published op-ed for the year, two in the St. Louis Post-Dispatch and six in Oregon newspapers. I felt like I was on a winning streak and I did not want it to end. Over the next month, I was busy working full time for the Missouri Sierra Club. However, as I wrote about in my previous blog, that job was not a good fit for me. I decided to resign from that job at the end of November to devote myself to my writing and organizing. On December 3, 2013, another Oregon newspaper, The Ashland Daily-Tidings, published my op-ed, “Smaller Crater Lake snowpack calls for climate change action.” Unfortunately, there is no online link to that guest opinion. I have friends in Ashland, Oregon, but they were not able to get a hard copy for me.

‘But, that’s not all!’ as they say on bad TV infomercials, I was not finished for 2013. On December 13, 2013, the Salem Statesman Journal published my op-ed, “Carbon tax an act to stem climate change.” This is my tenth op-ed for 2013 that I got published: two in the St. Louis Post Dispatch and eight in Oregon newspapers. Ten was a nice round number. I felt like I had done my part getting published in newspaper op-eds in 2013.

To my surprise, my newspaper writings continued. On December 22nd, the Statesman Journal published a very dismissive letter to the editor (LTE) by Mr. Ray Woodworth of Salem, Oregon, “Climate change consensus is not scientific proof.”

Ray Woodworth directly attacked my op-ed by writing, “In his Dec. 14 guest opinion, Brian Ettling wrote that more than 97 percent of climate scientists and the Catholic Church agree that climate change is caused by humans. What he failed to point out is that this agreement is a consensus, not a scientific proof.”

Woodworth went on to argue: “What makes these scientists so sure that human beings are responsible now? Can they scientifically prove it? So far, they have not.”

To my delight, the Statesman Journal published my 200-word LTE response to Ray Woodworth on January 5, 2014, “Isotope signature proves carbon footprint of man.”

My LTE response and my blog “Explaining Climate Change in 200 Words or Less” inspired some Facebook friends to try to explain climate change in their own words or even in French. I then wrote a blog about that, “Explaining Climate Change briefly in French or your own words.”

St. Louis Post-Dispatch publishes two more of my op-eds calling for climate action.

After the Salem Statesman Journal op-ed, I decided to take a break from writing op-eds for a few months. The inch hit me to start writing again as Earth Day approached in April 2014. It would be one year anniversary of my first published op-ed that was in the St. Louis Post-Dispatch just a couple of days before the 2013 Earth Day.

I wrote and submitted a new op-ed to the Post-Dispatch for Earth Day, April 22, 2014. To my joy, they published my op-ed, “For Earth Day: Asking our elected officials to be climate heroes.”

With this op-ed, the Post-Dispatch included a beautiful color photo of Crater Lake National Park. The words “For Earth Day” were also printed in green. The layout for this article looked stunningly beautiful. The way that the Post-Dispatch printed my op-ed, I should have mounted and framed it. I still might one of these days.

A scan of a hard copy my third op-ed published in the St. Louis Post-Dispatch on April 22,2014.

For Earth Day 2015, I wrote and tried to submit an op-ed to the St. Louis Post-Dispatch, but this time they decided not to publish my submission. I got a bit spoiled getting op-eds published in the Post-Dispatch for the previous two Earth Days. I figured that I would wait for the right time when I felt inspired to submit an op-ed to the Post-Dispatch again.

The St. Louis Post-Dispatch editorial from November 27, 2015, “Climate Consensus” inspired me to write and submit an op-ed. To my excitement, the Post-Dispatch decided to publish it two days before Christmas, on December 23, 2015. “A GOP market-friendly alternative to Obama’s Clean Power Plan”. I advocated that CCL’s carbon fee and dividend proposal would effectively reduce the threat of climate change. At the same time, carbon fee and dividend would grow the economy while reducing greenhouse emissions much more effectively than President Obama’s EPA regulations, which the Republicans deeply opposed.

At our Christmas family gathering, my older sister asked me about this op-ed. It was great to have an engaging conversation about climate change this family get together for Christmas. I hope my op-ed inspired other family conversations during the 2015 holidays. This op-ed inspired me to write and submit more op-eds in 2016.

For Earth Day 2016, I decided to write and submit an op-ed to the St. Louis Post-Dispatch. Unlike April 2015, they chose to publish my op-ed for April 22, 2016, “Earth Day and our national parks calls for GOP climate action.” I was very fortunate when the Post-Dispatch published my 2014 Earth Day op-ed with the brightly colored picture of Crater Lake National Park. There were no colored photographs attached to my op-ed this time, which was slightly disappointing. At the same time, it still felt glorious to have an op-ed published on climate change in my hometown newspaper, the St. Louis Post-Dispatch. It was great to have my picture and words in the newspaper that I grew up reading as a child.

5 Oregon Newspapers publish my 2016 op-eds promoting climate action

2016 marked the Centennial or the 100th anniversary celebration of the National Park Service (NPS). Many media articles were written and published that year focusing on the significance of the NPS Centennial. That brought a lot of media attention to the national parks and NPS sites in 2016. With all this local and national spotlight attention on the national parks with the 2016 centennial, I thought this would be a good hook to submit climate change op-eds.

In early May 2016, I returned to work at Crater Lake National Park for my summer ranger job. I worked many years there as a park ranger, plus I saw climate change while working in the national parks. Even more, climate change is one of the biggest threats facing the national parks as we reflected upon the centennial and the future of American national parks. In May 2016, my first submission was in the Medford Mail Tribune. It was published on May 6, 2016, with the “Crater Lake threatened at centennial.”

Since there is no line link available as of this writing: here is a screenshot of the hard copy of my Mail Tribune op-ed:

A screenshot of my Medford Mail Tribune op-ed published on May 6, 2016.

Over one week later, the Klamath Falls Herald and News published my guest opinion, “Legislation offers hope dealing with climate change.” Oddly, no online link exists for this op-ed. Somehow, I managed to get a hard copy to save.

A screenshot of my Klamath Falls Herald and News op-ed published on May 15, 2016.

This Herald and News commentary did not mention the centennial. On May 6, 2016, the Herald and News, The Bend Bulletin, and other Oregon newspapers reported “Climate change could alter Crater Lake’s clarity.” That article spurred me to write and submit my guest opinion to the Herald and News to acknowledge the problem of climate change on Crater Lake. I then pivoted to offer a great policy solution of urging Congress to pass CCL’s carbon fee and dividend.

That same month that I submitted op-eds to the Mail Tribune and the Herald and News, I thought it was a good opportunity to submit a guest opinion to Oregon’s largest newspaper, The Oregonian. I wrote this op-ed with similar wording as my Herald and News guest commentary. The Oregonian published my opinion piece on May 12, 2016 with the headline: “Climate change: Protect Crater Lake National Park.”

The Oregonian printed my op-ed with a beautiful color photo of Crater Lake above what I had written. Just like my Earth Day, April 22, 2014 op-ed in the St. Louis Post-Dispatch which showed a beautiful photo of Crater Lake along with my writing, this layout in the Oregonian looking stunning and splendid. I asked a friend of mine who lives in Portland, Jamie Scott Campbell, to mail a copy of my Oregonian op-ed to me. Jamie and I worked together at Crater Lake in my first summers there in 1992 and 1993. It was very kind of Jamie to mail this to me.

I will never forget opening the large vanilla envelope that Jamie sent it to me. I carefully opened it up at the Crater Lake interpretive ranger office. My ranger colleagues were very excited and impressed. One my ranger friends, Lise Walls, wanted to get a picture of her and me holding the Oregonian page that had the picture of Crater Lake and my op-ed. I will never forget what she said as she wanted pictures for the occasion. She said, “Brian, this is a big deal!”

Brian Ettling holding up his guest opinion in The Oregonian that was published on May 12, 2016 with his friend and fellow Crater Lake park ranger, Lise Wall. Photo taken on May 25, 2016.

This was very memorable sharing this experience with my fellow Crater Lake ranger friends. I was not finished submitted op-eds in 2016. On June 11, 2016, The Bend Bulletin published my guest view “Climate change action needed to protect our national parks.” The CCL Bend Chapter Leader happened to be visiting Crater Lake several days later. I was disappointed that I was unable to meet up with her. She very thoughtfully brought a hard copy of that Bend Bulletin op-ed. She gave it to a fellow Crater Lake park ranger to give to me.

The NPS centennial was officially observed on August 25, 2016. That was the date that President Woodrow Wilson signed the Organic Act into law. Around that time, it seemed appropriate to submit a guest opinion for the Ashland Daily Tidings. This newspaper printed my fifth and final 2016 op-ed on August 24th, “Park centennial calls for action.”

Getting my name and a cartoon about me printed in Missouri newspapers in 2017

In November 2016, my friend, Brian Kahn, wrote an article for the website,, that featured me. Brian worked as a seasonal park ranger at Crater Lake National Park during the summers of 2006, 2008, and 2010. He then became a journalist covering climate change for Climate Central. Since my writings and focus for years was seeing climate change in the national parks, I was pleased when Brian wrote the article, “National Parks Are At the Front Lines of Climate Communications: More and More Park Rangers Are talking about Climate change.”

Brian had several quotes from me and quoted some of my friends for the article. We chatted by phone a couple of months before Climate Central published the article. I urged Brian to use several sources that he ended up using in the article. Brian Kahn’s article was a turning point for me from when I was writing less op-eds and appearing more in newspaper articles.

In late 2016, my friend George Laur, who is the Missouri Coordinator for CCL, decided that I should do a speaking tour in Missouri to promote CCL sometime in 2017. In February 2017, my wife Tanya and I moved to Portland Oregon when she was recruited for a job there. When I told George this in January 2017, his response was: ‘We are still doing this tour, Brian. You might just have to fly back from Oregon so you can speak at the events.’

I ended up flying to Missouri during the last week of March for this speaking tour in Missouri. George made all the arrangements for me to speak at two different locations. First, I spoke to over a crowd of 100 people in Jefferson City at the Runge Conservation Nature Center on March 29, 2017. I spoke on the impacts of climate change in our national parks. The Jefferson City News Tribune wrote an article about my talk, “Climate change threatens park, ranger says.”

That talk must have made quite an impression. Besides their article, the News Tribune printed a cartoon from their conservative cartoonist aimed at me. He had the wrong colors for the ranger uniform, and it did not look much like me. The statements in the cartoon looked like a real head scratcher that did not make any scientific sense. Having said that, I was very flattered and honored to have inspired this political cartoon. The cartoonist tried to mock me. However, I thought the joke was on him since he seemed to have a lack of scientific understanding.

Political cartoon in the Jefferson City newspaper on March 30, 2017 that was a satire of me.

Two days later, on March 31, 2017, I spoke to over 60 people at Truman State University in, Kirksville, Missouri. When George and I arrived in Kirksville that morning, I met with a newspaper reporter Jason Hunsicker from the Kirksville Daily Express. Jason wrote an article profiling me included a lovely picture of me at Crater Lake. The article printed in the newspaper on April 10, 2017. It was titled, “Citizens’ Climate Lobby tries to make a difference.” The bad news is that there is no online link available. The good news is that my CCL friend that lives near Kirksville, Sharon Bagatell, mailed a hard copy of the newspaper to me.

Screenshots of a hard copy of the front page and page 2 of the Kirksville Daily Express with an article featuring Brian Ettling on page 2.

Getting my name in Oregon newspapers in 2017 to promote climate action

After this short Missouri speaking tour, I wanted to do a speaking tour across Oregon. I had this vision to travel around central, southern, and eastern Oregon to inspire and organize Oregonians in those areas to organize for climate action and join CCL.

The CCL volunteers and I who organized this tour called it The Oregon Stewardship Tour. We thought that taking climate action, especially with urging Congress to pass a carbon fee and dividend, is one of the best ways to be good stewards of Oregon’s precious air, and and water.

It was also one of the bravest and boldest feats I have done driving 1,600 miles myself in my car to 11 cities for this 12-day tour from October 24 to November 4, 2017. I traveled to give presentations in La Grande, Baker City, John Day, Burns, Prineville Redmond, Lakeview, Klamath Falls, and Grants Pass to talk to rural and conservative Oregonians about climate change.

This tour was a huge undertaking for me. For a recap, I had
• 9 public outreach events
• 2 lobby meetings with district offices of Rep. Greg Walden
• 2 newspaper editorial board meetings
• 2 live radio interviews
• 4 published articles in Oregon newspapers featuring the tour
• 4 press releases published announcing local tour events.

The morning that I left Portland to start driving across Oregon to La Grande for the tour, I had a phone interview with Lee Juillerat of the Klamath Falls Herald and News. The newspaper had their article about me and The Oregon Stewardship Tour as the headline story on the front page of the newspaper on October 29, 2017. This was the first time I had a headline front page newspaper article about me. Underneath the frontpage headline, “Forum to discuss climate change at Crater Lake,” was a bright color picture of me at Crater Lake.

Screenshot of the front page of the Klamath Falls Herald and News from October 29, 2017 when Brian Ettling gave a climate change speaking tour across Oregon.

When I spoke in Klamath Falls on November 2, 2017, I spoke to 25 citizens at a downtown Klamath Falls location, we ended up filling the room. That Herald and News lead article probably helped motivate some of the area residents to attend the event.

After that October 24th morning interview with Lee Juillerat of the Herald and News, I jumped in my car and started the long drive from Portland to Baker City, Oregon. It was a 234-miles and over 4-hour drive to this city in eastern Oregon. When I arrived in Baker City, I met up with two Portland CCL volunteers, Barry Daigle and Jason Lewis. They drove separately from Portland to meet up with me to help me during the first two days of the tour since they were from that area. The first thing that Barry and Jason pointed out to me was the press release printed on the front right column of the Baker City Herald announcing our event in Baker City that evening. The headline was “Group to discuss climate change Tuesday at the Library.”

That same day, the newspaper for La Grande, The Observer, announced our event for Wednesday, October 25th, “Forum to discuss climate solutions.” With these newspapers announcing the tour events for the first two days, the tour felt like it was off to a great start. Because of the press releases in the newspaper as well as the word of mouth, we were able to fill the room with local residents during the first two days of the tour.

Before the tour started, The Blue Mountain Eagle, the newspaper for the city of John Day, printed an October 18th press release. It was for the third event for our tour on Thursday, October 26th, “Climate forum coming up.”

During my presentation at John Day on October 26th, a writer for The Blue Mountain Eagle, Richard Hanners, came to report on the event. On October 31st, he wrote an article for the newspaper. “Climate change group presents its case.” I remember this event for having a tough audience of mostly high school students who did not have much of a response to the presentation. I was very happy that Richard Hanner’s article strictly reported on the facts of my presentation and the conversation with the audience how the weather in John Day has changed over the years. I was relieved he did not share that the audience was very subdued and hard to energize. I sure hope my presentation had some kind of impact on these students.

On the same day The Blue Mountain Eagle published their press October 18th release, The Burns Times-Herald printed a press release “Oregon Stewardship Tour Offers Forum” for the fourth day of the tour on Friday, October 27th. We had 14 people fill the small room at the Hines City Hall to hear my presentation. Unlike the teenagers in John Day the previous day, the residents of Burns-Hines were very engaged and asked lots of questions during this presentation.

Screenshot of a press release in The Burns Times-Herald from October 27, 2017 announcing a local event for The Oregon Stewardship Tour where Brian Ettling gave a climate change talk.

The audience was concerned because it could be quite expensive to live in Burns if a carbon fee and dividend was passed in Congress. They informed me that residents often must drive 130 miles one-way to get supplies and run errands in Bend.

This group gave us lots of homework to find out more details of this policy and exactly how it would impact low-income people. We promised we would respond to their questions quickly as and e-mail the answers back to them. We loved their enthusiasm and keen interest to learn all they could about our solution, even if they were asking very tough questions at times.

On October 28, 2017, the Bend Bulletin had a front page article announcing the events for the fifth and sixth days of our tour. On Saturday, October 28th, I was scheduled to give a talk in Prineville at the Crook County Fire and Rescue Building. On Sunday, October 29th, my talk was at the Roundtable Pizza in Redmond, Oregon. The Bend Bulletin article was called, “Climate Tour goes to unlikely locations.”

This part of the tour had mixed results. No local residents showed up for the Prineville event, just three local CCL volunteers from the Bend area. Thankfully, we had a 15 people show up for our event in Redmond. Thus, the Bend Bulletin article did not stir up much interest in the nearby cities of Prineville and Redmond. At the same time, it was still a morale boost to be on the front page of this newspaper as I was winding my way through Oregon during this tour.

These were all the newspaper articles that I recall from The Oregon Stewardship Tour. I was exhausted and had a cold by the tour that covered 11 cities over 12 days. It was an adventure to travel and meet Oregonians across the state. Yet, a few times felt it was a like a grind. Overall, it was rewarding to get publicity for Citizens’ Climate Lobby, carbon fee and dividend, and the tour in the local newspapers as I traveled to eastern, central and southern Oregon.

Brian Ettling in Bend, Oregon on October 29, 2017 while he was traveling across Oregon giving climate change talks for The Oregon Stewardship Tour.

Writing 2 op-eds to promote Oregon’s cap and invest bill in 2018

For the first half of 2018, I worked for Tesla Energy in a job selling solar panels. This was my first sales job. It quite an adjust for me. I had grown very comfortable having seasonal jobs as a park ranger working the national parks for the previous 25 years. I got used to nearly everyone loving me as a park ranger. In sales, it seems like nearly everyone hates you for bothering them and occasionally you find someone who likes you. It took all my energy to succeed in this job. There was no time, interest or desire to write op-ed, especially for climate action.

Because of my support wife Tanya and a very supportive boss Mike, I did end up succeeding in the job. I exceeded the company required sales goals for March and April. By the end of May, my supervisor informed me that I was ranked 50th out of 350 employees for the number of home solar appointments booked. I hit a positive strive of booking Tesla Energy Advisors scheduled to come to customers’ homes in the Portland OR and Vancouver WA area to chat with them about creating a custom solar system for their home.

Sadly, Tesla laid off my supervisor, the advisor manager, their regional boss and 9% of Tesla’s staff, mostly in the Tesla Energy Division, on June 12th. My job transferred to Tesla Motors, located just south of downtown Portland. Sadly, the new job was not a good fit for me with the hours, commute, work environment, work culture, so I decided to leave that job on July 9, 2018.

The day I resigned from Tesla, I was in a fog that day not sure what to do. The Tesla store was located in the south waterfront district just south of downtown. I decided to go to the Powell’s Books downtown store to restore my soul. Powell’s Books is a big landmark, institution, and tourist destination in Oregon. It claims to be “the largest used and new bookstore in the world, occupying an entire city block and housing approximately one million books.” After spending an hour or two there to cheer myself up after quitting a very stressful job, I walked towards a MAX commuter train stop to start taking public transportation home.

On this walk to catch public transit, I ran into Sonny Mehta, an organizing Field Director for Renew Oregon. I met Sonny the previous October just a couple of days before I departed Portland to start The Oregon Stewardship Tour. Renew Oregon was organizing a campaign to lobby Oregon legislators to pass cap and trade legislation in Oregon Legislature during the upcoming 2019 session. When I led The Oregon Stewardship Tour during the previous October, Oregon CCL leadership wanted me to included information in my talks on Renew Oregon’s cap and trade policy. Two days before I left for the 2017 tour, I stopped by the Renew Oregon office in downtown Portland. I met Sonny for the first time, and he gave me handouts from Renew Oregon to share with Oregonians during my tour.

When I ran into Sonny on July 9, 2018, he asked what I was doing. I shared that I just quit my Tesla job. Sonny and I agreed to meet for coffee in a couple of days. He encouraged me to volunteer for Renew Oregon in their organizing efforts to get the Oregon Legislature to pass a cap and trade bill in the 2019 Oregon Legislative session. Looking to do the most effective climate action, I jumped at the opportunity to get involved with Renew Oregon. I soon joined in on their weekly organizing calls. Sonny encouraged me to write op-eds and letters to the editor (LTE) in newspapers in Oregon. I was quite familiar with writing many op-eds and LTEs from experience over the years. It looked like a fun challenge from Sonny.

Because of other commitments, it took me awhile to write op-eds for Renew Oregon’s cap and trade bill for Sonny Mehta for Oregon newspapers. In late August, I was a breakout speaker for a co-presentation with another Climate Reality Leader for the Climate Reality Training in Los Angeles. That took time to prepare that presentation and schedule time with the co-presenter Itzel Morales to get our talk ready for the training. In September, I devoted some time to canvass in Washington state for their 1631 ballot initiative to put a price on carbon.

In mid-October, I organized a climate change speaking tour across my home state of Missouri. I gave presentations at my alma mater William Jewell College, Missouri University in Columbia, my alma mater Oakville High School, St. Louis University, and teaching a Climate Change 101 continuing education class at the Meramec campus of St. Louis Community College. It was a very successful tour with the presentations I gave across Missouri. The student newspaper for William Jewell College, The Hilltop Monitor, published an article on October 26, 2018 about my talk on the campus, “Brian Ettling presents the conservative case for a carbon tax at the 2018 Truex Economic Lecture.” It took time in September to create all those presentations. Even with all those commitments, I found time to write op-eds for Renew Oregon and Sonny.

Brian Ettling getting ready to give climate change talks as a guest speaker at his alma mater, William Jewell College on October 9, 2018.

September 25, 2018, Klamath Falls Herald and News published a guest opinion that I wrote. “To reduce wildlife smoke, let’s act on climate change.” At that time, I was an active volunteer with Citizens’ Climate Lobby and Renew Oregon. Thus, it was fun for me to promote CCL’s carbon fee and dividend proposal and Renew Oregon’s Clean Energy Jobs Bill in one op-ed.

On October 6, 2018, the Bend Bulletin printed my guest column, “2018 drought and smoke should push us to act on climate change.” My op-eds for the Herald and News and The Bend Bulletin both referenced recent articles about the intense heat and smoked happening in Oregon that summer. In writing those op-eds, I then pivoted to the solution of supporting CCL’s carbon fee and dividend and Renew Oregon’s Clean Energy Jobs bill. These op-eds were published just days before I left for my October speaking tour in Missouri. It was a relief to get these published before my trip since I knew I would be focused on that for several weeks.

Writing a climate change guest opinion for the Portland Tribune in June 2021

For the next year and a half, I was very busy volunteering with Renew Oregon to urge legislators to pass the Clean Energy Jobs Bill. This was a cap and invest bill known as HB 2020 in the 2019 Oregon Legislative session. This was a very empowering endeavor to attend legislative hearings at the Oregon state Capitol in Salem, lobby legislators, testify at hearings, participate in weekly phone meetings, assist in organizing rallies, and organize large events. In addition, I wrote two LTEs to the Portland Tribune, one in January 2019 and the other in February 2020 urging legislators to pass the Clean Energy Jobs Bill.

As I attended numerous legislative hearings on the Joint Committee for Carbon Reduction, I enjoyed having a great front row seat to watch the HB 2020 take shape in committee, successfully pass out of committees, and even pass on the House floor on June 18, 2019.

The victories felt huge to watch the bills progress towards passage. At the same time, it was a devastating and heartbreaking loss when the Republicans fled Oregon in the last week of June 2019 to prevent a Senate floor vote, which killed HB 2020. In late February 2020, Republicans in both the House and the Senate fled Oregon fled Oregon to kill that cap and invest bill. After the first defeat in the summer of 2019, I felt so low I did not want to get off the couch for weeks.

Brian Ettling getting ready to lobby Oregon legislators and attend a hearing for the Clean Energy Jobs Bill at the Oregon Capitol on September 25, 2018.

At the same time, I found ways to bounce back from these setbacks. During the summer of 2020 while the COVID pandemic was still raging, I met with numerous Oregon legislators by phone and Zoom. I led the efforts with Oregon CCL volunteers for over 30 Oregon legislators to endorse the CCL federal bill, The Energy Innovation and Carbon Dividend Act (EICDA). During one of these meetings, Oregon Rep. Tiffiny Mitchell asked if she could introduce a state resolution endorsing the EICDA. Representative Mitchell did not run for re-election. Thus, Senator Michael Dembrow proudly introduced the resolution on the Oregon Senate floor February 4, 2021, when it officially became known as Senate Joint Memorial 5 or SJM 5.

SJM 5 passed the Oregon Senate on April 7th by a vote of 23 to 5, with 6 Republican Senators, half of the Oregon GOP Senate caucus, joined all the Democratic Senators present to vote to support it. Unfortunately, SJM 5 fell short of receiving a floor vote in the Oregon House in June 2021. It was exciting was that 30 House members, including 7 Republicans, signed on to co-sponsor it. The Oregon House has 60 members. Half the chamber were SJM 5 co-sponsors.

The worst part of this defeat was Oregon CCL leadership becoming very angry when the OR House Democratic Leadership refused to give SJM 5 a floor vote. After I experienced two dreadful GOP walkouts that defeated the 2019 and 2020 cap and invest bills, I never believed SJM 5 would pass until I saw it with my own eyes. The Oregonian published an opinion editorial from Oregon CCL leadership and I disagreed with the tone. Former Rep. Tiffiny Mitchell advised us not to publish it since it seemed to attack OR House Democratic Leadership.

I pleaded with the Oregonian and Oregon CCL leadership to re-edit the op-ed to be more gracious, but they ignored my input. Thus, I wrote my own op-ed. and I submitted it to the Portland Tribune. Unlike the Oregonian, the Portland Tribune is a weekly newspaper in Portland, Oregon. It is owned by the Pamplin Media Group, which publishes several community newspapers in the Portland metropolitan area. On June 11, 2011, the Portland Tribune printed my op-ed, “Federal legislation holds hope of steering U.S. toward net zero carbon emissions.”

I was very proud of my Portland Tribune op-ed. I talked about the problem of climate change and then the federal solution of CCL’s Energy Innovation and Carbon Dividend Act (HR 2307). I then wrote about the Oregon Legislative Resolution, SJM 5. I listed by name all 36 Republican and Democratic legislators who sponsored SJM 5. I stated that “Oregon Citizens’ Climate Lobby volunteers applaud each of these legislators for co-sponsoring SJM 5 to support a national bipartisan approach for climate action.”

I ended this guest opinion by writing: “These legislators listed above are making a bold statement that a federal market-based carbon pricing bill is a way forward for Oregon and the U.S. to reduce the threat of climate change.

We hope our Oregon Congressional delegation, Reps. Cliff Bentz, Suzanne Bonamici, Earl Blumenauer, Peter DeFazio, and Kurt Schrader, and Sens. Ron Wyden and Jeff Merkley, will see this message and support HR 2307.”

Because of the animosity over the June 2021 Oregonian op-ed, I no longer felt like a valued volunteer and climate organizer within Oregon CCL. I dropped out of CCL several months later.

Brian Ettling with his Earth Ball and his brand new suit. Photo taken on April 27, 2023.

My June 11, 2011, the Portland Tribune op-ed was my last published op-ed. My frustration with Oregon CCL nearly caused me to quit the climate movement. However, I am still active in the climate movement as of this writing on June 8, 2023. The threat of dangerous climate change is too great of a burden to just walk away. I decided in May 2023 to attend the CCL June Conference and Lobby Day in Washington D.C. happening June 10-13 in Washington, D.C. On June 13, 2013, I will be joining hundreds of CCL volunteers in lobby meetings at Congressional offices at the U.S. Capitol to urge Congressional offices to pass effective climate legislation.

In the past two years, I have submitted two op-ed to the Oregonian, but the newspaper decided not to publish them. I still love to get more op-eds printed in newspapers in the future for climate action. In a sense, I am still living my dream of getting my name in the newspaper to try to make a positive difference in the world.

My tips how to get a climate opinion editorial (op-ed) published in a newspaper

  1. Go to the newspaper’s website to the opinion or editorial section and look for a tab for “Submitting a commentary piece or letter to the editor (LTE).”

    In that section, such as this link to the Oregonian, it will note the email address to submit the op-ed or letter to the editor (LTE). Most importantly, it will state the maximum word count for LTEs (up to 250 words for The Oregonian) and a maximum for an oped (up to 500 to 600 words for the The Oregonian). For submitting an LTE or op-ed, keep a close limit on your word count. Don’t go over the word count or the newspaper will reject it.
  1. Keep the op-ed relevant to a recent editorial in the newspaper, a news story reported in the newspaper within the last couple of days, or a major event getting a lot of coverage in the media.

    Newspaper editorial staff are more likely to publish your op-ed if your op-ed is in response to a recent editorial or news article in the newspaper.

  2. If you are urging local members of Congress or state legislators to pass a specific bill, mention their names in your op-ed.

    Members of Congress and their staff have Google alerts to when the Senators or Representatives’ names are printed in published media. Thus, if you weave in the elected official’s name in your op-ed, they are more likely to read it if their name in mentioned.

  3. Don’t get discouraged! It can be hard to get an op-ed or even a LTE published in major city newspapers due the volume of op-eds submitted by many people.

    Thus, don’t be too disappointed if your op-ed is not published due to possible high number op-ed submissions. Getting published can require multiple submissions of different op-eds to a newspaper over a period before one gets published. Be patient!

  4. Due to the smaller number of op-ed submissions in local and neighborhood newspapers, try submitting an op-ed to your local neighborhood newspaper.

    You can increase your chances of getting published submitted your op-eds and LTEs to local and neighborhood newspapers since they tend to receive less guest opinion submissions. Even more, these newspapers might be more eager to fill space in their pages due slow news periods or lack of other op-ed submissions.

  5. To increase your chance to get published, submit op-eds to multiple newspapers.

    At the same time, try to vary the wording to each newspaper that you submit. Look at their website at the maximum word limit and try to tie your op-ed submission a news story or editorial of that specific newspaper. Newspapers generally don’t like to run generic op-eds from citizen writers that appear in other area newspapers.

  6. Have fun! It is very rewarding to get an op-ed or a LTE published in a newspaper.

    I loved submitting op-eds and getting published in the St. Louis Post-Dispatch and various Oregon newspapers over the years. It was very exciting seeing my name in print urging for climate action to hopefully reach many readers and online subscribers of these newspapers. I hope it created more awareness and inspiration for climate action. Maybe it helped others to find their voice to write to newspapers and their elected officials to act on climate. You just never know when you plant seeds when and where they are going to spout.

Final Thoughts

As nearly all my blogs, this is a very long as I shared my complete story on a given topic. I also wrote this so I could share all my published op-eds in one blog with my thoughts on each individual one that was published. Even with the very immense length of this blog, I could not find a way to highlight other peak moments for me.

One of my biggest achievements as a climate organizer was when Yale Climate Connections (YCC) published an article I wrote: “Communicating Climate Change in a National Park” on April 26, 2012. YCC defines itself as “a nonpartisan, multimedia service providing daily broadcast radio programming and original web-based reporting, commentary, and analysis on the issue of climate change.” For years, I listened to their daily minute and a half podcasts/radio stories on “how people are responding to the changing climate.” YCC featured my friend Larry Lazar on their podcast in 2015. They featured me on their podcast in November 2017, “Park ranger witnesses climate change firsthand.”

I met Bud Ward, Editor of Yale Climate Connections, at the American Geophysical Union Conference in San Francisco in December 2011. We exchanged business cards at a social event. Months later, I emailed Bud to network for a career in climate communications and advice for attending grad school for climate communications. We chatting by phone in March 2012. I will never forget when Bud said: ‘I can’t help you with either of those, but I admit I have something a little more self-serving. Would you want to write a short article for Yale Climate Connections?’

I jumped at that opportunity. We agreed that I should write about my experience about communicating about climate change as a park ranger in the national parks. Bud offered to pay me for writing that article, which turned out to be a similar amount to a paycheck I was receiving as a park ranger at that time. Bud was very gracious with his edits after I submitted my writing to him. Before I had written and submitted any op-ed, this experience writing for Bud and Yale Climate Communications really hooked me on writing about climate change.

In addition, Clare Foran, former associate editor at The Atlantic, reached out to me for a phone interview in November 2014. She was writing an article about park rangers in the national parks discussing climate change with park visitors. Somehow, she found me, possibly from my Crater Lake climate change evening program that is on YouTube. Our phone conversation went well. She then wrote this article featuring me for The Atlantic, “Next Time You Visit a National Park, You Might Get a Lecture on Climate Change” that was published on December 12, 2014.

This was another high point for me, among many, as a climate organizer. It was another dream come true for me to get my name in newspaper and magazine publications promoting climate action. I hope my story and successes will inspire you and others to write and to act on climate. I look forward to seeing your name in a newspaper or magazine for climate action.

Brian Ettling at the Climate Planet temporary exhibit in Copenhagen, Denmark. Photo taken on October 20, 2017.