AltaSea Goes to Sacramento

By: Naomi Scott, Next Generation Environmentalist, AltaSea Youth Ambassador.

Date: April 11th, California Ocean Day

Time: 6:15 a.m.

Location: Los Angeles International Airport

Mission: Lobby for Bill SB605

Since 2005, California Ocean Day has grown from a small group of ocean lovers lobbying for marine protection to hundreds of ocean enthusiasts–including students, conservationists, and CEOs–traveling to Sacramento to garner support from political leaders for measures such as ending offshore drilling leases in California waters, including blue carbon capture plans in development permits, and requiring the installation of microfiber filters in new washing machines. For this year’s Ocean Day activism, I joined AltaSea’s lobbying mission as the organization’s youth ambassador. 

AltaSea’s advocacy group began our day with a 6:15 a.m. flight. During our commute, we reviewed the twelve major bills that would be discussed–including AltaSea’s very own SB605. Sponsored by AltaSea and written by Senator Steve Padilla, this bill would require the California Energy Commission and the Ocean Protection Council to commence a study of the feasibility and benefits of implementing large-scale wave and tidal energy in California. It would also require these agencies to collaborate with stakeholders to complete the study–bringing together organizations, industries, and government agencies to evaluate tidal energy and create a plan to increase capacity. If passed into law, this measure would enable action toward reaching California’s goal of carbon neutrality by 2045 by simultaneously creating jobs, lowering energy costs, establishing California “as a nationwide leader in ocean energy,” and boosting the blue economy

The technology for wave and tidal energy already exists–a 2021 report on marine energy opportunities from the National Renewable Energy Laboratory concluded that wave power has the potential to meet 30 percent of the country’s electricity demand. This leaves politics as the primary barrier to widespread implementation. Political tension around the fine points of the renewable energy transition–including delegating funds, distributing energy, and selecting sites for energy-generating infrastructure–has slowed the transition away from fossil fuels. The longer we wait to see how renewable energy might impact our climate for the better, the more rapidly we approach the tipping point after which the effects of climate change will be difficult to reverse. SB605 aims to counter the effects of political red tape and provide the platform on which California can develop the wave and tidal energy industry. It would jumpstart the necessary feasibility study and require a report on the study to be submitted on January 1, 2025–a near enough deadline to enable the state to follow through with action in line with global climate goals for 2030

Time: 8:30 am

Location: Capitol Annex Swing Space

After the AltaSea team introduced me to numerous lawmakers, organization leaders, and educators, we settled in for speeches from Senators Lena Gonzalez and Ben Allen, followed by a keynote address by Terry Tamminen, the CEO of AltaSea. In his speech, Tamminen praised attendees’ advocacy and urged them to continue fighting for California’s coastal environment.

After the remarks, AltaSea’s team split up and formed groups with other Ocean Day attendees. In my group, I met my fellow ocean lobbyists–from students to teachers, California locals to international travelers, concerned citizens to paid professionals, each of us had an ocean-related bill or cause to promote to the staff of California’s assembly members and senators. As many of us were first-time lobbyists, we started by reviewing general tactics and our specific group’s strategy. Wherever our meetings took place–be it a senate office or one of the hallways in the capitol building–our goal was to stand out among the other lobbying pitches and explain the relevance of our causes to each legislator’s constituency. 

The rest of the day was spent running around to different offices. Tamminen and Jenny Krusoe, Executive Vice President and COO at AltaSea, met one-on-one with legislators themselves. My team had four meetings scheduled with legislative staff. While some staffers drilled us on every detail of our proposals, others simply questioned why the legislation was important to their particular senator or assembly member. Whether the legislators were aware of our bills prior to the meetings or not, we hoped to gain their support for future committee and floor voting on the measures. 

In between meetings, we explored the halls of the California State Capitol—taking in the soft peach and gold hues of the rotunda, mosaic flooring depicting iconic California symbols like poppies and grizzly bears, and stained-glass windows designed with the California state seal. By mixing neo-classical architecture and Victorian design, the Capitol harkens back to ancient Greek democracy while paying homage to the century in which it was built. Every aspect of the Capitol building aims to capture a key element of California history–from remnants of the Gold Rush in the gold ornamentation to oil paintings of past governors.

Time: 6:28

Location: Sacramento International Airport

At the airport, AltaSea’s group reflected on the events of the day and the parallels between AltaSea’s work and the goals of SB605. Similar to the stakeholder committee that would be formed if the bill passes, AltaSea is actively forming a sustainable blue economy caucus in which policymakers and marine-based businesses learn from one another and collaborate to provide ocean-supported jobs, education, and industries to the state.

Lobbying provided me with a glimpse into the intricate yet rewarding political component of climate activism. I feel that Ocean Day allows participants a heightened level of hands-on action–promoting clear benchmarks for change to the individuals responsible for improving the state’s environmental measures. Both for college freshmen like myself and career activists, the collaboration fostered on such days of political advocacy buoys motivation and sparks innovation in our projects. Should Bill SB605 become law, a caucus of tidal energy collaborators will supply a similar, consistent source of ingenuity and inspiration to bring visions of a wave-powered California to fruition.

Naomi Scott, Next Generation Environmentalist

AltaSea Youth Ambassador

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