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ACE Program Volunteers Engage Legislators on Environmental Issues

After the 2017 presidential election, Brian Polilli knew he needed to get involved in the democratic process to make a difference on environmental issues – he just wasn’t sure where to turn.

“Post-election, I was pretty aggravated about the direction of the country and since then, we have seen a lot of environmental standards being relaxed. The global warming issue is something we can’t continue to drag our feet on,” Polilli said. “I have always been concerned about these issues and the election motivated me to take a further look at what I could do.”

When he found PennFuture’s newly created Advocates for Conservation and the Environment (ACE) Program, he discovered an outlet and the guidance needed to take the first steps to meet with his elected officials. This program enables volunteers to voice their concerns about environmental issues directly to their elected representatives in their home district offices.

PennFuture’s ACE program organizes teams of volunteers to educate their state and federal legislators about conservation and environmental issues. ACE volunteers provide policy makers with an opportunity to learn from concerned citizens who live in their respective districts about environmental and public health issues that affect their communities.

“ACE committees meet with Democrats and Republicans, liberals and conservatives, to advocate policy rather than to advance an ideological agenda,” said Jay Andrews, Ph.D, PennFuture’s Director of Outreach. “Such pragmatism is not just for show; it is an effective way to realize tangible benefits for our members, for the public, and for the environment. ACE is about policy, not partisanship.”

Polilli, 39, of Phoenixville, Pa., is a scientist with Johnson & Johnson. As an ACE volunteer, he recently participated in two meetings that engaged State Rep. Becky Corbin’s (R-155) office, and State Sen. John Rafferty’s (R-44) office.

“These meetings are valuable no matter what happens. When you show your elected officials that enough people are concerned, it matters,” Polilli said. “We are trying to educate them and I learn something more as well in terms of the process. It helps when you participate in conversations and have experience with your elected official, rather than just reading about them in an article.”

PennFuture outreach staff worked with Brian and other volunteers prior to the meeting, providing talking points and information about key environmental issues in his district, including education on methane pollution, watershed protection, and policy proposals that advance energy efficiency.

Polilli’s biggest takeaway from the program is that the process is not as daunting as others may think. He is also more aware than ever that regular citizens need to voice their concerns about the environment to their elected officials to make sure progress is made.

“Don’t just assume the right thing is going to get done,” Polilli said. “That is frequently not the case. If you really believe certain things should be done, complaining about it on Facebook doesn’t do anything. This is an opportunity. It is far less intimidating in the moment than you might think. These are professional people who are pleasant to talk to. If you go in to have a conversation, they will listen. If you know a little bit of information and are reasonably engaged on an issue, it’s easy enough to talk about it.”

For more information on the ACE program, click here.


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