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January 9, 2014
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Aspen Skiing Co. workers back gas drilling rules

For the second time in eight months, employees of Aspen Skiing Co. have awarded a major grant to groups striving to regulate oil and gas development in Colorado.

The Environment Foundation, run by Skico employees, awarded $50,000 to two organizations that support new air-quality rules that will reduce methane emissions from natural-gas extraction.

In May, the Environment Foundation gave three organizations a combined $50,000 for efforts to prevent gas extraction in the Thompson Divide area west of Carbondale. That battle is ongoing.

In this latest grant cycle, the Environment Foundation gave $35,000 to the Conservation Colorado Education Fund and $15,000 to Western Resource Advocates. In both cases, the funds will be used to get the proposed regulations approved without modifications that weaken them.

“It’s an opportunity for Colorado to be a leader,” said Matthew Hamilton, executive director of the Environment Foundation.

Colorado Gov. John Hickenlooper proposed the air-quality rules in November. They limit emissions associated with natural-gas drilling and establish groundbreaking curbs on “fugitive methane leakage” during the process. Hamilton said that is key to the state’s proposed rules because methane is 22 times more potent than carbon dioxide as a greenhouse gas.

Three major energy producers in Colorado — Encana, Noble and Anadarko — support the rule changes. However, the Colorado Oil and Gas Association and Colorado Petroleum said they would seek five major modifications to the proposed rules. The Colorado Air Quality Control Commission will hold hearings this winter.

Even with the support of the three major oil and gas firms, it cannot be assumed the air quality regulations will be adopted, Skico’s Hamilton said. That’s why the Environment Foundation felt it was important to award funds to groups supporting the new rules. The Environment Foundation has a board of directors composed of 15 Skico employees. They make the decisions on the grant disbursements.

The foundation has awarded almost $2.4 million to 411 environmental groups or causes since it was founded in December 1997.

The fall 2013 grants totaled $103,250. In addition to the $50,000 given to support the air-quality regulations, the Environment Foundation gave an additional $25,000 to groups involved in climate-change or oil-and-gas issues.

Citizens For a Healthy Community, which is trying to limit gas extraction in the Paonia area in the North Fork Valley, received $10,000. Hamilton said that area supplies much of the food that feeds the Aspen area. The organization received the grant for general operations.

The nonprofit Protect Our Winters received $7,500 for a program to build awareness about climate change. Western Colorado Congress received $7,500 for its Oil and Gas Field Justice Project, where it monitors and reports on field conditions.

An Aspen Times analysis of the Environment Foundation’s grants shows it has given about $317,500 to limit gas drilling in some parts of Colorado over the past dozen years. It has given roughly another $150,000 to climate-policy causes aimed to reduce greenhouse gases or promote alternative energy.

In the latest grant cycle, funds were awarded for causes other than climate change. The Aspen Center for Environmental Studies received $7,500 for general operating support. Aspen TREE received $3,000 for its community greenhouse program. The Carbondale Community School received $2,000 to install two Sloan Waterfree urinals.

The Roaring Fork Conservancy received $5,000 for its health assessment of the Lower Fryingpan River ecosystem and the Fryingpan Valley economic study. The Ruedi Water and Power Authority received $5,000 for its mussel-inspection program. The White River National Forest received $5,750 for its Wilderness Ranger internship program.

Applications for the spring 2014 grant cycle are due March 1.

scondon@aspentimes.com

The foundation has awarded almost $2.4 million to 411 environmental groups or causes since it was founded in December 1997.


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The Aspen Times Updated Jan 9, 2014 09:21PM Published Jan 12, 2014 07:10AM Copyright 2014 The Aspen Times. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.