Election makes climate lobbying tougher for Skico, Protect Our Winters | AspenTimes.com

Election makes climate lobbying tougher for Skico, Protect Our Winters

Chris Davenport (left) and Gretchen Bleiler represented the group Protect Our Winters during a recent lobbying trip on climate change in Washington, D.C. They are with Skico Vice President of Sustainability Auden Schenlder and his daugher Willa at the White House.

Officials from Aspen Skiing Co. and its partner Protect Our Winters don't expect changing political winds in Congress to put a chill on their lobbying efforts on global warming.

Protect Our Winters is a nonprofit organization that harnesses the name recognition of winter-sports athletes to draw attention to issues connected to climate change. Aspen big-mountain skier and mountaineer Chris Davenport and snowboarding professional Gretchen Bleiler are among the athletes speaking for the environment. The organization often teams with Skico to send a delegation to Washington, D.C., to meet with members of Congress and administration officials.

Their most recent trip was last week, when Skico Vice President of Sustainability Auden Schendler and a contingent of 11 athletes and a representative of Burton Snowboards participated in a Twitter town-hall meeting with U.S. Environmental Protection Agency Administrator Gina McCarthy. Davenport and Bleiler were part of the group.

Schendler said the group fielded Tweets from the public about the EPA's regulation of carbon through the authority of the Clean Air Act and other issues. Protect Our Winters and Skico showed support for the regulations that are under fire from Republicans, who will take control of the U.S. Senate in January when the new Congress is seated. Leading Republicans have said they will limit funding for the EPA to try to prevent it from regulating emissions from coal-fired power plants.

Schendler said he and the Protect Our Winters contingent — which he labeled "big-time professionals" — also met with U.S. Sen. Mark Udall, D-CO., who is leaving office, and the man who defeated him, Republican U.S. Rep. Cory Gardner.

Gardner said he would be open to conversation on climate-change issues, according to Schendler, and that he supports energy-efficiency measures. He also made it clear he supports "all of the above" energy policies, Schendler said. He said that often translates into support for increased domestic drilling for oil and gas.

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While in Washington, the Skico and Protect Our Winters lobbyists also met with Sen. Angus King, of Maine, an independent, and Republicans Sens. Rob Portman, of Ohio, and Kelly Ayotte, of New Hampshire.

Schendler said Skico and Protect Our Winters must continue to work their contacts in the Republican Party as well as Democrats.

"This is going to have to be a partisan issue," he said.

Chris Steinkamp, executive director of Protect Our Winters, said it is to the organization's advantage that it is nonpartisan and that its representatives are athletes concerned about the skiing and snowboarding industry, not paid lobbyists. Nevertheless, the election results didn't help the cause. "It's going to be tougher," Steinkamp said.

Steinkamp said Protect Our Winters is all about education. The athletes share information about how the winter-sports industry is tied to 900,000 jobs in the U.S. They also provide information on how climate change is affecting and will continue to affect skiing.

"It's not an adversarial conversation at all," Steinkamp said. "We've never had one."

scondon@aspentimes.com

Aspen u series

Aspen Skiing Co. is hosting a presentation Wednesday about one of the more unique — and lesser known — battles over climate change.

Lou Helmuth will speak about how kids are using the unique and old concept of the Public Trust Doctrine at the local, state and international levels to try to do something about climate change. Our Children’s Trust is a nonprofit that gives youth a voice in seeking climate action through civic engagement and public education. Helmuth is program advisor with Our Children’s Trust.

He will speak Wednesday at 5:30 p.m. at the Limelight Hotel. The presentation is called “Do Kids Have a Legal Right to a Stable Climate?” Beer and food will be available during the event.

The presentation is part of the Aspen U Speaker Series being presented by Skico at the Limelight throughout the winter.