Head of EPA to attend X Games | AspenTimes.com

Head of EPA to attend X Games

Scott Condon
The Aspen Times
A contingent from the nonprofit Protect Our Winters visits U.S. Environmental Protection Agency Administrator Gina McCarthy, front row, center, in November. The group included Aspen-area residents Auden Schendler, back row, left; his daughter Willa, middle row, third from left; Chris Davenport, back row, center; and Gretchen Bleiler, middle row, second from right.
Eric Vance/EPA |

The head of the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency is coming to Aspen and the Winter X Games to plug for the work it’s doing to try to curb climate change.

Gina McCarthy is scheduled to meet with Aspen Middle School students, visit the X Games venue at Buttermilk, have lunch with Aspen Skiing Co. officials and give a press conference near Aspen Mountain’s Silver Queen Gondola on Thursday, according to Auden Schendler, Skico vice president of sustainability.

The EPA is doing “important work” to try to reduce greenhouse gas emissions that contribute to global warming, Schendler said. It is working on rules to reduce carbon-dioxide emissions from existing coal-burning power plants by as much as 30 percent by 2030 from a 2005 baseline. Republicans in Congress are heading opposition to the proposed rules. The battle isn’t over yet.

Schendler said McCarthy wants to get the word out about its proposal.

“She’s very interested in connecting with a millennial audience; a young audience,” Schendler said.

McCarthy’s visit is happening because of the EPA’s partnership with Protect Our Winters, a nonprofit organization that enlists winter-sport athletes and ski-industry officials to draw attention to the effects of climate change on the mountains.

The partnership blossomed in June, when the EPA and the White House announced the Clean Power Plan, which includes the proposal to regulate carbon emissions from power plants via the Clean Air Act, according to Chris Steinkamp, executive director of Protect Our Winters. “They needed help getting the word out,” he said.

The EPA suggested athletes take and post photos of the places where they play and compete to show how climate change is affecting or could affect their playgrounds.

Athletes affiliated with the group were invited to Washington, D.C., in November to participate in a Twitter town-hall meeting with McCarthy to field questions via social media about the EPA’s proposed regulation of carbon emissions via the Clean Air Act. “They were thrilled with it,” Schendler said of EPA officials.

During that meeting, an almost-offhand comment to McCarthy planted the seed for this week’s action.

“One of the athletes invited her to the X Games, which we thought was a long shot, but a few weeks ago, I got a call from the EPA to let me know that it was actually happening,” Steinkamp said. “We’re honored that she’s making the time to do this.”

He said he was a little surprised — and excited.

“She wants to show support to the winter-sports community during the activities,” he said.

McCarthy, accompanied by former snowboarding competitor and Aspen native Gretchen Bleiler, will visit with athletes practicing at the halfpipe at Buttermilk on the day the games kick off, but she’s unlikely to mingle with the crowd, according to Steinkamp. There are more than 60 top athletes working with Protect Our Winters, including 13 competitors in the X Games, according to Schendler and Steinkamp.

“This is huge — to have someone at Administrator McCarthy’s level take the time to come see us, to see why we’re so passionate about our sport and our mountains and to see first-hand what there is to protect,” Steinkamp said in an email. “It’ll be a great opportunity for her to connect with pro athletes who can really help spread the word about the importance of tacking action on climate and the good work that the EPA is doing.”

McCarthy’s visit will come less than one week after scientists with NASA and the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration reported 2014 was the hottest on Earth since record keeping started in the 1880s. A Jan. 16 article in The New York Times said 2014 surpassed 2010 as the warmest year for the planet. The 10 warmest years have occurred since 1997.



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