Pandora expansion runs counter with community values

Pandora expansion runs counter with community values

Excerpt from letter sent to Board of County Commissioners regarding the Aspen Skiing Co. Pandora expansion for its Aug. 21 meeting: “ASC has been a corporate leader and local champion for climate mitigation and sustainability principally through their investment in a methane-to-electricity power plant at the Somerset coal mine near Paonia. That 3MW plant captures and converts methane, a powerful greenhouse gas, to energy thereby earning ASC offsite offsets to the fossil fuel impacts associated with their operations in Aspen and other locations. ASC also supports Protect Our Winters and the Give a Flake campaign to engage climate change activists.”

Oddly, the Skico proposal exacerbates climate impacts in a variety of ways:

1. Clearing trees from 106 acres, with logging trucks making as many as two round-trips per day for three months carries a significant carbon impact especially considering that trees drawdown carbon from the atmosphere;

2. Increased water diversions for increased snowmaking at the top of the mountain means a big carbon footprint (and expense) from pumping water uphill and making snow;

3. Operation of a new lift and related infrastructure will also require fossil fuel energy consumption;

4. Increased water demands for snowmaking will increase the frequency of low wintertime flows and drive local streamflows toward the minimum levels of protection.

Pitkin County should require Skico to minimize and completely offset carbon emissions with use of alternative energy on location. The methane capture is good work, but as Skico grows, it needs to increase its drawdown of carbon in real time.

Better yet, perhaps the BOCC and Skico could embrace Aspen’s recent uphill economy plan and honor the local preference for human-powered recreation in the area. I urge the BOCC to consider the Pandora proposal in light of the 1) global urgency of carbon drawdown and minimizing fossil fuel consumption, 2) ASC’s stated sustainability goals, reputation and brand, and 3) Pitkin County’s Climate Action Plan and environmental goals.

Chelsea Brundige

Letter to the Editor