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Federal and state climate legislation buoyed by ski resorts posted on 05/01/2019

The Oregon ski industry provides an estimated 6,772 jobs and more than $194.4 million in personal income annually, according to statistics released by Mount Hood Meadows in February 2018. Much like the $20 billion-a-year national snow sports industry, the local Mountain economy faces the potential impact of climate change.

Timberline, Mt. Hood Ski Bowl, Summit, Cooper Spur and Mt. Hood Meadows ski areas issued a joint statement of support for current carbon emission reduction legislation on Feb. 20, 2019. The local ski area operators came out in support of  S. 3791/H.R. 763, the Federal Energy Innovation and Carbon Dividend Act and Oregon House Bill 2020, the Oregon Climate Action Program.

“We’re particularly vulnerable to climate change,” said Timberline’s Director of Public Affairs and Planning, Jon Tullis, about the winter sports industry in the Mount Hood area.

The annual amount of snow in the west has seen a reduction of 41 percent on average since the early 1980s, with an average decrease of 34 days of snow season, according to new research published in the journal Geophysical Research Letters in December 2018. Low snow seasons impact local economies including ski resorts, restaurants and hotels, according to nonprofit Protect Our Winter’s recently released 2018 economic report.

“For the ski operators on Mt. Hood, climate change could mean shorter seasons, or no season at all,” said Representative Anna Williams, House District 52. “That has broad implications for our larger mountain community. Fewer tourist dollars hurt small business owners and the individuals they employ,”

The ski area operators stated in a letter to state and federal representatives, “The ski areas of Mt. Hood have been leaders in the snow sports industry, and in our community, for early adoption of sustainable business practices and advocacy for public policies that effectively address reduction of carbon emissions.” They urged elected officials at both the state and federal levels support the respective climate solutions legislation during the current legislative session.

“We feel it’s our responsibility,” said Tullis. “It’s rare for us to wade into politics but (we) wanted to speak on this issue.”

He added Timberline has taken a “strong stand” with the National Ski Areas Association (NSAA) on climate change initiatives in the past.

The Federal Energy Innovation and Carbon Dividend Act has bipartisan support and was reintroduced to the 116th United States Congress on January 24. The act proposes a market-based approach to meeting emissions reduction targets by charging a fee for carbon usage, while providing citizens with a dividend.

The bill is currently in review by the Committee on Ways and Means, the Committee on Energy and Commerce and the Committee on Foreign Affairs. It has received statements of support from major environmental organizations, business and faith-based groups.

 After the bill has been debated and revised by committees it must pass votes in the U.S. House of Representatives and the U.S. Senate before being signed into law by the President.

At the state level, Oregon House Bill 2020 was reintroduced to the 80th Oregon Legislative Assembly Feb. 4. The bill proposes the state sets a limit, or cap, on greenhouse gas emissions beginning in 2021. The cap would be steadily reduced until carbon emissions are 80 percent below 1990 levels by 2050. The bill is currently being reviewed by the Joint Committee on Carbon Reduction. Oregon legislators have until the end of June to pass this bill into law this session.

“Though there is still work to be done to refine the Climate Action Program, I believe it could have a positive impact on our entire state, allowing us to invest in the kind of 21st century economy that moves Oregon forward,” Rep. Williams said about the current status of the bill.

A series of public hearings were held across the state in February to present HB 2020 and address concerns about increased cost for businesses and consumers due to higher fuel and energy costs.

“When asked how we felt about the potential increase to our operating costs as the result of the passage of these bills, we proudly responded that we are aware it costs more to do the right thing and we are willing to pay the price,” said Heidi Logosz, sustainability manager and executive administrator for Mt. Hood Meadows and Cooper Spur Mountain Resort. “We know that if we don’t pay now, we’ll definitely be paying later.”

More information about the progress of HB 2020 can be found online at https://olis.leg.state.or.us/liz/2019R1/Measures/Overview/HB2020. Information regarding the federal bill S. 3791/H.R. 763 can be found at https://www.congress.gov/bill/116th-congress/house-bill/763.

By Benjamin Simpson/MT

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