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Winter sports enthusiasts lobby EPA to prop up its enforcement arm

A trio of professional snow shredders are charging the biggest hill in Washington, D.C., this week.

Their message: Congress is getting too radical on Capitol Hill.

Extreme skier Chris Davenport, Olympic snowboarding silver medalist Gretchen Bleiler and big-mountain ripper Jeremy Jones will be in the nation’s capital tonight with U.S. Sens. Mark Udall and Michael Bennet and U.S. Rep. Jared Polis to discuss their firsthand accounts of climate change. Then on Thursday, the athletes will deliver a letter to Congress asking lawmakers to chill out on their assault against the

Environmental Protection Agency and its ability to continue to regulate greenhouse gases.

“As a winter sports community, we’re starting to see the effects of climate change already. Keeping these regulations in place is one of the last, and most effective chances we have to protect our lifestyles, our jobs and the economic vitality of our mountain communities,” the snow riders’ letter states.

Unless curtailed, carbon dioxide pollution is likely to cause a steep decline in snow and trigger significant economic losses to the $66 billion-a-year snow sports industry, they will tell Congress.

The trip is the second in as many years for Jones, who founded Protect Our Winters — a nonprofit organization dedicated to reversing the global warming crisis by uniting the winter sports community. Auden Schendler, vice president of sustainability for the Aspen Skiing Company, and Antonia Herzog, a climate and clean air specialist for the Natural Resources Defense Council, will be along for the ride.

More and more, winter sports athletes are speaking out about climate change and how they need the planet to stay cold and snowy enough to protect their livelihoods. Jones is said to have even forsaken helicopters and chairlifts when he goes snowboarding to demonstrate his commitment to the planet.

Earlier this summer, the [U.S. Geological Survey released a study](http://www.doi.go /news/pressreleases/USGS-Study-Finds-Recent-Snowpack-Declines in-the-Rocky-Mountains-Unusual-Compared-to-Past Few-Centuries.cfm) that suggests snowpack declines in the Rocky Mountains over the last 30 years are unusual compared to the past few centuries. Warming is projected to worsen in the 21st Century, foreshadowing a battle royal over water supplies.

“With a few exceptions (the mid-14th and early 15th centuries), the snowpack reconstructions show that the northern Rocky Mountains experience large snowpacks when the southern Rockies experience meager ones, and vice versa. Since the 1980s, however, there were simultaneous declines along the entire length of the Rocky Mountains, and unusually severe declines in the north,” the USGS eported.

Although this year’s La Niña unleashed plenty of powder in the northern Rockies, and left the southern Rockies thirsty, the “gains are only a small blip on a century-long snowpack decline,” the USGS said.

Researchers estimate that between 30-60 percent of snowpack declines in the late 20th century are likely due to greenhouse gas emissions. The rest is attributed to “natural decadal variability in the ocean and atmosphere, which is making springtime temperatures that much warmer,” the USGS said.

When it comes to legislation designed to undermine the Environmental Protection Agency’s authority over pollutants, there are quite a few bills that Davenport, Bleiler and Jones aren’t too stoked about.

One of them is H.R. 910, which would amend the Clean Air Act to prohibit the Environmental Protection Agency “from promulgating any regulation concerning, taking action relating to, or taking into consideration the emission of a greenhouse gas to address climate change, and for other purposes.”

The House passed the bill in April with support from Colorado’s four Republican congressmen: Mike Coffman, Cory Gardner, Doug Lamborn and Scott Tipton. The state’s other Reps. Diana DeGette, Ed Perlmutter and Polis, all Democrats, voted against H.R. 910. The bill heads to the Senate floor this fall.

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