When Protect Our Winters (POW) was planning its biggest annual visit to Washington, D.C. months ago, planners had no idea what would be on the docket while they'd be there. Last year, policymakers' attention was occupied by the Brett Kavanaugh hearings. But it just so happens that this time, the House is voting on one of the climate-forward group's top initiatives: the Arctic Cultural and Coastal Plain Protection Act. The bill prohibits the Bureau of Land Management from opening the treasured area in Alaska to oil and gas projects.
"We’ve been trying to make the outdoor community aware of the impacts to the Arctic, not only for protecting the cultural resources there, but also protecting our public lands from being exposed to oil and gas drilling," Sam Killgore, POW's communications manager, said. "Hopefully, the vote goes in our favor."
The Conservation Alliance, POW, and 59 businesses sent an open letter on Monday to the House of Representatives, urging all members to vote in favor of the bill. "As businesses, employers, and Americans, we understand that our public lands, especially our National Wildlife Refuges, are worth far more than the natural resources that may lie beneath them," they wrote.
Before the planned vote this Thursday, a small team of well-known athletes—Conrad Anker, Hilaree O'Neill, Caroline Gleich, Tommy Caldwell, Jeremy Jones, and Stephanie Violett—will lobby and testify about public lands and climate before different groups of elected officials. For example, Sen. Brian Schatz (D-HI) specifically invited POW to speak to a Democratic special committee on climate change, Killgore said.
Then on the day of the vote, 45 athletes and POW representatives will break into five groups based on their regions and meet with officials in their respective districts. POW is seeking support on the following six talking points:
1. The Arctic Cultural and Coastal Plain Protection Act. If it passes in the House, POW will seek support from senators in advance of a Senate vote.
2. Colorado Outdoor Recreation & Economy Act: While it's specific to Colorado, POW wants to highlight how this legislation can be a model for why public lands needs protecting from oil and gas exploration.
3. Methane Waste Prevention Act: The Trump Administration recently rolled back rules require the Secretary of the Interior to issue regulations to reduce and prevent gas waste and to enhance gas measuring and reporting. This bill would bring those rules back.
4. Tax Extensions: Since the fossil fuel industry gets subsidies, shouldn't renewable energy and electric vehicles get the same treatment? POW is seeking to level the playing field.
5. A future bill called the 100 Percent Clean Economy Act: The bill will try to move the U.S. toward 100 percent clean energy by 2050.
6. Climate Action Now Act: It passed in the House, but there's a pending Senate bill that will do the same thing. It requires the President to develop and update a plan for the U.S. to meet its contribution under the Paris Agreement, such as cutting greenhouse gas emissions by 26 to 28 percent below 2005 levels by 2025.
Follow POW's action on Capitol Hill here.