Protect Our Winters (POW) Hosts D.C. Lobby Trip

The passage of the Inflation Reduction Act (IRA) in August 2022 marked an important step in climate legislation. The success of the IRA, however, hinges on responsible development and deployment of clean energy, which will require radical changes to the electric grid.

Last month, Protect Our Winters (POW) held a Lobby trip in Washington, D.C. Fourteen of POW’s athlete, scientist, and creative Alliance members, and five of POW’s Brand Alliance members showed up on the Hill to meet with Biden Administration agency officials and members of Congress. The purpose of the trip was to explore how to support the implementation of IRA initiatives by promoting clean energy infrastructure and expanding clean energy transmission. 

“[POW is working at the federal level to try to] remove barriers put up by local communities to transmission lines. Local communities don’t want to see big power lines going through [their community], but we need those power lines to bring clean energy from big solar wind farms to metropolitan areas or population centers where that energy is needed,” explains Gus Schumacher, an American cross-country skier and POW Alliance member.

The POW team holds their banner in front of the “Mountains and Clouds” sculpture at the United States Capitol campus. [Photo] Iz La Motte

Over the course of two days, members of the POW group attended 36 different meetings overall, including with 14 Republicans and 22 Democrats. Different Alliance members were able to attend meetings that had personal relevance. For example, Schumacher had a chance to sit down with Rep. Mary Peltola and Senator Lisa Murkowksi, members of Congress from his home state of Alaska.

“I always feel like the meetings with Alaska representatives are cool,” Schumacher says. “It feels like they listen to me [as their own constituent]. This trip was the first time POW has met with Rep. Peltola. She’s really fighting for salmon and sustainable fishing, and I think she could be a really good partner for POW in the future.”

Another POW athlete and Alliance member present at the June Lobby trip was Amie Engerbretson, a professional big mountain skier. Since joining POW in 2016, Engerbretson has worked to translate her prowess in the mountains to the realm of climate advocacy.

“Going into the unknown with a lot of uncertainty and feeling very intimidated is a staple of my existence [as an athlete],” Engerbretson explains. “And I’ve learned that this is also a useful skill in climate advocacy. I used to always think that I didn’t belong in this conversation and didn’t belong in D.C. But what I learned along the way is that government and politics is for everyone.”

Not only has Engerbretson found that she can have a voice in politics, she’s also aware that being a renowned athlete can help open doors.

Amie Engerbretson embraces a new domain, the U.S. capitol. [Photo] Iz La Motte

“POW gets really good meetings because people want to meet the athletes,” she says. “And the conversations tend to be really cool and engaging. Being in these meetings is really all about making a connection and trying to build a relationship… I find that lawmakers are intrigued by the POW athletes, [our] experiences and [our] connection to their districts. We see a lot and have wild stories. This can be an exciting change-up for the lawmakers.”

Born and raised in Tahoe, California, Engerbretson has noticed how changes in climate affect not just recreational opportunities but the economic foundations of many mountain town communities, making policies that can support small communities in a clean energy transition all the more important.

“The erraticness of the extreme winters and extreme droughts [where I live in Tahoe] is really stark and it’s continuing to change,” Engerbretson explains. “Yeah, my sport is being affected… but seeing my community and the economy of my community, it just seems like they’re bouncing on a thin wire that can snap at any moment.”

Motivated by her observations of climate change in the mountains and in her community, Engerbretson has drawn on POW’s knowledge and resources to develop the skills needed to find her lever of power and take action. While POW has been lobbying at different levels of government, from municipal to federal, since 2013, there has recently been a shift to focusing more on driving systemic change.

“POW has become more and more focused over the years on really working at the systemic level [to initiate change],” Engerbretson says. “This involves working on legislation and realizing that policy is where real change and difference is made.”

Following the June 2023 Lobby trip, POW will continue to follow up with newly-established connections in D.C. as they work to advance policies that support the development and deployment of clean energy initiatives.

Anneka Williams is a backcountry skier, writer and scientist whose time spent in the mountains informs her perspective on the page and passion for the environment. Originally from Vermont’s Mad River Valley, Anneka is currently based in Salt Lake City.

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