Forrest Shearer: Carbon threatens Utah’s economy

Professional snowboarder and POW Rider’s Alliance member, Forrest Shearer, recently wrote about the harmful impacts of a proposal to increase net-metering fees on Utah solar customers. The op-ed, found here, was originally published in the Salt Lake Tribune. Here’s what Forrest had to say:

Need a little more information on net-metering fees before diving in? Click here.

THE RECENT ROCKY Mountain Power proposal to increase net-metering fees on its solar customers is a drastic step in the wrong direction. People in Utah who are investing in solar are doing their part for air quality, the climate, and our recreation economy, but this recent proposal penalizes their efforts rather than rewards them.

As a professional snowboarder, I’ve traveled the world to ride in iconic mountain landscapes, and on every trip, I have witnessed the impacts of climate change. However, few things concern me as much as the changes I am seeing in my home state, right here in the Wasatch.

Here in Utah, we pride ourselves on our world-class outdoor recreation destinations and boast “The Greatest Snow on Earth.” Our state thrives from economic contributions from the outdoor recreation and snow sports industries. But, carbon pollution threatens this economy’s very existence.

Each year in Utah, outdoor recreation generates $12.3 billion in direct consumer spending, $3.9 million in wages and salaries, and $737 million in state and local tax revenue. In addition, outdoor recreation is responsible for employing 110,000 Utahns, which is more than twice as many jobs than in mining (32,000) and energy (18,000) combined.

This important sector of Utah’s economy is threatened by climate change. Consequences will include poor air quality; a decreasing, inconsistent snow pack; warmer rivers with little water; and warmer temperatures. If we continue to rely on fossil fuels for energy and continue to increase greenhouse gas emissions, we will be left with a state too hot to recreate in, with dry rivers and without any snow to ski on. We must actively address climate change now.

We can combat climate change by investing in a clean energy economy. We can quite literally harness energy from the sun, a renewable resource, to fuel our electricity needs in a manner that does not egregiously pollute our air or increase our carbon emissions.

Rocky Mountain Power’s proposal would make it extremely challenging for Utah families and businesses to reduce their emissions through personal investments in rooftop solar. Their proposal does away with net-metering, the billing mechanism that encourages individuals and businesses to generate their own solar energy and to receive a fair credit for the excess energy they produce. Utah should be growing its solar market, not killing it.

Rocky Mountain Power is taking away Utah’s choice when it comes to energy. This action will only lead to negative impacts on our recreation-based economy. We need clean power that supports our state’s important snow sports and outdoor industries. Even though Outdoor Retailer is leaving, Utah’s outdoor industry in thriving, and it’s here to stay.

I can tell you first-hand that the impacts of climate change are happening right now. From ski resorts to individual homeowners, countless Utahns are trying to take ambitious steps to reduce the state’s carbon footprint. Let’s work alongside these Utahns and oppose Rocky Mountain Power’s proposal in order to protect our state’s iconic outdoor recreation economy.

Forrest Shearer is a professional snowboarder who resides in Salt Lake City. His splitboard adventures around the globe have led him to be a leader in the backcountry community, and he is a member of the Protect Our Winters Riders Alliance.