FEATURED VOLUNTEER: Jane Ard-Smith, Political Committee Chair
By Mary Coday Edwards
only does Jane serve the Chapter in the above-noted role, but for the
last six years she’s also been Chair for the Pike’s Peak Group (PPG) in
Colorado Springs. Given Jane’s penchant for political activism, serving
as Political Committee Chair was a natural step in her ongoing
commitment not only to the Rocky Mountain Chapter but to Colorado’s
THE POLITICAL COMMITTEE: WHAT’S IT ALL ABOUT?
Jane Ard-Smith, underneath the Hoover Dam.
a nutshell, the Committee looks for political candidates who support
the Club’s goals, “for candidates who will help us [RMC] over the long
term as well as the short term. We make endorsements in races where our
endorsements can make a difference. We don’t endorse in every single
race but we do in as many races as we think we can help,” Jane said. To
represent a broad perspective in the Club, “we look at issues statewide
and national – not just local - and we try to represent a geographic
diversity,” Jane added.
Working with Groups
Committee helps groups implement the endorsements by “getting their
members involved in helping elect the candidates we support and then in
following through on this endorsement.” To get this assistance, “just
send an e-mail to me,” Jane said. “I’m happy
to talk with anybody about what they might do . . . at the group level,
the chapter level or any other level.”
in the metro/Denver area where the Chapter doesn’t have an active group
“we are trying to energize members, to get them involved politically
and support candidates who are favorable to the environment during this
Action Item: Member Input
Committee needs member assistance in another area, Jane added. “We’re
in the process of revamping our survey for state candidates for
Colorado’s House and Senate races. We think we have a pretty good idea
of what issues are important to the Sierra Club, but if folks have
something specific they want to know, or issues they want candidates to
address, send me an e-mail. Make a suggestion for a topic and we’ll see
if we can cover it.”
ACTIVISM HIGHLIGHTS . . .
Saying “No” to a New Coal Plant
politics, Jane focuses her attention within the Club on energy and
urban issues. An activism highlight was working as part of a coalition
that stopped the Colorado Springs Utilities from building a new coal
plant in 2004.
were somewhat successful in that venture, as plans for the coal plant
got shelved due to a combination of factors, such as pressure from us
but also because our [Colorado Springs’] energy demands weren’t as great
as they were forecasted to be. So, we dodged that bullet and didn’t get
a new coal plant,” she said.
that endeavor emerged an ad hoc group which includes the Sierra Club
and other individuals and organizations interested in energy issues.
started thinking how we might move our utilities toward more renewable
energy. Springs Utilities has not been a leader in renewable energy or
embracing renewable energy technology.” When the coalition began having
renewable energy conversations with Spring Utilities eight or nine years
ago, it was essentially told by Springs that “we will never invest in
here we are eight to 10 years later and Spring Utilities is not only
meeting 10 percent of its energy demands from renewable energy but is
also setting a goal for itself of achieving 20 percent renewable energy
by 2020. We’re a little behind the investor-owned utilities - like Xcel
Energy that have a goal of 30 percent renewable energy which it is
meeting - but we’re definitely moving in the right direction and
starting to diversify the types of energy we’re investing in,” Jane
example, Springs Utilities is on the verge of putting its toe in the
water of wind energy and we have the state’s first solar garden up and
running in our community. I think it’s just taken a lot of different
folks approaching it from different angles to move the community to a
more sustainable energy future.”
Shaping a Regional Sustainable Energy Plan
second is related. The PPG, along with its coalition members, has
joined with Fort Carson to develop a regional sustainable energy plan.
“We’ve partnered with Fort Carson because Fort Carson has a goal of
achieving net zero energy, water and waste by the 2020. It’s very
ambitious. Fort Carson has been a leader down here in terms of
sustainability. It had originally set a goal of being 100 percent
renewable energy by the year 2027 but they just upped that to net zero
energy by 2020 as part of the Department of Defense (DoD) push. Fort
Carson was one of the installations selected to figure out a way to meet
those goals with the idea being that the rest of the DoD would follow
plan is to examine what the barriers are to getting sustainable energy
in our region - from both a political standpoint and from a technical
standpoint, to evaluate the different types of energy for their
sustainability over the long term and then recommend solutions to those
barriers and how we might move forward as a region.
have at least five electricity providers in our region . . . . It’s a
hodgepodge of different utilities, and bringing them together to create a
common vision as to how we move forward as a region is where we’re
. . . AND THE LOW POINTS
most frustrating issues are the same as my most favorite - working on
energy issues. It’s a long-term commitment and I sometimes get
frustrated with the seemingly slow pace of our progress.
seems like you move two steps forward, one step back. We’re constantly
battling the same issue down here, just like everywhere else: Costs, and
how we look at costs. . . . We’re really focused on looking at
life-cycle costs as opposed to what’s on your next utility bill,” Jane
addition, the region hasn’t escaped the fervor over hydraulic
fracturing (fracking), and the region finds itself “in this ‘jobs vs.
the environment’ rhetoric that serves no purpose. We’re trying to fight
the image that we’re all about defeating jobs. That’s always a
frustrating battle and a battle we’ve seen for decades,” she added.
Hierarchical Snail’s Pace
while working within the confines of a national organization means one
has the clout of a national organization, it also comes with “the hoops
that you have to jump through, trying to work at various levels –
whether it be from National with the Political Committee or at the state
level working on oil and gas development.”
example, “El Paso County [in PPG’s region] has already adopted some
lukewarm regulations for oil and gas development; our city is
considering whether or not to adopt any regulations on its development,
but at our Chapter level we’re still talking about a plan and what we
might do. . . . But by the time that ‘plan’ gets developed, whatever’s
going to happen in El Paso County will have already happened.”
having said that, “we’re also lucky, in that down here we’ve got some
of the folks who are involved in those state-wide and national
conversations over these issues. Other groups don’t have the benefit of
that,” Jane added.
PONDERING THE FUTURE
Developing RMC Policy on Oil and Gas Issues
would approach it similarly to what the Chapter is doing now. The
challenge for the Club is that it’s primarily run by volunteers – some
of the best in the world – but it means that we have limited time to
devote to issues,” Jane said, whose job as a legal editor with
Nexis/Lexis provides her some flexibility.
of the things we’ve [PPG] done when we’re working on issues that are
bigger than we can take on is look for coalitions - reaching out to the
other organizations and entities that are also working on these issues.
We try to come up with a campaign or a strategy or a goal that is
complementary to these groups – not independent.”
addition, “down here [Pike’s Peak region] we often play ‘bad cop’
because the Sierra Club has two things that other organizations and
environmental groups we work with don’t have: we have the ability to
endorse candidates so we can ask tough questions of those running for
office; and we have the ability to bring lawsuits against entities.
when we coordinate on a particular issue with other groups, we look to
see how the Club – with its strengths – can play a role. I think we
haven’t done that as effectively at the Chapter level – from my
perspective down here.”
Jane believes there may be times when the Chapter needs to be the “bad
cop” in state-wide conversations and “fracking [hydraulic fracturing]
may be one of those issues where we’re going to be out front of the
Guru to the Next Generation
Jane’s already thinking about who will follow in the footsteps of today’s activists.
this next election cycle is over, a [PPG] goal for 2013 is put together
a plan for reaching out and bringing folks in,” Jane said.
long-term goal is to find and develop the next generation of
environmental leaders in our community. We try to do so on an individual
basis, but locally and at the Chapter level we need to develop a plan
for cultivating volunteers and leaders.”
is an exemplary leader in today’s environmental world, in that she
doesn’t wait for someone else to take the lead but works to elect
officials who believe in the same future; she builds coalitions with
others with similar passions; and she’s taking the necessary steps to
prepare for the future. For how you can be involved, contact Jane.
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