Conservation Corps gets started at Catamount
The Catamount Institute, which has quietly been running environmental programs out of the Beidleman Center since 2004, has decided to take a more prominent
stance in the community.
The clearest sign of this change was the recent hiring of Richard Skorman as director of the newly created Pikes Peak Conservation Corps. Skorman, a local business owner has in recent years served as a City Council member and assistant to Democrat U.S. Senator Ken Salazar. In conjunction with these developments is Catamount's announcement of a “1 Million Bulb” campaign, in which corps volunteers plan to get 10 compact fluorescent lamp (CFL) light bulbs into each of 100,000 homes or businesses, for free.
“Our mission is to inspire environmental stewardship,” Catamount Executive Director Eric Cefus said in a recent interview. “We've been focusing on education, but we know we need to get out to the community.”
The volunteer corps will be the vehicle for that goal. The way Cefus described it, the entity will start with a group of people who are trained in energy conservation. They will be going out to businesses and homes with the free CFLs - which reputedly use less energy and last longer than incandescents - and other knowledge that can save as much as 20 percent on people's utility bills, he said.
After corps people have rendered such services, they will ask the benificiaries, “if you think we did a good job, why not join the Conservation Corps?” Cefus explained. The requested amount is $50, but less is accepted. And there are always openings for more volunteers, he said.
He agreed that CFLs may not be the long-term answer - for instance, there are issues with the mercury inside - but “it's about more than just a bulb,” he said. “It's about a conscious decision to reduce energy consumption this year. We're getting people aware that they need to conserve natural resources.”
Children are also welcome in the corps. “Kids are aware,” he noted. “They'll ask, 'Dad, why did you leave the light on?'”
No new grant or donation came in to allow Catamount to hire Skorman and get the corps going. Cefus said. “We had some money, so we decided to invest in this process,” he said. The non-profit organization's belief is that through the corps' efforts “we will be self-sustaining in the near future.”
Cefus sees Skorman's hiring or the Conservation Corps formation as an apolitical act. “Richard doesn't want to run for mayor,” Cefus said. “He wants to make a positive change in the community. And we know energy costs will be rising.”
At the same time, he added, if energy usage can be reduced, that puts off the date when Springs Utilities might need to build a new power plant. Until recently, the next plant (foreseen in 2016) had been planned as coal-fired. But an interview this month with Steve Knopp, Utilities' renewable energy manager, indicated that coal is not a foregone conclusion for the plant.
Cefus likes such ideas. Even though ways are being found to burn coal more cleanly, “we need to investigate other opportunities on the table, renewables such as wind, solar and hydro,” he said.
Utilities is also facing some pressure in that regard, with a state law requiring 1 percent renewables now, 3 percent in 2011, 6 percent in 2015 and 10 percent in 2020.
“Putting it [a new coal plant] off allows new technology to become available,” Cefus said. “The longer we can wait, the better.”
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