Environews: Utah Legislature, 2016 Environmental Round Up

By Amy Brunvand

Environmental news from around the state and the West.
by Amy Brunvand

Utah Legislature, 2016 Environmental Round Up

The 2016 General Session of the Utah Legislature ended on March 10. A few good bills passed, but, mostly, environmental causes suffered. HEAL Utah notes that the three worst environmental bills were all introduced by the same legislator: Senator Stuart Adams (R-Layton) whom they have dubbed “The Lucifer of Layton.”

Water conservation: SB80 devoted funds to two extremely expensive and environmentally catastrophic water projects: the Lake Powell Pipeline and Bear River Development. Utah Rivers Council encourages the Governor to veto; SB251 and HB305 both responded to SB80 by requiring counties to have a plan for repaying the money and to do better analysis of water data. SB28 rewards water conservation with lower water rates.

Energy: Legislators took $53 million from the Utah Permanent Community Impact Fund to help finance a coal port in Oakland, California (despite strong local opposition from environmentalists in California); SB115 lets Rocky Mountain Power shift costs to consumers, effectively making rooftop solar less cost-effective, although this is partially mitigated by HB244 which supports net metering for rooftop solar.

Clean Air: A few small steps towards clean air: HB237 allows tax refund contributions to the Clean Air Fund; HB250 requires cleaner water heaters; SB49 reins in industrial pollution, and HB237 & HB130 encourage natural gas and electric vehicles.

Public Lands: $4.5 Million was set aside for a lawsuit for Utah takeover of federal public lands; $250K was earmarked for the Rural Utah Alliance, an organization run by the lawyer defending San Juan County Commissioner Phil Lyman. Lyman was found guilty of misdemeanor conspiracy for leading an illegal ATV ride in a closed area.

Great Salt Lake dustbowl?

A new report by researchers at Utah State University says that proposed development of the Bear River could turn the Great Salt Lake into an environmental catastrophe like the Aral Sea or Owens Lake

Alternative to Lake Powell Pipeline

Washington County needs water, but not as much as Lake Powell Pipeline advocates claim

Growing citizen opposition to Public Lands Initiative

On March 2, the Utah Wilderness Coalition staged a people’s hearing on Congressman Rob Bishop’s (R-UT-1) Public Lands Initiative (PLI), giving a voice to people who were excluded from the official process since PLI hearings were never held on the Wasatch Front where more than 90% of Utah’s population lives

Collaboration is the answer to public lands issues

In March, the Wallace Stegner Center released a fourth report analyzing the transfer of public lands idea, which has this to say: “Respectful dialogue, collaborative relationships, adequate agency funding, and locally supported land exchanges can address many of the problems responsible for frustration over public land management, especially if coupled with programs to help rural communities transition to a more sustainable future

This article was originally published on April 1, 2016.