Environmental Politics, Think
Environews: April 2013
Utah 2013 Legislative Roundup; Saving Utah for our kids; Sustainable Salt Lake; Tax dollars to privatize wildlife?; Highway in Farmington Bay? Save the eagles!; LCV Environmental Scorecard.
—by Amy Brunvand
Utah 2013 Legislative Roundup
Environmental laws passed in the 2013 General Session of the Utah legislature were good, mixed and downright bad. On the bright side, some seriously bad environmental bills failed. However, so did most of the legislation that would have helped control air pollution. Worse, the State of Utah is still committed to spending untold tax dollars trying to grab control of federal public lands which would be a catastrophe for outdoor recreation, wildlands conservation, and quality of life.
HB168 requires government agencies or school districts to develop and implement air quality mitigation plans.
SCR10 urges the federal government to fund health services for victims of radioactive mill tailings exposure (because apparently mining does have public health consequences).
HB96 & SB275 support natural gas vehicles (which are cleaner as far as air pollution, but raise serious questions about the side effects of “fracking” for natural gas).
SJR13 urges the State of Utah to keep on trying to transfer all federal public lands to the state of Utah (apparently with a particular agenda of avoiding federal environmental regulations on oil and gas extraction).
HB142 sets up a permanent committee to keep on spending tax dollars trying to grab control of federal public lands.
HB394 overturns a ban on outdoor wood boilers (as if our air pollution problems weren’t already bad enough).
Saving Utah for our Kids
The State of Utah argues that privatizing federal public lands would benefit schoolchildren, but as the Center for American Progress states, “If successful, these bills could be disastrous: Rather than being managed for the benefit and use of the American public, these lands will instead be managed in whatever way each state wants to use them—which generally means maximizing private profits through mining, drilling, and other resource extraction.”
That’s not especially good for kids, as Richard Louv points out in his influential book Last Child in the Woods which describes the human costs of separating kids from nature. “For Kids and Lands” is a group of educators, community leaders, parents, students and other citizens who care about Utah’s kids and Utah’s landscapes and who oppose the State of Utah land grab. You can sign their petition at their website.
Tax dollars to privatize wildlife?
Somewhere in the tight budget, the Utah Legislature found $300,000 for an organization called “Big Game Forever” to fight wolves in Utah. Never mind that there are no wolves in Utah, or that Don Peay, one of the founders of Big Game Forever has decried public lands hunting as “socialism,” and advocates giving private landowners special hunting rights; as it happens, Peay is also a major donor to the campaign of Senate Majority Leader Ralph Okerlund.
Alliance for a Better Utah points out that the same money could buy 3,750 science textbooks or 652,000 pencils for Utah’s schoolchildren.
Highway in Farmington Bay? Save the eagles!
Farmington Bay on the Great Salt Lake is famous for the hundreds of bald eagles that spend the winter there, and for more than 200 species of birds that pass through during migration and nesting seasons. So why is Utah Department of Transportation proposing to build a new highway there? Especially when a less destructive alternative is described in the West Davis Corridor planning documents?
LCV Environmental Scorecard
The League of Conservation Voters introduced their 2012 National Environmental Scorecard with these words: “From an environmental perspective, the best that can be said about the second session of the 112th Congress is that it is over. Indeed, the Republican leadership of the U.S. House of Representatives continued its war on the environment, public health, and clean energy throughout 2012, cementing its record as the most anti-environmental House in our nation’s history.” The score is derived from votes on key environmental legislation and the highest possible score is 100%.
Senate 2012 Lifetime
Orrin Hatch(R) 7% 10%
Mike Lee(R) 7% 16%
House 2012 Lifetime
Rob Bishop (R-1) 9% 4%
Jim Matheson (D-2) 17% 51%
Jason Chaffetz (R-3) 9% 5%
(Note that Utah now has four congressional districts. Chris Stewart (R-UT-2) has no voting record yet, and Jim Matheson is now D-UT-4).
Sustainable Salt Lake
Salt Lake City has a released new plan to increase the sustainability, livability and resilience of our community. The plan addresses air quality, energy, recycling, transportation, open space, urban forestry, arts, health & safety, housing, food and education. Among many ambitious sustainability goals:
• Reduce vehicle miles traveled in the city by 6.5%.
• Reduce greenhouse gas emissions from community by 10%.
• Transform all city facilities into “net zero” energy users.
• Increase on-road bikeways by 50%
• Preserve an additional 10% of Wasatch watershed lands.
• Develop 50 community gardens, an increase from nine in 2012.