Environews: Citizen opposition growing against Inland Port

By Amy Brunvand

Citizen opposition is growing against building a massive, industrialized inland port in the Northwest Quadrant of Salt Lake City near the airport and new prison site.

Early on, there were hopes of developing a state-of-the-art net-zero-energy project. Now it has become obvious that inland port development would not only make air quality and traffic congestion on the Wasatch Front much worse, it would also serve to prop up increasingly damaging fossil fuel infrastructure.

In June, citizen protesters disrupted a meeting of the Inland Port Board holding a banner covered with bloody hand prints and the words “You’re Killing Us.” Ethan Petersen, a protester with the group Civil Riot, was arrested. An online video clip shows Jeff Hartley, an oil and gas industry lobbyist, trying to block Deseret News reporter Katie McKellar from covering the arrest while he shouts “Why do you give these guys press? All you do is encourage it.” (McKellar reports on local government for the Deseret News and received a 2018 award from the Utah Society of Professional Journalists for Best Newspaper Reporter.)

Salt Lake City Mayor Jackie Biskupski has filed a lawsuit against the port, but she is not running for a second term. Charlie Luke, chair of the Salt Lake City Council, has refused to support the mayor’s lawsuit. Instead, Luke has taken a position that it is impossible to stop development and so engaging with the process of port development is the only way to have an influence. But since it was formed, the Inland Port Board has demonstrated a lack of transparency and failed to address public concerns.

It seems increasingly doubtful that cooperation with a deeply flawed, bad faith process has any chance to significantly improve the outcome. The issue of stopping industrialized inland port development is emerging as a major issue for the 2020 election of a new Salt Lake City mayor.

This article was originally published on July 2, 2019.