Environmental Politics, Think
Environews: More controversy over Inland Port
Another conflict of interest has developed over plans to build a massive ”inland port” in Salt Lake City’s Northwest Quadrant.
Envision Utah, which refers to itself as a neutral facilitator, was asked to conduct a community engagement process for the development even though they had also bid $475,000 to conduct a business plan for the port.
The massive industrial development threatens to harm Great Salt Lake wetlands and increase pollution in westside neighborhoods. Connections between members of Envision Utah’s Board and Northwest Quadrant property owners seem questionable.
The State and Institutional Trust Lands Administration (SITLA) owns property proposed for a BNSF railroad facility, while BNSF railroad is owned by the parent company of Rocky Mountain Power. Both SITLA and Rocky Mountain Power provide funding for Envision Utah and SITLA’s .director is on Envision Utah’s board.
“There is a perception of conflict here that must be addressed,” says Richard Holman, co-chair of the Westside Coalition.
Nonetheless, Envision Utah has launched a public survey that presents the Inland Port as a “landmark opportunity” and a done deal.
Heather Dove, President of Great Salt Lake Audubon, points out, “If Envision Utah was operating as a truly unbiased agent, its planning process would include a no-build option which is the gold standard of objective process planning.”
The Inland Port has been plagued by conflicts of interest from the start. Former House Speaker Greg Hughes, who rushed the bill to create a Port Authority through the Utah Legislature, appointed himself to the Inland Port Authority Board. He was forced to resign because he owned property affected by the development.