Legislative Wrapup

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Environmental Politics

Legislative Wrapup

Yet another legislative session has passed, and as always, there is the good, the bad, and the ugly that emerged. HEAL Utah was up on the Hill every day, working with our allies to support the good ones and defeat the bad ones. Here are some of the environmental bills that got considered.

THE GOOD:

HCR 007—Concurrent Resolution on Environmental and Economic Stewardship (a.k.a. The Climate Change Resolution)

Yep, folks, this actually happened! The Utah Legislature PASSED a resolution recognizing climate change and the human contribution to it.

While it was informally known as the ‘climate resolution written in Utahn,’ which alludes to the fact that it is very carefully crafted and focuses primarily on the economic impacts of a changing climate, it is a big step toward meaningful action on climate in Utah.

As an example of how to discuss climate policy in conservative states, this resolution sets a precedent for other places across the country to spark this conversation.

HB101—Air Quality Emissions Testing Amendments (a.k.a. The Diesel Emissions Testing Bill)

See page 14 for details on this and all the other positive air quality bills and appropriations that passed this year!

HB261—Renewable Energy Amendments

This bill will help increase the development of renewable energy projects throughout the state by allowing Rocky Mountain Power to take advantage of the federal investment tax credit (ITC), which they were previously not eligible for.

The ITC provides a 30% tax credit for renewable energy projects. While smaller companies were concerned that this would make it more difficult for them to compete for renewable energy development contracts, the details got worked out so that all parties are satisfied with the outcome. Hopefully we will see more commercial solar arrays soon!

THE BAD:

HB373—Waste Management Amendments

What seems so bad about allowing solid waste facilities to self-inspect, after only five hours of formal training? A lot! This sounds like the fox guarding the hen house, especially when this bill also offers a reduction in inspection fees if facilities take this route.

One positive is that a fund is created for the Department of Environmental Quality to upgrade their permitting and compliance technology. However, we doubt it will help facilities be more responsible for determining how well they are complying with state and federal regulations.

HB234—Utah Inland Port Authority

Salt Lake City’s Northwest Quadrant is currently the middle of a pretty ugly fight between the state and the city for jurisdiction over development of the land. The plans to develop an Inland Port may be great for Utah’s economy, but potentially detrimental for air quality and the Great Salt Lake ecosystem.

While we believe there is a real opportunity here to demonstrate and set a precedent for smart, sustainable development for Utah and the West, the way this bill currently stands does not leave much room for that.  Read more on this bill on page 8.

THE UGLY:

HB169—Commercial Waste Fee

Amendments

Remember that time when EnergySolutions asked for a $1.7 million reduction in inspection fees, and they got it? Yep, that happened this session. To make it worse, that fee reduction is instead going to be covered by the general tax fund, meaning that every taxpayer shoulders some of the operational costs of Utah’s low-level nuclear waste facility (one of only three in the country).

EnergySolutions stores Class A hazardous waste, and they are trying to get a permit for depleted uranium, which is a radioactive waste that becomes even more radioactive over time.

Suffice it to say, we were not thrilled that this bill passed and are asking for the Governor’s veto.

Appropriation: California Coal Lawsuit

This $1.65 million line-item appropriation was advocated for by outgoing Rep. Mike Noel (R-Kanab), who wants to help fund a lawsuit against California’s cap and trade program. The lawsuit stems from the defeat of the Oakland Coal Terminal, which Utah was largely in support of because of the coal resources the state wants to continue extracting.

However, the coal economy is largely declining because of market forces that support cheap renewable energy pricing, not because there is an inability to get it to China. It goes without saying that this is a waste of taxpayer funds; we hope the Governor agrees as well.

That’s a wrap! Lots to be excited about, but lots to continue fighting (both for and against).  Remember that these issues don’t stop with the legislative session—your voice continues to matter and to be a critical aspect of all that we do.

Visit HealUtah.org for info on how you can make your voice heard on issues you care about.

 
 
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