Editorial: Secrecy in Utah Around an Embarrassing State Coal-Export Scheme

first_imgEditorial: Secrecy in Utah Around an Embarrassing State Coal-Export Scheme FacebookTwitterLinkedInEmailPrint分享From the Salt Lake Tribune:When accommodating murky projects, it is standard operating procedure in the Utah Legislature to wait until the last days of the session to unveil a complicated bill intended to dodge the projects’ legal problems.Mission accomplished this week for Sen. Stuart Adams, whose Senate Bill 246 is aimed at giving $51 million in state money to a private developer for access to a California port to ship Utah coal to Asia.The Oakland coal port project, which faces steep opposition in the Bay Area and may never happen, had already drawn in four Utah counties with coal mines. The counties’ first shot stalled last year over legal troubles because their plan would send $53 million in Utah Permanent Community Impact Board money to the developer. That money comes from royalties on minerals, including coal, and is intended to build roads and other infrastructure to mitigate the impact of mineral development.In this case, that intent was turned on its head by using the funds to not mitigate but instead to encourage more impact here by spending the money in California. (Throughout the process, port proponents have been dodgy about its real purpose. They say the bulk-loading facility also could be used to export potash, salt, alfalfa or copper, but none of those Utah commodities are exported in anything close to the million-ton quantities the port would handle.)The Utah Attorney General’s Office has had almost a year to sign off on the deal, but it hasn’t. That is a pretty good sign that state lawyers see problems, although of course no one has said that publicly.Then, boom, here comes legislation, introduced nine days before the 2016 session ends. SB246 involves sending state transportation money to the Oakland project, and then still using the Impact Board money to pay back the state. Is that legal? Hard to say, but legislators are voting on it. Gov. Gary Herbert has been encouraging of the project, although his spokesman says he, too, is only now seeing the bill and can’t commit to Adams’ solution.So why all the secrecy? Some of this is just politics as usual, but could it also be that Utah is a little shy about its global-warming denial? Our coal mines are losing their domestic markets as the nation converts to cleaner fuels. That has political leaders, from the governor on down, looking across the Pacific. Even as lung-challenged China cuts back on coal, other Asian nations are building more coal-fired power plants, often with little regard to their carbon footprint. (And those nations also are mining more of their own massive coal reserves, which makes Utah coal less attractive.)Utah has a bright future as participant in the world economy, but it’s going to be tough to live off floating a $42-per-ton commodity to the other side of the globe, especially when that commodity is falling in value because it harms the planet and its inhabitants.Do we really want that to be our calling card to the world? No, which is why this is supposed to be a secret.Editorial: Late legislation furthers coal port’s cloudy processlast_img

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