Rolly: Rep. Mike Noel picks, chooses when to accept federal money
Published: March 4, 2013 10:02AM
Updated: May 31, 2013 11:31PM
image
Paul Rolly

In another of his what’s-good-for-the-goose-is-not-good-for-the-gander moments, State Rep. Mike Noel used his steadfast opposition to federal grants in a recent legislative committee meeting to nearly shut down the Department of Environmental Quality.

But when it comes to accepting federal money to fund projects for his employer, the Kane County Water Conservancy District, he’s all in.

The near-disaster wrought by Noel and other conservative members of the Natural Resources, Agriculture and Environmental Quality Appropriations Committee was helped along by Democrats — Sen. Jim Dabakis and Reps. Susan Duckworth and Larry Wiley — who decided to hold the anti-fed drumbeaters to their rhetoric and make them put their money where there mouths are.

The committee was adopting its final budget recommendations to the Executive Appropriations Committee, including $71 million in federal grants for various state programs.

Noel and Sen. Margaret Dayton, R-Orem, griped about the federal spending that adds to the deficit, then voted “no” on accepting the federal money. Sens. Ralph Okerlund and John Valentine, and Reps. Brian Greene and Mike McKell also voted no. But when the Democrats joined the opponents, the motion to accept the federal funds failed.

That brought apoplexy to the committee members. It’s one thing to carp about federal funding. It’s another thing to actually reject it.

Republican Sen. Kevin Van Tassell admonished the committee: “We just shut down the [Department of Environmental Quality], we have probably shut down most of our conservation programs, most of our firefighters.”

After that, some members changed their vote so the motion eventually passed, but not the true believers, including Noel, who kept to their “no” votes despite the consequences.

That would be the same Noel who repeatedly lobbied the Utah Drinking Water Board for federal pass-through funds from the Environmental Protection Agency to fund Kane County Water Conservancy District projects. He has successfully attracted about $14 million for the district over the years. He also has lobbied for and received about $25 million in grants and low-interest loans from the U.S. Agriculture Department for water projects.

Then, of course, there is the more than $200,000 in federal farm subsidies he and his wife applied for and received over the past 10 years for their private ranch in Kane County.

Saving Red Riding Hood • That same Natural Resources, Agriculture and Environmental Quality Committee that almost killed DEQ for fear of taking federal grant money was happy to include in its budget $300,000 for a one-issue lobbying effort in Washington, D.C.

And what would that lobbying be for, you might ask?

Keeping wolves from Utah’s door.

The committee voted to appropriate the $300,000 to the Division of Wildlife Resources to contract with a non-profit group, Big Game Forever, founded by longtime hunting and fishing lobbyist and legislative insider Don Peay. Peay will lobby the feds to keep the gray wolf out of Utah.

You know, all those wolves we have here.

Next year’s target?

Klingons!

prolly@sltrib.com