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Rolly: Why Utah sometimes seems like Polluter Protection Inc.

First Published      Last Updated Jul 13 2017 10:12 pm

The polluter-protection crowd among Utah policymakers runs deep.

I wrote earlier this week about the Legislature tying the hands of Salt Lake City officials, who sought to enforce an anti-idling ordinance. State lawmakers won't allow issuing fines until after a third warning, a restriction that became more relevant recently when up to 40 buses left their diesel engines running for hours during a conference at the University of Utah.

The Legislature's protectionist attitude toward diesels might reflect the number of farmers and ranchers either in the House and Senate or with influence over lawmakers.

Here's another story that demonstrates the challenges that air-quality advocates face in a state where agriculture interests have such controls over policymaking:

The Weber County Air Quality Advisory Committee spent months advocating for a vigorous diesel emissions testing program, much like the existing ones in Davis and Salt Lake counties.

Committee members put together presentations showing how such emissions can affect the environment and public health. They took their case to the Weber-Morgan Board of Health, which the air quality committee advises.

So how did the 11-member health board, comprised largely of elected officials from both counties, react? It disbanded the committee.

The reason, the board stated, was that there was no immediate work for the committee to do.

The board includes heavy representation from agricultural interests — which rely on diesel-run equipment — and several members did not take kindly to the air quality panel's push.

Last year, after committee Chairman Iain Hueton presented a PowerPoint demonstrating the dangers of diesel emissions, then-board Chairman Logan Wilde, a Morgan County Council member at the time who since has been elected to the Utah House, called the efforts to curtail such emissions an act of terrorism.

Wilde is a sheep and cattle rancher in Morgan County.

His comment prompted Hueton's wife, Jennifer Claesgens, to write a letter in Ogden's Standard-Examiner calling out Wilde and defending her husband, an MIT-educated biotech instrumentation development engineer.

The newspaper also ran an editorial condemning the "terrorism" comment.

Weber County eventually adopted a diesel-emissions testing program, but not without some controversy.

Streamlining government? • To satisfy President Donald Trump's ego and feed the myth that Hillary Clinton beat him in the popular vote because of voter fraud, a commission the White House set up is harassing state elections offices.

For absolutely no reason.

The Presidential Advisory Commission on Election Integrity, led by Vice President Mike Pence and Kansas Secretary of State Kris Kobach, is demanding states turn over all the information they have on registered voters, including their names, addresses, voting history and more.

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