It would make more sense to put the money toward projects — roads, schools, fire stations — that those communities can keep long after the coal and oil are gone. Or, probably more likely, after those resources are left in the ground by a global economy that doesn't see the payout.
That was, after all, the original idea behind the fund. It was to help pay for community improvements that were harder to finance in areas where — as we are constantly reminded — the federal government owns so much tax-exempt land.
And, whatever use is made of the royalty money that passes through the accounts of Utah's Permanent Community Impact Fund, the whole process needs to be more transparent and better managed.
Into that void has, thankfully, stepped Utah State Treasurer David Damschen.
In the same way that you didn't know who Damschen is and what a state treasurer does, Damschen, a member of the board that is supposed to oversee the funds, is worried that neither he nor anyone else knows enough about the flow of millions of dollars in funds drawn from the royalties paid for drilling and mining on federal land.
A great deal of it seems to have gone to inventories, studies, reviews and legal fees, work that seems to have produced no tangible results and sums that an alliance of counties interested in the extractive economy wanted to keep private under the guise of client-attorney privilege. The Community Impact Board, though, knew better and released the information.
That board is perhaps a little too cozy with the alliance of seven counties that is pushing for the money to be used in suspect ways. Ways that depend on a pipe dream of connecting their remote resources to a global supply chain that, even if Utah volunteers millions, is likely to pass us by.
This is another example of Utah's many boards, commissions and special service districts, fed by public money but managed in the shadows and unnoticed by the public until something goes very wrong.
Damschen must keep asking the pointed questions. And the fund needs to start looking to a future fed by sustainable businesses, from tourism to renewable energy.