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Westerners: No need to choose between environment, economy

Published February 23, 2011 3:19 pm

This is an archived article that was published on sltrib.com in 2011, and information in the article may be outdated. It is provided only for personal research purposes and may not be reprinted.

A new poll shows Western-state voters believe that a healthy environment can co-exist with a healthy economy.

"While there are differences of opinion on a range of issues," said Walt Hecox, director of the State of the Rockies Project at Colorado College, "there are true common values shared between each state, including a commitment to protect the important natural resources that make this region so unique."

The poll of 2,200 voters in Utah, Colorado, New Mexico, Wyoming and Montana was conducted Jan. 23-27. Public opinion surveyors from a firm associated with the GOP and a firm associated with Democrats jointly conducted the poll, which has a margin of error of plus or minus 2 percentage points.

Among the key findings among the 400 Utah voters interviewed:

• 70 percent believe that clean water, air, natural areas and wildlife are fragile aspects of life in their state that could change if not perfected.

• 76 percent said a clean environment is compatible with a strong economy without having to choose between one or the other.

• 53 percent said they would be willing to pay $10 more per month to increase the share of energy coming from renewable energy.

The Utah results closely paralleled overall findings from the five states.

They also echo many past polls on the energy-environment question, said Sarah Wright, executive director of Utah Clean Energy.

"We really can have it all," she said, who called it "encouraging" that there is so much support for developing renewable resources.

Another interesting finding: Air quality is a top environmental concern, especially among the Utahns surveyed. More than half (52 percent) of the Utah residents polled volunteered air quality as the most important environmental issue.

Terry Marasco of the Utah Clean Air Alliance said he was not surprised at the poll's findings about how strongly Utahns feel but wondered how well leaders grasp their constituents' concerns.

"There's an extraordinary disconnect," he said, "between the leadership and the public."

Environmental adviser Ted Wilson pointed out that Gov. Gary Herbert will touch on some of these themes when he releases his 10-year energy plan next week. The governor will protect fossil fuels and the jobs they provide during the shift to more renewable energy, he said.

"Transitional elements are in there," Wilson said, nodding to the public support for renewables.

The poll did not pose any questions about nuclear energy. But respondents said they wanted an energy portfolio that was based about two-thirds on renewable sources. —

To see details from the poll:

O Check the Colorado College web page: http://bit.ly/i80Kot