Lawmakers overhaul environmental boards
The most contentious environmental bill approved by the Legislature this year would overhaul the state's five environmental boards.
SB21, sponsored by Sen. Margaret Dayton, R-Orem, was the brainchild of industry groups such as the Utah Manufacturers Association and the Utah Mining Association.
Besides specifying board member qualifications and trimming the panels to nine members apiece, the bill would shift some duties the boards oversee air quality, radiation control, water quality, drinking water and solid and hazardous waste to the Department of Environmental Quality's executive director.
Environmental and good-government groups worry the measure would create new conflicts of interest by putting the DEQ director in charge of creating permits, adjudicating them and breaking ties in board votes.
HB174, which would have earmarked 15 percent of future sales tax growth for water projects, failed to make it out of the House.
The bill, sponsored by Rep. Patrick Painter, R-Nephi, drew the ire of conservationists who say Washington County the clearest beneficiary should conserve water better before asking statewide help building a $1.2 billion Lake Powell pipeline. The pipeline plan called for water users in Utah's Dixie to pay back the state through impact fees, which could top $20,000 for each new home by 2040.
"That might be our signature win on environmental issues this session," activist Steve Erickson said. But Painter has said his bill was "starting the conversation."