Rolly: Noel criticizes, and benefits from, the feds
Rep. Mike Noel, R-Kanab, has been beating the drum against the federal government for years and spent weeks condemning The Salt Lake Tribune for a story about him seeking federal money for his Kane County Water Conservancy District projects.
He says those funds are oil and gas lease payments to which the state claims a share, so spending it on those projects is legitimate and he is not taking federal money.
But Noel has benefitted personally from federal programs, although he points out he has never been a critic of the farm programs that stabilize food prices and help keep farmers and ranchers in business. It's the BLM and Forest Service land encroachments he dislikes.
Noel has received $210,000 in federal farm subsidies since 2001, according to U.S. Department of Agriculture records $121,000 has been distributed in his name and $89,000 in the name of his wife Sherry. She is co-owner and partner in their Kane County ranch.
Noel says they are crop insurance payments, and he has paid premiums for the past 35 years.
But Craig Cox of the Environmental Working Group, which operates a website containing USDA information, says the lion's share of the subsidies the Noels received came from the Noninsured Crop Disaster Assistance Program, which involves no insurance policy or premium, but is a direct subsidy to operations that sustain a loss of more than 50 percent a year.
While there is no premium, participants in the program pay an administrative fee of $1,875 per year. The rest of the money the Noels received since 2001 also are direct subsidies, said Cox. They fall outside the crop insurance program, which also is subsidized by the USDA. It pays 62 percent of the premiums and another $1.3 billion in service fees to the insurance companies that administer the policies.
Noel says that what he receives doesn't always cover his losses. One drought year he paid $30,000 out of pocket since he had no feed for his cattle.
He also points to soil conservation work he has done on state and private lands in Kane County that earned him Soil Conservation Service Rancher of the Year in 1997.
So he has done good work. And without the federal programs, it might not have been possible.
Noel's epiphany • Besides being the Legislature's leading opponent of BLM and Forest Service programs, Noel also has been the most vocal climate-change denier.
Noel has claimed that global warming is a conspiracy to limit world population. He sponsored a resolution in 2010 asking the governor to pull out of the Western Climate Initiative, a multistate collaboration designed to reduce greenhouse gases. He claimed that scientists have manipulated the data on climate change to confuse the public.
But Tuesday, when the State Water Development Commission advanced legislation to fund a $1 billion-plus pipeline to take Lake Powell water to Washington County, using a 15-percent earmark on future sales tax revenue growth for water development to pay for it, Noel sang a different tune.
He is an advocate of that plan and, despite studies that indicate Washington County population growth is slowing, he said Utah's allocation from the Colorado River might be reduced at some point in the future because of climate change.
Noel conceded to me Thursday that there is something going on with climate change, but he still thinks carbon dioxide is only a small part of the reason.