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Rolly: Utah GOP lawmaker faces hot political climate
This is an archived article that was published on sltrib.com in 2013, and information in the article may be outdated. It is provided only for personal research purposes and may not be reprinted.

Expect third-term conservative Rep. Kraig Powell to get stiff opposition in the 2014 GOP convention when he runs for re-election.

It likely will come from someone wearing a pointy Paul Revere hat carrying a musket who frequently says, "Give me liberty or give me death."

That's because Powell, of Heber City, has introduced legislation tantamount in the Utah Republican tea party culture to declaring that "God is dead."

As The Salt Lake Tribune reported Thursday, Powell has a bill this session that would have the Utah Legislature officially recognize the existence of man-made climate change.

Blasphemy!

That would be like saying gays should have the right to marry, public schoolteachers are nice people, federal agents have rights, too, or President Barack Obama is an American.

Powell's HB77 encourages the Utah Division of Forestry, Fire and State Lands to develop and implement a long-range fire pre-suppression strategy in response to the impacts climate change is having on wildfire in the state.

Those supporting his bill, and the idea that man-made climate change is a factor in the increasing risks of wildfires, note that from 1997 to 2009, there were 21.8 large wildfires per year in Utah, seven more per year than the previous 13 years.

During 1997-2009, fires burned 167,400 acres per year, compared to 94,500 acres burned per year from 1984-86.

Powell told me that state bureaucrats have told him they are not allowed to consider human activity in relation to climate changes without legislative direction. He says his bill gives state policymakers the tools to include human activity in the assessing climate change and finding solutions.

A possible ally? • Perhaps when it comes to admitting man-made causes of global warming, the hardest nut to crack (pun intended) in the House of Representatives is Rep. Mike Noel, R-Kanab.

Noel, one of the Legislature's most vocal critics of federal environmental programs, has claimed that global warming is a conspiracy to limit world population and that scientists have manipulated the data on climate change to confuse the public.

He has been consistent in his diatribes against climate change alarmists, except for once.

When the state Water Development Commission advanced legislation last September 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 to pay for it, Noel was all for it.

Responding to critics' claims that the extra water isn't needed because that area's population growth is slowing, Noel countered that Utah's natural allocation from the Colorado River may decline because of (drum roll, please) "climate change."

Maybe Rep. Powell should bring a tank of water to the House as a prop when he presents his climate change bill to win over his esteemed colleague from Kane County.

Rumble in the jungle • The big story Thursday that developer Dell Loy Hansen bought out Real Salt Lake's majority owner Dave Checketts to become the sole owner of the soccer team and its parent company, SCP Worldwide, was a little confusing.

I would have guessed Hansen was more suited to owning a hockey team than a soccer team.

The last headline-grabbing event involving the burly real estate mogul from Cache Valley was when he and then-Salt Lake City Mayor Rocky Anderson nearly got into a fist fight at city hall in 2007.

After a tense redevelopment meeting, where Anderson asked the board to revoke $1 million in parking garage money because he claimed Hansen had not dealt with the city in good faith, they were both in the hall.

"You got the guts to come talk to me?" Hansen bellowed. He then stormed toward the mayor and bumped him.

"Don't touch me," Anderson retorted. "I'll kick your (rhymes with bass).

Perhaps Hansen gets the last laugh. The stadium where his soccer team plays is in Sandy. Anderson tried desperately to get it in Salt Lake City but was thwarted by legislative intervention.

prolly@sltrib.com

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