Commentary: History tells us that the inland port must be stopped

This Pat Bagley cartoon appears in The Salt Lake Tribune on Friday, July 20, 2018.

I recently read “The Truths We Hold: An American Journey” by Kamala Harris in an effort to get acquainted with our various 2020 presidential candidates through reading their books.

Harris spoke about her efforts to clean up the air in the highly polluted California town of Mira Loma. As California attorney general, she listened to various citizens who brought difficult health circumstances to her and then decided to join a lawsuit challenging Riverside County’s approval of an industrial project. The proposed project, named the Mira Loma Commerce Center, consisted of a million square feet of warehouses and industrial buildings, resulting in approximately increased 1,500 additional daily diesel trucks trips.

“The proposed Mira Loma complex carries significant health risks to a community that is already suffering the impacts of what is among the worst particulate pollution levels in the nation,” Harris said. “All California residents could be put at risk if developments like this are pushed through by officials without appropriate, and legally-mandated, consideration of the environmental effects on health and welfare.”

Harris’s statement includes many stark comparisons with our proposed inland port in Salt Lake City. Much like Mira Loma already having the worst pollution in California, our Salt Lake County already has the worst pollution in the entire nation on many days of the year. In 2018 The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency has given Utah just three years to reverse a trend of rising ozone pollution in some of its most populated counties.

The inland port would contribute significantly more pollution for Salt Lake County, harming our resident’s health and damaging a travel industry that is already beginning to experience difficulty for our reputation for dirty air. This plan for the 20,000-acre (1.6 times the size of the Mira Loma proposal), distribution hub in Salt Lake City’s westernmost area would bring increased rail, truck and air traffic along with tailpipe emissions.

While the proponents say it would create more jobs, it appears that these will not be high-paying jobs, and the projected increase in population to support it is not economically feasible considering our population is projected a substantial increase already of over a million and a half residents by 2050.

We are already experiencing deep problems within our state with lack of affordable housing. The inland port would only exacerbate our current and deep pollution and lack of affordable housing problems. Let’s not repeat history as we review the difficulty in Mira Loma, also known as the “diesel death zone.” Let’s stop the inland port plan right now and let your legislators know you don’t like the way this has been rammed through the Legislature in special sessions without any citizen or environmental studies or impact hearings.

We need a better solution for those 20,000 acres, perhaps more affordable housing and clean high tech/high paying job development there. We don’t need an inland port, with the high cost of our health and congestion to our already congested infrastructure and freeways. While it may be a great windfall of money for some state legislators owning land there or near there and sweetheart deals for some wealthy developers, this inland port will greatly harm our state and the quality of life we enjoy here.

I would like to see action taken by our Utah attorney general, our Salt Lake City Council, Utah state senators and representatives to join Mayor Jackie Biskupski in her lawsuit and fight to stop the inland port.

Cheryl Nunn

Cheryl Nunn, Layton, is a financial advisor and will be a candidate for the Utah House of Representatives, District 16, in 2020.