After a lengthy deliberation Tuesday afternoon, the Senate Natural Resources, Agriculture, and Environment Committee declined to take any action on SB164, which would repeal language in Utah’s environmental law that prohibits local agencies from having stricter regulations than the federal government.
Sponsored by Senator Gene Davis (Democrat – Salt Lake City), this isn’t the first time legislation to change the language in Utah’s environmental law has been proposed. Last year, a similar measure by Representative Rebecca Chavez-Houck (Democrat – Salt Lake City) also failed.
Senator Davis believes that it would be to Utah’s advantage to have more local control over environmental regulations. “You take a look at national air quality standards and they are based on what’s good for all fifty states, not what’s good for Utah. We have some very unique air quality problems. The inversion itself is a natural phenomenon that goes on. It doesn’t go on in other states in the nation, it goes on here. We need to openly look at how we can address those issues.”
Ingrid Griffee, vice president of Utah Moms for Clean Air, urged the committee to support the legislation. “Help us break the bonds that are tying us to federal mediocrity. We need to have Utah rules here to help protect Utah’s kids.”
Lee Peacock, president of the Utah Petroleum Association, spoke against the bill. “It is important in allowing us as industry to make air quality investments in the state under the kind of the protections that we aren’t going to get too far ahead of, both the federal regulations and also, where good, solid science leads that discussion. The current statute allows for rules in Utah that are more stringent than their federal counterparts. All the state has to do is go through a process, a scientifically-based process that has a public comment component, and we think that that is a healthy process. It allows both more stringent rules when they are required and necessary and make good, common sense, but it also protects us from getting out ahead and moving into areas that don’t make sense from an environmental standpoint.”
Representatives from the Utah Manufacturers Association and Utah Mining Association also testified against the legislation.