Coal Payola Scandal Erupts During Waning Hours of Session

Utah Gov. Gary Herbert 11/12/2015
Utah Gov. Gary Herbert 11/12/2015

In the last hours of Utah’s 45-day legislative session for 2016, a scandal has erupted involving two of the state’s most powerful policymakers and it involves a bill that is poised for passage before midnight on March 10. Both Republican Governor Gary Herbert and Senate Majority Whip Stuart Adams (Republican – Layton) have been actively campaigning for the passage of SB 246 – Funding for Infrastructure Revisions, known as the bill that would authorize $53 million in public funds for investment in an expansion of the Port of Oakland. It is intended to allow Utah to have an export portal to extend it’s sizable coal market to buyers on the Pacific Rim.

On Thursday, the East Bay Express, one of Oakland’s most widely read alternative media sites carried a story that tied Herbert and Adams as being under the influence of contributions from Bowie Resource Partners, with conflicts involving more than $30,000 since the last campaign cycle in 2014. Bowie is a Kentucky coal mining conglomerate which recently purchased coal mines in Utah. One of the mines is among the oldest operated in the coal-rich state.

Bowie now desperately needs access to remaining coal markets – including third-world, emerging steel suppliers who purchase bulk quantities of metallurgical coal used in smelter operations and antiquated power generation facilities.

Named in the Oakland article were most of the Utah legislative leadership which constitutes the state’s Republican supermajority. The influence peddling is rampant in a state where that has come to be the norm.

Aside from Herbert and Adams, public campaign documents disclosed that the year before Bowie purchased existing Utah mining operations in 2015, House Speaker Greg Hughes (Republican – Draper), Majority Leader Jim Dunnigan (Republican – Taylorsville), Rules Committee Chairman Mike Noel (Republican – Kanab), were given in excess of $15,500 from Bowie. The mining firm had been seeking access to a port since 2013 and found the potential for that with Utah. Bowie’s own efforts had been rejected by California authorities previously.

During the majority caucus luncheon attended by several reporters, a brief reference was made to send SB 246, known as “the Coal Port bill,” to interim study. This is a procedural move that would allow the politicians to save face as well as effectively sweep the scandal under the state’s carpet. The bill is presently awaiting its presentation in the Utah House of Representatives for final passage unless that motion to refer to “interim study” were to occur. Many feel that would be appropriate because, in addition to the looming ethics scandal, many litigants are reported to be poised to challenge the bill in court as it involves the questionable use of public funds.

The bill has been introduced by its House sponsor and is being debated as this article went live.

17 Replies to “Coal Payola Scandal Erupts During Waning Hours of Session

  1. Sounds like it’s time for a serious investigation of influence peddling going on at Utah’s capitol hill. Not that any of this would be any surprise to ordinary Utah taxpayers. Somehow, “we the sheeple” of Utah have come to believe these fraudulent activities are just business-as-usual in our state.

    What’s really sickening is how our elected officials try to ‘sell’ us the idea by saying how this port is “important for all kinds of Utah commerce”, when they KNOW it is really ONLY about ripping off taxpayers to stave off the death throes of dirty COAL in Utah.

    1. Unfortunately, conflict of interest isn’t illegal in Utah. It was said a year or two ago by the legislators, that everyone has a conflict, and the conflict implies knowledge. It is required to vote on each proposed regulation if present, conflict or not. What we need is a press that investigates and reports the payments and conflicts.

    2. Mrs. Markham, we met briefly a few years ago in Kanab, while I and others were fighting the Coal Gasification Pilot project…….a smaller scaler, but very similar stunt.

      I think your comment is right-on. And admire you for speaking so candidly.

  2. With the last two UT AG’s facing criminal prosecution and the current AG not being forthcoming on a variety of issues, it is time to bring in Federal investigators, especially since this is a multi state issue. $53M here and $14M there, and now a new slush fund for a convicted county commissioner, pretty soon you have a lot of taxpayer money at stake.

    1. Utah is so blessed to have The Mafia Brethren representing us. It is much like Trump and his followers. I thought Utah citizens were better than that, but they continue to elect these crooks, and the crooks continue to heed the Church. Utah’s Constitution calls for representation for everyone not the Church.

    2. I am very much opposed to the provisions of SB0246 with which this article is concerned. I am opposed principally because (to my mind) these features of the bill subvert the use of public tax and fee revenues, originally intended to fund public facilities, to the use of underwriting private enterprise. However, the plot thickens at this point – the rewrite of SB0246 (viz., SB024602, the version passed by the Utah Legislature) completely revises the original; the first six pages are completely rewritten and the new language, in essence, legitimizes this “new use” of public monies. How? – the rewritten section(s) of the revised bill specifically create an Infrastructure Throughput Fund whose primary component is a “ … (8) (a) ‘Throughput infrastructure project’ means the following facilities, whether located within, partially within, or outside of the state: (i) a bulk commodities ocean terminal; … “

      Even more disturbing (and not mentioned in previous news accounts or associated comments) is the provisions of this bill which enthusiastically promote and support the Lake Powell pipeline and the Bear Creek projects. This language is located near the middle of the bill (page 16 of 33).

      This bill is another illustration of the tainted environment and atmosphere of politics in the state of Utah. Intense scrutiny is the least that is called for – even more appropriate would be a full scale investigation of a wide swath of Utah inner circle. I am particularly puzzled by the lack of serious questioning of how and why Mike Noel has escaped the provisions of the Hatch Act, to wit:
      State and Local Employees are prohibited from: Being a candidate for partisan political office.

  3. I don’t know how these guys sleep at night! The corruption in Utah is finally coming into view, and the “sheeple” will learn how they’re being duped. Wake UP Utahns!

  4. I believe that an investigation should be launched. I think that there has been some corruption going on far too long. We as the people of this state, need to elect new leaders of this state, ones that we know and trust. Ones that we know have our vested interest at heart and in mind.
    However, I am not surprised that these “leaders” would try to pull this type of a trick at the last minute and at the midnight hour when most of us are sleeping, too. This is one person who has lost faith in the majority of our elected officials. It is even a shame that our Governor is at the head of this, too. With all of other states that are having issues with their governors, I would think that we of all of states, would have one that could be a light and an example to all other not only because he should be living his professed religion, but to represent the office he holds. Is that asking too much? Anyway, I believe all of those named in these legislature needs to be investigated and prosecuted to the fullest extent of the law as examples to others not only in this state but to others across this nation. Corruption will not prevail in our politics in Utah.

  5. I’m so disgusted that in this day and age,Utah is shilling for the coal industry and willing to ruin the landscape,people’s health,and the air quality all for that “almighty dollar”.Utah,you should be ashamed!!!!

  6. Given that the legislators are using “helping the coal-dependent” counties to not die on the vine, the $53 million might be better spent helping these communities come up with a new future to revitalize their economies. Coal is on its way out according to many indicators and yet our leaders hold on to the past rather than reaching for the future. Many communities have remade themselves. Greensburg, Kansas rebuilt and relabeled themselves after being blown off the map several years ago by a category 4 or 5 tornado. Now they tout themselves as a “green” community and their mayor Dixon, a tall, lanky farm fellow, is excited about their future. He was in Utah some years after they began their new future and said, “It’s not a Republican or Democrat issue. It’s a human issue.” Here’s a link to their community: Our leaders could take a lesson!

  7. Utah politics are very corrupt. It amazes me that these idiots keep getting elected just because they wear a big red R on their shirt. Wake up people. Your party politics don’t work anymore. The biggest, crookedest, cheating, backstabbing,ethics violating pig could get elected here and the ethics commission would throw them a party .

  8. So many posts about voting these guys out, but in so many cases they are the only one running. Or it is gerrymandered so that they get the nomination and might run against a democrat…which we know most people in this state vote a straight Republican ballot. So how do we get another party started in this state called Republican lite or Republican friendly that can go up against the rules set in place and against the straight R mind set?

  9. Colorado is sueing Utah for the dirty air drifting into their State from our dirty power plants in the Eastern part. So why does Utah continuously act contrary to common sense and logic? You have to understand Mormon theology and what these elected church people are charged with doing as members of the Church. They believe the world is being destroyed according to prophesy and they have no role in preventing what is out of their hands. Their job is to make as much money for themselves to fund more missions, more conversations, and more “building up” of the kingdom through large families, etc. They are charged with making their communities righteous – no lottery – heavily restricted items on the word of wisdom list, etc. Wonder why all of them run for and are elected Chairman of the State Legislatures, Chairman of the Governors, etc.? It’s because they are commanded by God to run the world. Read some good books on the core beliefs of the LDS church, the beliefs you never hear about!! This organization is brilliant, focused, and prepared to fulfill their destiny. So just suck up the bad air, the poor world citizenship and enjoy the incredible scenery before the moneymaking billboards blur your vision. It is no mystery once you understand their goals.

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