USU Eastern was the setting for the Clean the Air Carbon Tax Act public hearing on Tuesday as members of the community were invited to attend and voice their opinions.
This was a public hearing and policy overview of the draft for “Clean the Darn Air,” which was crafted by five individuals. Two of these attend Utah State University in Logan. In the handout given to all in the audience, it stated, “This proposal included a modest carbon tax, with 20% of the revenue going to clean up local air pollution and fund rural economic development and 80% of the revenue going to reduce existing taxes, including eliminating the state sales tax on grocery store food.”
While a number of local officials and leaders were present at the meeting, attendance was overall low, which was attributed to the time. Carbon County Commissioner Casey Hopes stated how disappointed he was that the meeting was during such an inconvenient time of the day, which resulted in such low attendance. He continued on the topic of how many people who would be extremely effected by this bill and the “constituents who could have been here,” but because they were working and “doing their jobs,” they were unable to contribute their opinions.
Representative Christine Watkins was also accounted for at the meeting. Working with the Legislature of the state as the Representative of District 69, she made very strong comments that the other participants in the meeting agreed with. There was talk of how much money is being spent to improve air quality and Watkins made statements that there has been money spent to help in rural Utah, but not as much money as there is on the Wasatch Front.
Price City Mayor Mike Kourianos jumped in on the topic, along with a few others, saying, “Look at our area.” He mentioned that there is more of a need to clean the air in the northern part of the state, not in Carbon and Emery counties. “Get to the root of the problem, but we don’t have a problem here,” said Kourianos as those in the meeting applauded.
There was a large disagreement resulting from the documented information given to the group about coal mining in the area. The document given said, “Carbon tax also applies to the consumption of coal, off-road diesel, and fuel gas by large facilities that emit more than 10,000 tons of carbon dioxide.” It later stated that it included steel mills and refineries but not power plants because electricity is taxed differently. This brought anger and disagreement to the words written.
Mayor Joan Powell of Wellington, along with others from the meeting, argued against the bill. There were many comments made about how devastated rural Utah would be without coal mines or power plants. There would be a massive loss of employment. One man from Price noted, “Take our mining, there goes the rest of Carbon County.” Heads nodded around the room while seemingly everyone at the meeting agreed with the statement.
Some personal stories and factual statistics were given to the representatives who came to present the bill, all comments being recorded via phone recording. Not only were there many statements given to the representatives, but there were also questions. Some asked questions on why a sales tax on food has anything to do with cleaning the air. Others were confused about some of the technical language used to write the document. Those reading the bill stated that there was deception among the words of the bill. Many present for the public hearing felt deceived and upset by the end of the meeting.
The full bill is available online at www.cleanthedarnair.org. Those who have compiled the draft of the bill also would like to hear people’s comments on the website, saying they will take additional comments into consideration.