2019 Legislative Wrap Up!

It’s safe to go outside again – the ice is off the sidewalks and the 2019 legislative session is over!

This year, the Utah legislature passed 573 bills and considered twice that many in the 45 days that make up our state’s session.

That doesn’t sound like a lot of time, and in many ways it’s not, but with the hard work of many, including HEAL supporters like yourself, a lot of positive change can happen in that short amount of time. However, 45 days is also just enough time to push some bad bills through the process and into law.

This year we saw a lot of good, some bad, and a few really bad bills. Keep reading to see the highlights for this session, what bills passed, and what didn’t make it through, or you can just watch our final Capitol Report video while you’re eating your breakfast to learn about HEAL’s priority bills from this year.

More HEAL supporters showed up and spoke out this year than ever before. This included:

  • Over 210 hours of citizens lobbying at the Capitol
  • Almost 2,700 messages sent to representatives, senators, and the Governor, including:
    • 1,500 messages asking legislators and the Governor to stop HB220 Radioactive Waste Amendments from becoming law
    • 875 messages asking legislators to support air quality appropriations
  • 750 postcards handed in to Governor Herbert asking him to keep depleted uranium out of Utah
  • Over 60 people who attended our legislative preview events in Salt Lake City and Provo

We worked on and supported many good bills this year.

Below are some of the issues we worked on the hardest and that we were excited, and proud, to see pass into law:

HB0139 Motor Vehicle Emission Amendments – Rep. Angela Romero
  • This bill increases the penalties on drivers who “roll coal” (illegally tampering with a diesel engine’s emissions controls in order to spew clouds of black smoke).
  • HB0139 also improves the reporting system for offenders and adds a clause to the traffic code that makes rolling coal a citable offense when affecting pedestrians, bicyclists, or other road users in a harmful way.
  • HB0139 was extra special this year since this bill ran last year but didn’t quite make it to the finish line in 2018.
HB0353 Reduction of Single Occupancy Vehicle Trips Pilot Program (the “free fare days” bill) – Rep. Joel Briscoe
  • HB0353 creates a 3-year pilot program where all Utah Transit Authority transportation will be free on certain days during the inversion season so people have affordable options other than single-occupancy car trips.
  • The $500,000 this bill received will fund about seven free fare days throughout the pilot program.
$28 million in one-time funding for air quality projects
  • Governor Herbert proposed $100 million in one-time air quality appropriations in order to reduce emissions by 25% by 2026.
  • While the $28 million that the legislature approved is less than one third of the Governor’s request, this is easily one of the largest amounts the legislature has ever given to air quality programs in a single year – so there’s definitely a reason to celebrate!
  • Funded programs include a wood stove conversion program, electric vehicle charging stations, air quality messaging campaigns, and a state government teleworking program.
  • See the full list on our bill tracker page.
HB0411 Community Renewable Energy Act – Rep. Steven Handy
  • This bill creates mechanisms for Salt Lake City, Park City, Moab, Summit County and Cottonwood Heights to support their policies to transition to 100% net renewable energy by 2030.
  • It was a rollercoaster to get this great bill through. At one point it died in committee but was brought back to life and pushed through late on the last night of the session thanks to the hard work of many partners including HEAL.

Despite our best efforts and the efforts of other organizations and citizens, bad bills sometimes make their way through.

Below are some of those bad bills that we were disappointed to see become law:

HB220 Radioactive Waste Amendments – Rep. Carl Albrecht
  • This bill may make it easier for EnergySolutions to bring 800,000 tons of long-lived depleted uranium waste into Utah and has implications on radioactive waste classification, as well as for the Department of Environmental Quality’s performance assessment on depleted uranium.
  • We asked Governor Herbert to put Utahns first and to veto this bad bill (see our press release and our press conference).
  • Almost 1,500 citizens sent messages to their legislators and the Governor asking them to stop HB220 and 750 supporters filled out postcards asking Governor Herbert to keep depleted uranium out of Utah.
  • Once a bill passes during a certain portion of the session, the Governor has 10 days to sign or veto a bill. If the Governor does neither, the bill automatically becomes law at the end of those 10 days – which is exactly what happened with HB220.
  • Our efforts to stop depleted uranium from coming to Utah aren’t over. The Department of Environmental Quality’s assessment on depleted uranium is expected this year, and we will be ready to respond to it and the decision that will follows.
  • See our full statement on HB220 becoming law here.
SB248 Throughput Infrastructure Amendments – Sen. Ralph Okerlund
  • This bill diverts $55 million of Community Impact Board funds from community development projects to pursue a bulk commodities ocean terminal on the west coast, including a potential to build one in Mexico.
  • SB248 is intended to support the development of an international market for Utah coal, even though investing in a polluting product for which a domestic and global market is diminishing is a waste of money meant to help local communities.
  • We believe this bill is not only bad for the environment but is bad economics as well and that Utah should be focusing on the transition away from fossil fuels rather than trying to prop up this fading product.

Bills we supported that passed:
  • HB0357 | Voluntary Wood Burning Conversion Program
    • HEAL Stance: Support
    • Sponsor: Rep. Timothy Hawkes
    • Summary: Earmarks $14 million to incentivize homeowners to replace wood stoves and fireplaces.
  • HB0148 | Vehicle Idling Revisions
    • HEAL Stance: Support
    • Sponsor: Rep. Patrice Arent
    • Summary: Strikes language that limits the ability of municipalities to enforce anti-idling ordinances
  • SB0144 | Environmental Quality Monitoring Amendments
    • HEAL Stance: Support
    • Sponsor: Sen. Luz Escamilla
    • Summary: Requires the creation of a baseline assessment in the Utah Inland Port Authority area in order to track the inland port’s environmental impact.
  • HCR002 | Concurrent Resolution Supporting Renewable and Sustainable Energy Options to Promote Rural Economic Development
    • HEAL Stance: Support
    • Sponsor: Rep. Patrice Arent
    • Summary: Promotes the continued and increased development of renewable energy in rural areas of Utah.
  • HCR003 | Concurrent Resolution Urging the Environmental Protection Agency to Update Switcher Locomotive Emission Standards
    • HEAL Stance: Support
    • Sponsor: Rep. Stephen Handy
    • Summary: Urges the EPA to develop and make more stringent emission standards for switcher locomotives.
  • HCR011 | Concurrent Resolution Encouraging the Purchase of Tier 3 Gasoline
    • HEAL Stance: Support
    • Sponsor: Rep. Suzanne Harrison
    • Summary: Encourages the promotion and purchase of Tier 3 gasoline by both retailers and consumers.
  • HB0218 | Construction Code Modifications
    • HEAL Stance: Support
    • Sponsor: Rep. Mike Schultz
    • Summary: Makes amendments to the residential building code to improve energy efficiency in newly-built homes, and adopts the 2018 commercial construction code.
  • HCR005 | Concurrent Resolution Urging Policies That Reduce Damage from Wildfires
    • HEAL Stance: Support
    • Sponsor: Rep. Raymond Ward
    • Summary: Urges the pursuit of common sense policies to improve forest management practices to help improve our air quality.
Bills we were neutral on that passed:
  • HB0433 | Inland Port Amendments
    • HEAL Stance: Neutral (See our statement here)
    • Sponsor: Rep. Francis Gibson
    • Summary: Makes changes regarding the inland port that were negotiated by members of the Salt Lake City Council, including jurisdiction, taxing and legal dynamics between the port board, the state and cities. It was amended with input from a broad array of stakeholders to include renewable energy requirements, and diesel truck emission guidelines.
Bills we opposed that passed:
  • SCR006 | Concurrent Resolution in Support of Advanced Nuclear Reactor Technology
    • HEAL Stance: Oppose. Read this Salt Lake Tribune article for our reaction and thoughts on the passage of this resolution.
    • Sponsor: Sen. Curtis Bramble
    • Summary: Encourages the development by and in Utah of so-called “advanced” nuclear reactor technology. Throughout the debates on this bill, it is clearly referencing the small modular nuclear reactor (SMNR) in Idaho that HEAL is working diligently to stop.
  • HB0288 | Critical Infrastructure Materials
    • HEAL Stance: Oppose
    • Sponsor: Rep. Logan Wilde
    • Summary: Allows gravel pits and mines to be classified as “critical infrastructure”, and reduces the ability of local communities to regulate the expansion or changes to operations of these facilities.
Bills we supported that didn’t pass:
  • HB0295 | Vehicle Emissions Reduction Program | Rep. Jeffrey Stenquist
    • HEAL Stance: Support
    • Sponsor: Rep. Jeffrey Stenquist
    • Summary: Provides $13 million in incentives to help Utahns replace certain vehicles that fail emissions tests.
  • HB0413 | Tax Credit for Energy Efficient Vehicles
    • HEAL Stance: Support
    • Sponsor: Rep. Raymond Ward
    • Summary: Allows up to $2 million in corporate and individual income tax credits for energy efficient vehicles.
  • HB0098 | Freight Switcher Emissions Mitigation
    • HEAL Stance: Support
    • Sponsor: Rep. Stephen Handy
    • Summary: Creates procedures and terms for grants issued for the reduction of freight switcher locomotive emissions and requests $2 million to help repower existing switcher engines in the non-attainment areas.
  • SB0111 | Energy Storage Innovation, Research, and Grant Program Act
    • HEAL Stance: Support
    • Sponsor: Sen. Lincoln Fillmore
    • Summary: Creates a $5 million grant program for a person, company, research organization, or other for the development or deployment of energy storage in Utah.
  • SB0146 | Sales Tax Exemption Modifications
    • HEAL Stance: Support
    • Sponsor: Sen. Derek Kitchen
    • Summary: Gives a sales tax exemption for residential, commercial, and utility-scale energy storage.
  • HB0304 Fossil Fuels Tax Amendments
    • HEAL Stance: Support
    • Sponsor: Rep. Joel Briscoe
    • Summary: Places a tax on carbon emissions.

This session helped move Utah leaps forward for air quality, some steps forward for energy and climate, and a few steps back for radioactive waste in our state.

We couldn’t create the positive change that we do here in Utah without your voice. So thank you to everyone for your support this legislative session.

Stay tuned for our upcoming spring breakfast details, action you can take this summer on depleted uranium, and more!

If you’d like to further support our work, please consider donating for our 20th anniversary here!