That’s a wrap!
On Friday, March 3rd, the 2023 Utah Legislative Session officially ended with a record 1,400 bill requests, 933 bills filled, and 575 bills passed. During these fast-paced 45 days, topics such as healthcare, education, and even updating Utah’s state flag gained special attention from Utahns.
While they are all important issues, we’d like to give you a recap of environmental legislation regarding air quality, clean energy, and radioactive waste.
Increased Research Efforts: Utah legislators funded multiple air quality research efforts. This included increased funding to gather data on air quality disparities, continued funding to research wintertime ozone in the Uintah basin, and expanding monitoring capacity in communities surrounding the Great Salt Lake to collect data on airborne toxins from the newly exposed dry lakebed.
More action: We applaud our lawmakers for funding these important projects but encourage them to continue working to pass legislation that prevents emissions from industry, buildings, and vehicles from entering our airshed in the first place.
One request that unfortunately did not receive funding was a year-long Zero-Fare Transit Pilot Program and Study. We supported this request as past research has shown that when states invest in public transportation, they invest in reducing air pollution. Our team helped 126 individuals contact their lawmakers to prioritize this funding.
Notable air quality legislation that passed.
House Bill 319, is a bill that will extend and expand a successful research project on ozone pollution in the Uintah Basin. Our team helped community members craft public comments and lobby for this bill.
Senate Bill 92, a bill that will create a special Great Salt Lake license plate with funds directed for Great Salt Lake research and education, passed. First-time community lobbyists helped inform and encourage support from Utah County lawmakers, and our policy team informed lawmakers on the benefits of this initiative.
House Bill 220, which started as an ambitious bill to reduce Wasatch Front emissions across the board, was narrowed to focus on inventorying, controlling, and setting standards for halogen emissions like bromine, which contribute to our particulate pollution. Community lobbyists testified on the importance of this legislation and helped it pass.
Not all good. One request for funding that our team opposed will funnel 2 million taxpayer dollars to Rocky Mountain Power’s legal team to fight the EPA’s ruling requiring them to reduce emissions from two of their coal plants. Our team helped 136 individuals reach out to lawmakers in opposition, but unfortunately, it passed.
Another piece of legislation that our team opposed will create a new tax on electric vehicle charging stations. Our team helped over 270 individuals reach out to their lawmakers regarding this bill and directed many individuals to provide public comment, but unfortunately, it still passed.
One step forward, two steps back: This year, lawmakers passed some critical legislation moving us closer to a just and equitable energy transition. This included a bill to update commercial buildings’ energy and conservation codes and another bill to channel federal funding to help schools with energy and water conservation efforts.
While some progress was made, our legislators took a significant step backward by attempting to pass a joint resolution focused on the “hazards” of net-zero energy but not on the social cost of carbon. They also regressed by passing multiple forms of anti-ESG legislation and failed to pass energy storage incentives.
Notable clean energy legislation.
House Bill 407 would have set an end date of 2034 for a large-scale renewable utility tax credit. Fortunately, this bill did not pass, and our team is watching for future attempts at similar legislation.
Senate Bill 249, a bill that would have created a tax credit for commercial entities to install energy storage systems, failed to move forward.
Senate Bill 107, will allocate nearly $20 million in state funds to pave the historic Nine Mile Canyon. Our team worked alongside partners in opposition to this piece of legislation as it would be devastating to local ecology and cultural sites and would bolster transportation for private oil and gas projects. This bill was amended and stripped of some language but still passed with the intention of funding this project.
Next Steps: Our team will continue to push forward the adoption of updated building codes for residential buildings to ensure energy efficiency and sustainability. We are also working on ways to shift Utah’s energy sourcing to cleaner energy alternatives.
Protecting Utahns from Radon: While there was limited legislation regarding toxic waste threats, we saw significant funding to increase awareness and testing of radon exposure throughout the state, especially in rural communities.
We applaud our legislators for providing critical funding to rural communities to access free radon testing kits and their continued progress toward raising awareness of this dangerous toxin.
We also saw a shift in the classification of what can be considered solid waste in terms of post-consumer plastics, and for now, we will monitor that industry for any threats that might come from that reclassification.
Lastly, there was the usual funding of our state’s regulatory agencies that protect human and environmental health from radioactive exposures, but there were no direct actions towards strengthening protections for communities from radioactive waste that comes into the state.
Parley’s Canyon, drought, and other environmental issues.
As a small but mighty policy team of 3, we primarily focus on legislation that addresses our air quality crisis, supports a just and equitable energy transition, and protects our communities from toxic and radioactive waste. We accomplish this by collaborating and working with various partnering organizations, coalitions, and individuals.
This is why you may not see our team taking the lead on some pieces of legislation, but we want to assure you that we continue to contribute, collaborate, and help when needed.
House Bill 527 attempted to give mining operators free licenses to mine regardless of local regulations throughout Utah. This bill would have had major detrimental implications for Salt Lake air quality as it facilitated the creation of another gravel mine in Parley’s Canyon. Coalition members activated hundreds of supporters, and this bill ultimately did not progress for now.
During this year’s session, lawmakers proposed various proposals to help fund water conservation efforts. One that we were excited to see pass was Senate Bill 118, a bill that will expand a turf buyback program to include new grants to install water-efficient landscaping.
See the complete list of environmental legislation HEAL Utah kept track of by visiting our 2023 bill tracker.
Thank you for joining us for our community lobbying program.
We want to thank the over 100 individuals who lobbied with HEAL this year and the over 260+ community members who took action in one way or another. With your help, we were able to provide critical information and perspectives to lawmakers to help them make better decisions on environmental policies. You guys are amazing!
Our legislative work would not be possible without the generous contributions of our supporters. We thank you for your support and greatly appreciate your one-time or ongoing contributions. To help support our efforts, consider making a contribution below.