ASUNTO: Carrera por la Gobernación

National elections earn a big splash in the news, but its local elections that will have the most direct impact on your day to day life.

This year, there is a huge election that will dictate the direction Utah moves over the next few years: the Governor’s office.

For today’s issue day, we break down the importance of the Governor and what that role involves, detail the status of the election, and use the Salt Lake Tribune’s Utah Governor’s Race 2020 guide to let you know where the current candidates stand on environmental issues.

Please note: As a 501(c)(3), the Healthy Environment Alliance of Utah is not endorsing any gubernatorial candidate. 

¿Cuál es el problema?

  • Utah is holding an election for governor in 2020 and the candidates are all competing for their shot to win the office

¿Quién participa?

  • Voters of Utah (that’s you!)
  • Gubernatorial candidates
    • Candidates that are officially on their party’s primary ballot include:
      • Spencer Cox
      • Greg Hughes
      • Jon Huntsman
      • Thomas Wright
      • Chris Peterson

¿Cuál es la historia de esto?

  • The Governor of Utah is the head of the executive branch in the State’s government, and has the power to enforce laws, approve or veto bills, among other things
  • Utah governors serve 4 year terms and do not have any limits to the number of terms one governor can serve
  • Utah’s current governor, Governor Gary Herbert, is not seeking reelection for another term
  • Similar to other executive branch elections, a primary must happen before the general election (a primary is when voters register with a political party and cast their vote for the candidate the represent that party in the general election)

¿Qué pasa ahora?

  • The race is currently in its primary phase, with candidates from major political parties vying to be their voters top choice, and it’s a pretty crowded field
  • To help voters keep track of all the candidates, the Salt Lake Tribune put together a voter guide that includes an in-depth questionnaire on various issues, including environmental issues
  • As a 501(c)(3), HEAL Utah will not be endorsing any gubernatorial candidate but we want our supporters to be informed voters, which is why we’ve pulled some of the Salt Lake Tribune’s questionnaire and answers from every candidate so you can learn more about their environmental stances!

Candidate Environmental Q&A

See the full Q&A: The Salt Lake Tribune Utah Governor’s Race 2020 Guide

Note: Only the candidates that answered the Tribune’s survey AND are still on the ballot as of Lunes, Abril 27, 2020 are included below. 

SPENCER COX: Yes — but the solution is not destroying our economy or pushing unrealistic policy proposals that only serve to fire up political bases, divide communities and diminish our prosperity. Building consensus on sustainability policies requires leadership.

CHRIS PETERSON: Yes. The scientific evidence is overwhelming and increasing every year. Each year in this 21st century we have seen the temperature of our planet rise. In Utah we see our trees dying, the desert expanding, our water needs increasing, and agricultural output declining…. The evidence is clear that climate change will be one of our generation’s greatest challenges. By relying on our strength, our creativity, our intelligence and on facts and science, we can rise to this challenge.


GREG HUGHES: No. “Human-caused” would suggest that absent any humans, the climate wouldn’t change. That is not the case. Can we be good stewards of the environment and adopt practices that prevent harming the environment? Of course. It isn’t a theory, it’s what we are doing now and what we must continue doing.


GREG HUGHES: We incentivized, through tax incentives, refiners to produce Tier 3 fuel. It has now arrived on the market and with autos [manufactured from] 2017 and forward, it has the [same] effect [as] removing four out of five cars off the road, or an 80% reduction of tailpipe emissions. We need to do more of that. Lower sulphur levels in the fuel results in lower emissions, which we should encourage and prioritize.

Long term, the state’s population growth cannot occur solely along the Wasatch Front. We will not be able to keep pace.

THOMAS WRIGHT: The best thing Utah can do to reduce emissions is invest in an efficient mass transit system. When we use smart growth policies to create walkable communities, make mass transit accessible and affordable and connect our larger metropolitan areas to our suburban neighborhoods, we take cars off the roads and lower our emissions.

JON HUNTSMAN: One of the reasons we implemented the four-day workweek for state government employees was to reduce emissions. Taking some 24,000 employees off the roads for a commute to and from work was a nice start. We are just now shifting to cleaner burning Tier 3 gasoline and that should make a significant difference.

Going forward, we need to increase the availability of charging stations for electric vehicles, including fast charging stations. UTA FrontRunner trains currently have the dirtiest engines, so converting from Tier 1 to Tier 5 engines, and ultimately to electric, should be part of our long-term plan. Increased capacity on our transit system and lowering or eliminating fees on red air days should be part of the equation, as well.

We also need to address the refineries that used to be on the outskirts of town and are now right in the heart of our metropolitan area. That’s not an easy process but it is definitely one we need to plan for.

Editor’s Note: The four-day workweek initiative for state government employees has been largely dismantled in recent years.

SPENCER COX: The truth is our air is cleaner today than at any time during our lifetime. In fact, overall emissions of all pollutants during inversion season declined 30.5% between 2011 and 2019. For the first time in almost two decades the Wasatch Front has been moved out of nonattainment designation by the EPA.

However, this does not mean we can or should stop improving our air quality. As nearly 50% of our emissions come from mobile sources, we need to aggressively promote Tier 3 fuel, expedite the transition of the state fleet to cleaner CNG, RNG or electric vehicles, and develop a fast-charge EV infrastructure statewide that is as accessible as gasoline.

During my four-year term, I will work to reduce overall emissions by an additional 25%.

CHRIS PETERSON: As governor I would set a goal of leading Utah to a net-zero carbon emission future. To achieve this I would support tax incentives to accelerate electric vehicle use; to encourage commercial, government, and residential investment in rooftop solar power; to develop commercial wind and solar power plants in rural Utah; and, modify building codes at the state level to require energy efficient new construction.






¿Qué está en juego?

  • The future of Utah!

¿En qué puedo ayudarle?

  • Register to vote
  • Get your friends and family to register to vote
  • Get out and vote!