What a Great Spring Breakfast! Now What?

What an exhilarating morning! About 300 HEAL supporters gathered today for our 14th Annual Spring Breakfast. Thanks so much to everyone who joined us. For those who weren’t able to be there, I’d like to share some of my remarks below.

We are especially inspired by and appreciative of our keynote speaker, Shaun McGrath, who worked in the Obama Administration, including running the EPA region which includes Utah. Shaun described the many accomplishments of Obama’s EPA, but also shared his concerns about where the new Administration is going. It was a terrific talk.

I want to tell you a little bit about HEAL’s current work – and why we’re so excited about where we’re going, despite the challenging environment we operate within. But before I do, I’d like to ask you to consider making a gift to HEAL Utah today. 

As always, we can assure you that a donation to HEAL will be wisely invested, and will be counted toward our $30,000 goal for today’s event. Our campaigns are critically important as we seek to clean up our dirty air and push for a transition to cleaner energy. So, if you were not able to come to today’s breakfast and would like to make a gift to HEAL, please click here now.

At the beginning of our program, we honored 17-year-old Logan resident, Piper Christian, with our Inspired Activism Award. Although young, Piper has already given a TEDx talk, produced radio documentaries, travelled to the Paris Climate Summit, lobbied city councils and forced climate change onto the state’s agenda. Wow! Along with a small group of her fellow students, she enthusiastically – and successfully — pursued local City Council resolutions targeting climate action. They then headed up to Capitol Hill where they helped to draft the first significant climate change resolution ever heard in the state. They are our future changemakers and bring us so much pride and inspiration.

In addition to sharing a bit of my speech from this morning below, we are including several images from today’s wonderful breakfast. These are courtesy of HEAL board member and professional photographer Jeff Clay.

I’m going to take a few minutes to talk about the two campaigns which we’re spending the most time on.

Because we have no leadership on climate from Washington DC – or better said, we have leaders utterly hostile to the notion that climate change is something that public policy should even address – we must do whatever we can to make sure that Utah moves in a stronger direction on clean energy.

And the great news is that families across our valleys have been doing just that. Rooftop solar is just taking off this past year! My family is one of those that chose to install it over the past year. It’s so cool to make our own power and it’s so cool to not be pulling as much coal power into our house.

But, of course, all that is threatened by proposed fees on new rooftop solar owners from our monopoly utility, which is desperate to hang on to their old business model.

You know full well that if the three fees Rocky Mountain Power is seeking are approved, then this rooftop solar growth we’re seeing — this miracle in the desert — will collapse. And so that’s why we’ve been working so hard in recent months to ward off these proposed fees. Let me tell you a bit about what we’ve been doing.

We’ve been facilitating a regular series of strategy meetings between the solar industry and advocates and attorneys about how we can counter Rocky Mountain Power’s arguments – many falsehoods, frankly – about why these fees are allegedly needed.

We also just have completed ten community solar meetings across the state, from Moab to Cedar City to Orem to Salt Lake to Ogden, and in between. Hundreds of people attended those meetings, wanting to get involved to keep solar affordable.

Lastly, HEAL has hired an expert consulting firm based in Cambridge, Mass., which is going to make a sophisticated legal and economic argument to the Public Service Commission as to why the environmental benefits of solar must be considered.

Each of those parts of our solar campaign encapsulates what HEAL does well. We organize people. We strategize with allies. And when we need to, we bring in expertise. We’re hopeful that all of that – along with the hard work of our many allies – can turn back this terrible proposal from Rocky Mountain Power.

Secondly, even without Washington leading, we are continuing the fight to reduce the sources of emissions that plague our valleys each winter. 2017 is a unique year for Utah to come up with additional pollution reduction strategies that help us for years to come.

As you may know, the EPA recently declared that Utah is now in “serious” violation of the Clean Air Act. And they’ve set a deadline for the end of 2017 for Utah to come up with a plan to make our air healthy again.

To come up with the best possible plan, federal law requires that Utah scrutinize what other states have done to clean up their air to find good strategies. In addition, the law requires our heavy industry to install virtually any possible technology — or institute any possible measures – to limit their emissions.

To make sure that we do those things as well as we can, our staff have been pouring through other states’ clean air plans and identifying strategies which we think can work for Utah, relating to limiting wood-burning and cleaning up trucks and construction vehicles and locomotives and much, much more.

We’re also working with our allies to hire an expert who can go carefully through industry’s analyses to find additional measures that we think they can put into effect to limit their emissions.

Again, it’s hard work that draws upon HEAL’s strengths: the relentlessness and focus of our staff, strategic collaboration with our allies, and bringing in outside expertise.  

That’s how we have succeeded in the past and how we will continue to succeed in the years to come.

Again, thank you so much if you attended the Breakfast. If you didn’t make it, and you’d like to support HEAL, click here.


Matt Pacenza
HEAL Executive Director