My name is Jessica Reimer, and I am a policy associate with the environmental policy group HEAL Utah. I can’t say that I am speaking in favor of the port, but want to comment on the opportunity it provides to demonstrate both economic and environmental stewardship. Thank you to the committee, and thank you to Senator Stevenson for his willingness to listen to all stakeholders and take the environmental impacts, such as air quality, seriously as this process unfolds.
We know that initiatives like this to attract business and jobs are desirable along the Wasatch Front and throughout Utah, as we have one of the fastest growing populations and economies in the country. We see a real opportunity for Utah to be a leader in profitable and sustainable development that promotes economic growth, and also prioritizes continued progress toward cleaner air.
The inland port provides an opportunity to showcase innovative development that reduces both long term business costs and adverse environmental effects, not just within Utah, but across the West. This could include prioritizing electrification of operations from renewable energy sources, investing in energy efficient buildings and vehicles, and striving to achieve net zero emissions. With the ongoing air quality issues we have along the Wasatch front, the inland port will be a critical influence on our air quality that could have negative economic consequences if it is not well-planned for. Utah can, and will, continue to grow our economy, but it needs to be done right. Addressing the impacts of this development on air quality need to be a deliberate, intentional, and integral part of the conversation moving forward.
In a research brief authored by Natalie Gochnour of the Kem C. Gardner Policy Institute in 2016, it is mentioned that the “environmental impact of the proposed inland port deserves in-depth research and analysis.” We appreciate the mention in the bill of the intent to develop the port while improving air quality, minimizing resource use, and respecting the unique natural environments that can be affected by this development. We share this sentiment, and believe that it not only deserves research and analysis, but requires an ongoing voice on the board. As this development proceeds, we believe it presents an excellent opportunity for the city, county, state and private sector to demonstrate that economic and environmental stewardship go hand-in-hand.