First and foremost, thank you. It’s folks like you that give HEAL’s policy staff the motivation during weeks like the one we’ve just gotten through. That storm we were predicting in our last update made landfall this week.
Before we explain that, here’s what we’re thanking you for: On Thursday, members of the House Business and Labor Committee received over 2,000 emails in 24 hours asking them to vote no on a bill, HB316, that would cause serious harm to our air quality for decades. TWO THOUSAND. This broke our records for actions taken and sent a strong message to those legislators that clean air really matters to Utahns. From the bottom of our hearts, this Valentine’s Day weekend, THANK YOU. (And, if you haven’t yet done that action alert, click here now!)
So, here’s what went down this week.
As you know, bills that can reduce emissions from our buildings are a big focus of HEAL’s air quality efforts this session. One bill we’ve been eyeing is HB316, from Rep. Brad Wilson’s (R-Kaysville), “Building Code Review and Adoption Amendments.” The bill has evolved over recent weeks, and even as a committee hearing for it loomed last week, it was unclear what the bill would do. It was a mix of good and not-so-good, we believed.
But then, once the bill was released, it turned to be much, much worse than that.
Here’s what the bill that is allegedly supposed to help clean our air now has in it:
- First, HB316 puts in place a severely watered down version of recommendations from an independent panel on how Utah should upgrades its building codes.
- Secondly, it delays when Utah would next consider building code updates from 2018 to 2024.
- And, lastly, it bans state air quality officials from ever passing measures that effect building emissions, which will hinder future efforts to clean up our air.
HB316 does one good thing – it would put in place the clean water heater requirement that air quality advocates have been fighting for – but the three glaring negatives above make it an easy decision to oppose the bill. It’s one step forward, three steps back. And given how bad our air has been lately, that’s not progress by any definition.
Here’s the good news: There are a pair of bills competing with HB316 that are far superior.
HB 250, “Air Quality Amendments,” from Rep. Ed Redd (R-Logan), would require that only ultra low NOx hot water heaters be sold or installed in Utah as of 2017. And HB 121, “Building Code Amendments,” now from Rep. Becky Edwards (R-North Salt Lake), would institute the full Uniform Building Code Commission 2015 recommendations, rather than the much more watered down version in Wilson’s bill. Updated building codes cut emissions from our new homes by 15 to 20 percent.
This issue – buildings emissions and how we control them – is the #1 issue this session not just of HEAL, but of clean air and clean energy community in general. So we’ve decided to hold a press conference this Tuesday, Feb. 16, at 11:30 am to make sure our message gets out loud and clear. If you’re available, please join us on the South Steps of the Capitol and help us send the message that this issue is critical for Utahns.
Here’s a couple other highlights from last week:
- Sen. Luz Escamilla’s (D-Salt Lake City) SB49 passed the Senate Second Reading in a 22-3 vote. It’ll go for round 3 next week and we’re cautiously optimistic that it’ll pass. This bill increases the amount of time that the state has to prosecute companies that purposely violate their air quality permits from 1 to 2 years.
- You may recall that Rocky Mountain Power is running a gigantic and complex piece of legislation called STEP, SB115, run by Sen. Stuart Adams (R-Davis). The bill includes several key regulatory changes sought by the utility which would help net the company additional millions in revenue each year. There are a few good environmental provisions in it, but HEAL and the many other groups opposing STEP want those to be considered on their own merit, not as one small piece of a giant package that seems designed to make Rocky Mountain more money. (See here for our coalition press release opposing STEP.) The bill went before committee Thursday and was unfortunately voted out 5 to 1 in favor. Many Senators expressed concern about the bill’s complexity, but felt the whole Senate should address it. HEAL is disappointed and concerned that the bill is moving forward and will be expressing that to Senators in the days to come.
- Now for some good news in the world of clean energy. A bill that would make it easier for Utans to get access to rooftop solar made it out of committee unanimously! HB244, by Rep. Francis Gibson (R-Mapleton) would make legal a type of loan that helps companies like Vivint Solar to be better able to sell to their product to customers. The bill should hit the House floor in the coming weeks.
Whew, that’s a wrap.
So join us next week and roll up your sleeves folks, we’ve made it nearly to the halfway point. But I’ve got a feeling that the fun is just beginning up here….
Ashley Soltysiak | Senior Policy Associate and Instigator Extraordinaire.