We’ve entered the final sprint of the legislative session. With less than two weeks remaining until the session ends on Thurs. March 2, a lot hangs in the balance. For bills that haven’t even passed either the House or Senate yet, time is running out, which may or may not be a good thing depending on the bill in question. In other words, if time runs out on a bill we opposed, it’s Happy Time!
Overall, we’re cautiously optimistic as we approach the end, having taken some positive steps in the right direction this week.
Here’s the lowdown:
- SB49 – By Sen. Luz Escamilla (D – Salt Lake City) was the first clean air bill to make it off the start block and now is the first to pass both houses this session. This bill increases how long our state regulators have to prosecute companies that violate their permit limits – increasing the statute of limitations from one to two years. Woohoo!
- HB250 – Which directs the Division of Air Quality to implement their rule governing the NOx emissions from water heaters passed the House Natural Resources, Agriculture, and Environment Comittee this week. Now this critical clean air bill moves to a full House vote next week! Click here to urge your Rep. to support it!
- HB316 – Building Code Review and Adoption Amendments, by Rep. Brad Wilson (R-Kaysville) passed the House after a contentious debate. The good news is that the newest version of the bill (the sixth, yes SIXTH, substitute) added some energy efficiency provisions for homes that are actually quite positive. The bad news is that it still doubles how long we go through our building code adoption cycle and still includes language which restricts the Division of Air Quality from creating progressive rules governing emissions from area sources in the future. We will continue to work to improve this legislation, as it will likely go before a Senate committee mid to late next week! But it’s inching closer to a bill we can live with, a significant improvement from previous iterations.
- SB115 – Rocky Mountain Power’s Sustainable Transportation and Energy Plan was delayed this week in the Senate. This omnibus bill, by Sen. Stuart Adams (R-Layton), aims to allow RMP to circumvent the ongoing process at the Public Service Commission, making a few key regulatory changes that will net the company millions. It does also include several decent clean air measures, but in its current form, this remains a bill we oppose. We’ve heard that a substitute bill will be proposed early this week before it will go before a full Senate vote. It is looking increasingly likely that the STEP bill, as everyone calls it, may not make it through this session.
- HB244 – Independent Energy Producer Amendments from Rep. Frances Gibwson, which legalizes solar power purchase agreements, passed the Senate Natural Resources, Agriculture and Environment Committee this week. The only thing now standing between Utah and more affordable solar leasing options is passage through the full Senate. We remain cautiously optimistic as this great clean energy bill moves forward later next week.
- SB80 – Infrastructure Funding Amendments, a troubling bill by Sen. Stuart Adams (R-Layton) barely passed the House Rev and Tax Committee, in a ardently debated 5-7 final vote. This bill, which will cost taxpayers millions to fund water infrastructure projects like the Bear Lake development and the Lake Powell Pipeline, is also bad for air quality. That’s because diverting more water from our already stressed Great Salt Lake ecosystem will expose more lakebed, which means more airborne sediments that will further harm our air quality. The last chance to stop bad bill is on the House floor.
Here are two other bills to keep on your radar for next week:
- HB356 – Taxation of Solar Energy Devices, by Rep. John Knotwell (R-Herriman), which creates a sales and use tax exemption for solar users, hits the House Rev and Tax Committee on Monday, Feb 29th at 8am. This bill will provide an important incentive for solar users although we’re a bit worried with how late the bill is beginning its path. Click here to encourage your Representative to support it!
- HB385 – Petroleum Vapor Recovery Amendments, which creates criminal penalties for the drivers of petroleum trucks that do not recapture vapor when transferring fuel to underground storage tanks, hits the House Public Utilities Committee on Monday at 4:10pm. This bill, by Rep. Steve Eliason (R-Sandy) will help ensure that drivers who break the law and pollute our air shed are fairly prosecuted.
Finally, we’re also working to make sure that two critical air quality programs from the Division of Air Quality receive much needed funding. One request increases and improves the Division’s air quality monitoring capacity and the other is for the CARROT program (Clean Air Retrofit, Replacement, and Off-Road Technology Program). This funding is designed to help replace and retrofit some of the most polluting small engines in Utah. The Executive Appropriations committee needs to hear from you on both of these fronts – Click here to make your voice heard! (Note: This action may not work for all HEAL supporters, as it is targeted for only the constituents of the Executive Appropriations Committee. But it’s a big commitee so go ahead and try.)
Don’t forget, if you have any time during the day in the next two weeks and would like to come help the HEAL policy team lobby in person, we could always use the help! Floor time runs from 10am-12pm or 2pm-4pm every day this week. Just email me and we’ll make a plan.
As always, we thank you for your support!
Ashley Soltysiak | Senior Policy Associate