Week Two: All (Reasonably) Quiet on the Legislative Front

This Week’s Clean Air Victory!

HB134 – Emissions testing amendments unanimously passes the House committee  

Given all that is happening on the national level, we find ourselves relieved that the state of things at the legislature is, dare we say, positive? (Knock on wood… quickly!) With week two at the State Legislature under our belts here’s a quick rundown of the clean air and energy highlights:

HB134 – Emissions Testing Amendments, from Rep. Patrice Arent (D – Salt Lake City) was a positive highlight this week after the House Transportation Committee unanimously passed it on Friday. This great clean air bill requires that any county that has an emissions testing program also include diesel vehicles. Considering that the transportation sector contributes nearly half of our total emissions along the Wasatch Front, this one of the most important sectors to target for emissions reductions.  Plus, diesel vehicles contribute a disproportionate amount of emissions, compared to their gasoline-powered counterparts. Studies from Davis county show that when these vehicles fall out of compliance, PM2.5 emissions can quadruple and they also can be 7-8 times more polluting than a comparable gas vehicle. A big win for clean air!

HB23 – Income Tax Credit Modifications by Rep. Jeremy Peterson’s bill (i.e. the “solar tax credit phase out”) passed out of the House Revenue and Taxation Committee on Tuesday.  HEAL strongly opposed the original draft of the bill. It would have drastically curtailed the credit and phased it out entirely quickly.  The new version which, was negotiated by our allies in the solar industry, is much better. While the credit will still eventually be phased out, there’s no longer a “hard cap” on how much can be spent in any one year, allowing thousands of Utah families to use it in the next few years. In an ideal world, the credit would have continued at its full level indefinitely. However, given political realities this is a decent deal. It will now be voted on by the full House and then go to the Senate.   

HB11 – State Boards and Commissions Amendments, sponsored by Rep. Norman Thurston (R- Provo) passed the House floor vote, but not before a new, better, substitute was adopted. The initial version of this bill removed the current requirement in state law that boards have no more than half its members be of the same political party. Thus, HB11 would allow some significant state boards to become dominated by one political party. You’ll never guess which! Fortunately, the new version of the bill took a step in the right direction by removing the Air Quality Board, the Water Quality Board, and the Public Service Commission – three major boards which greatly impact HEAL’s work. That’s positive, but this remains a bill we oppose, even as we appreciate it got better. 

Now onto the bad news:

HB29 – Energy Efficient Vehicle Tax Credits, from Rep. Steve Handy (R-Layton) was heard before the House Revenue and Taxation Committee on Tuesday. This bill aims to renews the electric vehicle tax credit, which ended officially last December. Though this bill has a low cost and a big impact, committee members debated the source of the credit’s funding. They also amended the bill to limit the tax credit so that only people in the non-attainment areas would be eligible to see it. After much discussion, the bill was held in committee (meaning no vote was taken), but we are fighting to make sure that this important clean vehicle incentive gets another hearing! Keep your eye out for an action alert on this bill coming later in the week!

Here’s what we’re expecting in the week to come:

SB154 –  Solar Access Amendments, from Sen. Lincoln Fillmore (R- South Jordan) will prohibit Homeowner Associations from outright preventing their member residents from installing solar panels. The language still allows HOAs to prohibit panel installation if they violate other HOA rules, but we believe this bill is an important step in the right direction for giving all people access to solar power.  The bill will come before the Senate Transportation, Public Utilities, Energy, and Technology committee this Monday, February 6th at 3:00 pm.       

HB65 – Air Conservation Amendments, from Rep. Mike Schultz (R-Hooper), which says that state air quality officials can’t regulate the burning of wood to cook food, will likely come to a full House vote this week. This bill means that in the future if the Division of Air Quality ever wanted to limit wood smokers on red air days, they would have to undo this legislation first. It’s a bad precedent to strip their power to pass rules based on data, rather than the politics. 

Well that wraps up week two —  but like an inversion, the excitement is building at the Capitol… 

Here’s what you can do this week to get involved:

Try out citizen lobbying! Floor Time is scheduled every day this week from11-12pm and 2-3:30pm. That means you’ve got a great opportunity to connect with lawmakers and voice your opinion in person! If you’re interested, just reply back to this email and you’ll hear back our new organizer Noah Miterko, who will let you know how to get involved.

• Please subscribe to our Clean Air Text Action Network by texting the phrase “cleanair” to 41411. By doing so, you’ll receive additional action alerts and updates.