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  • Writer's pictureTom Moyer

Climate Utah 2/5 update - 2023 legislative tracker

Welcome to those who are new to Climate Utah! Our 2023 legislative tracker is now up. This will focus on legislation relating to climate change and clean energy. We'll also include clean air bills if they have a link to climate change. And this year, because there has been so much interest in the Great Salt Lake, we'll track the key water bills and appropriations requests.

Climate Utah is our list for grassroots state-level advocacy in Utah. Updates to this list will be sent out during the legislative session and when there are key opportunities to interact with your legislators. For advocacy on federal legislation, monthly chapter meetings, and other events, please join us by signing up for Citizens' Climate Lobby.

Now is a great time to contact your legislators about the bills we are tracking. Many of you will be in new districts this year. You can look up your district and contact information for your legislators here. As always, legislators respond best when we are respectful and appreciative of the work they do, and when we are clear about what we are asking them to vote for or against. If you're emailing a legislator, include the bill number and title in the subject of the email, and include your address and contact information in your signature. They will typically respond only to constituents.

All of the committee hearings are being streamed online, and you can submit requests to testify about a bill as a member of the public.

You can also see bill trackers on a wider range of environmental topics from:

This year, a lot of the key action will be in appropriations requests rather than bills. There is a $200 million request for agricultural water optimization, $100 million to purchase water rights leases for the Great Salt Lake, $25 million for the Great Salt Lake Watershed Enhancement Program, and $25 million for a statewide free-fare transit pilot program. These appropriations requests often fly under the radar, but this year they will be a significant factor.

Great Salt Lake background

A new report on the great Salt Lake from researchers at BYU, Westminster College, Utah State, and others calls on the legislature to enact emergency measures to rescue the Great Salt Lake from ongoing collapse. The key finding which made headlines is that at the lake's recent rate of loss since 2020, "the lake as we know it is on track to disappear in five years." As Governor Cox has said - that is a worst case scenario and we are going to act to prevent that from happening. The report also calls for a minimum stream flow into the Great Salt Lake of 2.5 million acre-feet a year to reverse the decline. That means about one million acre-feet of conservation, which is a 30-50% decrease in consumptive use.

We recently held a Great Salt Lake discussion with former Rep. Tim Hawkes (R - Centerville). If you missed it, you can watch the recording here.

Climate legislation

Here is a summary of some of the significant energy and climate bills this session.

HJR011 - Joint Resolution Establishing a State Social Cost of Carbon (Dailey-Provost)

This recognizes the role of greenhouse gas emissions in driving climate change and the significant risks posed to economic, human, and natural systems. It resolves that the Legislature promotes the development or adoption of state social cost of carbon estimates.

HB220 - Emissions Reduction Amendments (Stoddard)

This bill seeks to reduce emissions of criteria pollutants by 50% by 2030. It sets standards for residential and commercial buildings, bans wood stoves, incentivizes clean vehicles, funds rail projects, and establishes an Air Quality Fund to implement targeted incentives for non-attainment counties and vehicles.

No bill number yet - Building Code Revisions (Musselman)

Utah builders are working from an outdated version of the International Energy Conservation Code (IECC). Building codes set the minimum standards for new construction and major renovations, and every few years the state of Utah considers updates. Utah's residential building codes were last updated in 2015. We will support efforts to update Utah's codes to the most current standards. If passed, this legislation would ensure that new homes and buildings in Utah are energy efficient, resilient, and affordable. More details from Utah Clean Energy.

Appropriations requests

In addition to the appropriations already mentioned, there will be opportunities to bring federal money to Utah from the recently passed Inflation Reduction Act. State agencies need to get approval from the legislature before spending federal money, even if there is no cost to the state. Key opportunities are: methane mitigation in the Uintah Basin, clean energy funds for low-interest financing of clean energy projects, updates to the state's greenhouse gas inventory, and rural economic development in Utah's coal country. We will be watching these closely and there may be opportunities for us to contact legislators about them.

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