Highlights from committee hearing, and next meeting T 9am
Updated: Mar 21, 2019
Hello all: Details below on last night's hearing and on next steps, including our meeting Tuesday morning at 9am. Happy weekend!
HB304 Committee Hearing Highlights
HB304 was heard last night in the House Revenue and Taxation Committee... thanks to everyone who came or contributed ideas or otherwise helped make this happen!
I'm not an expert on the legislative process but here's my take on the hearing:
The short version: Rep Briscoe presented the bill and the committee heard testimony in support of the bill. A motion to pass the bill out of committee with a favorable recommendation failed on a party-line vote. (If that motion had passed then the bill would have gone to the full House for discussion.) A motion to "hold" the bill and study it during Interim (i.e., after the end of this legislative session and before the start of the next one) passed unanimously. All things considered, that was a good outcome and it means we'll get to continue discussing the bill with the members of this committee!
The long version: You can watch the 45-minute video here. (Thanks to Kaden for videotaping; he couldn't figure out why the video came out sideways!) Rep Briscoe presented the bill for about 10 minutes, and then there was testimony from supporters. (Nobody asked to speak against the bill.) Time stamps are as follows for testimony from the following individuals, apologies if the names below aren't spelled right, and thanks to Jesse Cox for transcribing all this! (Here's a full transcript of the hearing.)
Jean Hill, Catholic Diocese (14:00): Thank you Mr. Chair. Jean Hill with Catholic Diocese, Salt Lake City, and we’re very excited to support this bill. Fundamentally this bill is about insuring that the full spectrum of costs associated with carbon emissions (economic, social, and environmental) are accounted for. Failing to consider the health and well-being of people including future generations and the planet means that businesses profit by calculating and paying only a fraction of the costs involved. HB304 is one possible remedy to addressing these imbalances. While it’s well-known that putting a price on carbon will increase energy prices, a phenomenon that can have a disproportionate impact on the poor, it’s encouraging this bill offsets some of the monetary impacts through the EITC, the reduction in the grocery tax and the reduction in the taxes on electricity while improving overall health outcomes. The diocese seeks first and foremost to protect the dignity and sanctity of life. We know that exposure to air pollution during pregnancy, particularly during the first trimester, can affect a child’s growth, can shorten the gestation period leading to pre-term births, and can cause congenital birth defects such as heart problems. It can also result in the loss of life. At any given time there are roughly 40,000 pregnant women in Utah. All will be breathing in toxic air at some point in their pregnancy. Studies show even brief exposures elevates the risk to the unborn child. Children are uniquely vulnerable to environmental hazards and exposure to toxic chemicals in the environment. Their bodies, behavior and sizes leave them more exposed to such health hazards. Because children are exposed to environmental health hazards at an early age, including in the womb, they have more extended time to develop slowly progressing environmentally triggered illnesses such as asthma, certain cancers, learning disabilities and other illnesses that adversely affect childhood development. Exposure to air pollutants and toxins is significantly more harmful to children, born and unborn. Further, the industries impacted by this tax are often located near low income neighborhoods and communities of color. There is therefore an urgent need for action to reduce harmful emissions from energy sources to achieve a healthier more just society. Pope Francis wrote, “We must integrate questions of justice and debates on the environment so as to hear both the cry of the Earth
and the cry of the poor.” HB304 represents just such a social approach that puts concern for the environment and the poor into action and we urge your support for the bill.
Don Albrecht, Western Rural Development Center(16:30): Thank you for your time, Mr. Chairman. My name is Don Albrecht. I’m the Director of Western Rural Development Center. I spend my days traveling through the western US working with rural communities in their economic development efforts. I support this bill, and I appreciate the fact that this bill provides opportunities to help rebuild the rural economy. What I see throughout Utah and through the rural west is that the traditional employers of rural America in occupations like mining, agriculture, forestry and manufacturing are declining primarily because of technological development. These are going to occur regardless. There’s nothing we can do to turn that thing around. As a consequence, it’s making a bad thing worse. Rural America has always had lower income, higher poverty rates, lower educational attainment levels, higher unemployment rates and this will help us rebuild the rural economy and help them to work in the 21st century economy where you can live anywhere you want and sell your product and skills anywhere in the global
world. Thank you.
Anders Hart, student at Utah State (18:00): My name is Andres Hart and I’m a senior at Utah State University. I want to thank the legislature for its efforts to improve air quality over the last few years. Having grown up in Utah, I’ve seen and felt the effects of poor air quality. Thankfully we’ve made great progress in tackling this problem, a problem that has hurt our health and economy. The progress includes switching to Tier Three fuels and increasing air quality monitoring and education efforts. This bill represents the next step in this effort. Our dirty air is harming our economy and our health. Companies avoid bringing potential new hires into the area during inversions because they don’t want people to be turned off to coming here to live and work. Increased medical costs burden our health care system. This bill would significantly reduce emissions and encourage businesses and individuals to innovate and switch to cleaner technologies. By reducing taxes and eliminating grocery sales tax, it would protect Utah tax payers from increases in prices. This legislature has made forward looking decisions regarding air quality and I urge this committee to stay on that path by supporting this bill. HB304 exemplifies the Utah way it takes a market-based approach to reducing emissions and will allow the invisible hand of the market to reduce our environmental impact and clean up our air. While other states like California take top down approaches with complicated regulation that can be burdensome for businesses and individuals, this approach would maintain individual freedom of choice while also achieving similar emissions reduction.
Piper Christian, student at Univ of Utah (19:30): My name is Piper Christian and I am a freshman at University of Utah. Rather than advocating for poorly conceived or radical measures, HB304 represents a well-reasoned effective policy that will allow Utah to maintain its role as an innovator and fiscal leader while redoubling its commitment to environmental stewardship. It’s no secret that we are a conservative state which is why HB304’s market based is so appropriate. Our state has already recognized that carbon pollution is a problem. The Utah Department of Health has recently concluded that emissions endanger the public and last year my peers and I worked with this legislature to pass a resolution acknowledging the pressing need for environmental action which was passed through both houses of the legislature and signed by Governor Herbert. Our choice is thus simple: we can ignore the problem until we are forced to impose costly and intrusive regulations or we can take the initiative now and use market-based
mechanisms to generate needed change by balancing needed growth with environmental protection in a sincere effort to optimize both, HB304 allows us to put politics aside and come together on share priorities such as fostering energy, independence and preserve the natural beauty of our state. We live in a rapidly changing world and forward thinking policies like these will allow us to effectively adapt in a way that benefits our economy, our environment and our citizens. Thank you.
Catherine Eslinger, Mormon Women for Ethical Government (21:00): My name is Catherine Eslinger and I am from Mormon Women for Ethical Government. Our organization is concerned with issues that affect the dignity, rights and well-being of all
people and cleaner more breathable air is one of those issues. Poor air quality
disproportionately effects babies in utero, children and our elders, but we are all suffering effects, often invisibly. There are documented damaging effects on the brain, the heart and lung, blood vessels, chromosomes, and air pollution contributes to infertility and premature birth as we’ve already heard today. Unfortunately, many of the studies that have shown these effects have occurred here in Utah. This year Governor Herbert proposed $100M to address air quality issues and many Utahns welcomed this expenditure as a way to address significant air quality issues and the projected allocation of $45M a year from HB304’s funding would help to continue to address the issues that we face and make the air safer for all Utahns. Thank you.
Kathy van Dame, Wasatch Clean Air Coalition(22:30): Thank you Chairs Spendlove and Quinn for this opportunity to speak. My name is Kathy Van Dame. I’m with the Wasatch Clean Air Coalition and I’ve been a clean air advocate in Utah since 1997. I was privileged to serve on the air quality Board. I termed out in 2015. We’ve heard a lot about the bad health effects of air pollution: bad outcomes for the young, for the old, for our sensitive populations. Utah’s legislature has done a great deal to clean our air particularly since 2012 when Sen. Reid and Rep. Wilson led the Economic Task Force
which folded in the Clean Air Task Force which worked for two years and made a marvelous slate of air quality legislation that made a watershed in air quality in 2014. That work was continued by the Clean Air Task Caucus, bipartisan, founded by Patrice Arent, and more recently that work has been continued by the brainchild of Rep. Hawkes, the Clean Air Advisory Board. In these years I’ve realized that emissions from combustion are the big cause of our air pollution. That combustion drives our vehicles, heats our buildings, it powers our industries, it blackens our public lands. This carbon tax will direct the attention of decision makers to emissions from combustion and turn on Utah’s innovation. We are champions at innovation. This carbon tax will continue our progress toward cleaner air.
Ronan Carrier, student at Salt Lake Center for Science Education (25:00): My name is Ronan Carrier and I’m a high school student from the Salt Lake Center for Science Education. I came here today to support this bill because I believe it is morally the
right thing to do. Tax those who are polluting the environment rather than taxing our food. Utah citizens want to see something done about combatting climate change and air pollution and I believe this bill is it. Thank you.
Brad Kropp(25:30): Thank you. My name is Brad Kropp from Logan. I’m just a regular guy. I don’t represent anybody, but me. But I feel strongly about this issue. Last Fall, the IPCC Report that came out gave us roughly ten years to do something about climate change. That’s a very short period of time. We can see the effects of climate change are already upon us and the impacts are long term. Climate change will effect Utah’s water resources and ski industries for generations if we allow the worst impacts to affect us. In fact, I’m convinced our children will one day look back on climate change as having been the single most important issue of our time. There could be that much impact in my opinion on our future. Studies show that the population of Utah is ready to support action on climate change. A recent study from Yale University shows that about 2/3 of us believe that climate change is real – this is within the State of Utah. And roughly the same number would support regulating carbon, which fits really well with the bill that we have before us today, I believe. It is almost inconceivable given these things that we are taking some action on this issue. HB304 would swap a tax on fossil fuels for taxes on other things like food or electricity. This is fair and reasonable, and I don’t believe it would place an unreasonable, unnecessary economic burden on Utah’s households because of the swap that would be occurring. Thank you.
Charles Ashurst(27:00): My name is Charles Ashurst from Logan, UT, a retired electrical engineer, so I take a sort of a practical view of things, and as an analogy, consider and aircraft that’s going to land at SL International and it’s up high and it has to get down low and wouldn’t you want to have a stick by which you could control the glide path by which that plane drops or would you rather just ...drop out of the sky. Well that’s not going to give a desired result. What you want is a stick so that if you’re going in too fast you can east it back a little. If you want to come in a little faster, you can move the stick forward. Well, that’s what HB304 gives you is this stick that you can control the glide path by which we zero out our greenhouse gas emissions because we don’t want economic shock and we don’t want a climate shock. Well this bill gives you a glide path that you can minimize shock, economic and environmental. Thank you.
Carole Straughn, League of Women Voters(29:00): Hello Representatives. I’m Carole Straughn from the League of Women Voters of Utah. We are a grassroots, non-partisan, research-based consensus organization and we support HB304. We believe in promoting an environment that’s beneficial to life by protection and the wise use of natural resources in the public interest. We’ve been concerned about carbon pollution so we were very happy to see the Stewardship Resolution pass last year by this
legislature that encouraged an economically viable way to reduce carbon emissions and
further, by consensus in our organization, we believe that carbon pricing like in
Representative Briscoe’s bill is the best, simplest, most effective way to reduce carbon
emissions. That’s why we support Representative Briscoe’s fossil fuel tax bill because it does that carbon reduction while stimulating the economy both the rural and the urban economy and offsetting the impact to low income families, retirees, and businesses. We urge you to support this bill.
Logan Mitchell, atmospheric sciences professor at Univ of Utah (30:30): My name is Logan Mitchell, and I’m a professor at the University of Utah, but I’m here representing myself. I’m concerned about the future of Utah’s economy and the future competitiveness of Utah’s economy. We’re in the beginning stages of a dramatic energy revolution that’s going to change the face of the world and it’s going to affect the cars that we drive, where we get electric and the fundamental costs of energy. This revolution is being driven primarily by the market economy and the innovations in clean energy and the economies of scale. With the benefit of foresight, we know where this is going to end up. It’s going to end up with the complete decarbonization of the economy sometime in the next couple of decades. So Utah has a choice now: we can either be leaders in this energy revolution or we can be followers. If we’re going to be leaders, we can capture the innovations and the jobs that are going to be created through this new economy and that will be to the benefit of Utah. The choice is really whether these innovations and jobs will be created in China or EU or California or Utah, and personally as a Utahn, I prefer that they are created right here. Thanks for your time – I think that this bill is a great way of doing that, leveraging the market economy in a conservative way. Thanks.
Hope Zitting-Goeckeritz(32:00): Committee Members, my name is Hope Zitting-Goeckeritz. I came here today to for both professional and personal reasons and concerns, concerns that I share with many others. I have a background in law and economics, internationally as I worked in London with their Parliament on Brexit economic policy, nationally, as I relocated to Washington DC and interned for former representative Jason Chafetz, and locally, as I work with economic development, and I know that HB304 will be advantageous to the local community including the people and the businesses. HB304 turns 90% of their revenue directly to Utah households and businesses. One economist that I refer to often in my work is Milton Friedman who for years commented, “There is a case for doing something about pollution. There is a case for government to do something about it.” This is an authentic statement coming from a Laissez-Faire champion who agreed that taxing something we want less of is much better than regulating it. Personally, as a constituent, I live near the Jordan River. To be directed to stay inside instead of running on the trail because it will be healthier for me to stay on the couch is beyond backwards. To have a neighbor stay inside during the
winter months because his doctor recommends that it will be lethal if he doesn’t as a result of his worsening asthma is provisional incarceration. To have neighborhood pre-schooler come home to report they couldn’t go outside today because the air is too bad is completely upside down. A bill that indirectly insures healthier breathing and directly influences economic growth and development and returns revenue to Utah households and businesses is a bill that I wholeheartedly support. Respectfully, I hope you all agree. Committee Members, as a constituent and a professional, I ask that you all vote yes for the favorable recommendation for the HB304. Thank you for the opportunity to speak.
Miranda Menzies(33:30): Mr. Chairman. My name is Miranda Menzie. I am a ski instructor and I speak for the ski industry. I’m also a water manager up in (illegible) and the district that I work with...I’m on the board of trustees...we have to support residents, we have to support commercial businesses, agricultural users including ranchers and development which is actually occurring in our district. The district is above, I repeat, above, the reservoirs. That means we have to deal with the water that the Earth and the good lord sends us. Our irrigation water flows because of climate change are going to be reduced. The reductions in snow pack are bringing us a reduction of about 5% per decade. I don’t know if you’re aware of it but storage of irrigation water is approximately $45/acre foot and we’re looking at costs now in excess of $2M, probably up to $6M for building reservoirs to enable us to cope with both the combination of development and the reductions in snow pack. I can show you the exact data that shows that snowpack is directly proportional to the flows that come down by irrigation stream on 1 December. On top of that, the higher temperatures mean that the crops are demanding more water and it’s becoming more difficult for our ranchers to get that third crop of hay which really makes the extra money they need to get through the winter. I urge you to
support this bill, and to give us a way to reduce these changes to ultimately reduce the scale of problems for the ski industry, ranchers, residents and developers. Thank you.
Jesse Krupp(35:00): My name is Jesse Cox. I live in Salt Lake City. I’m here with League of Women Voters. I just recently moved here, six months ago, from Eugene, OR. I’m affected personally because I have asthma, and it’s always with me all the time. I don’t feel that I have that much more to grow into increasing asthma. I would like to quickly say that Our Children’s Trust started in Eugene, OR, and so I’d like to read a quote from Ann Carlson who is an environmental law professor at UCLA: Government is causing global warming through their actions of subsidizing fossil fuel energy systems, permitting every aspect of our fossil fuel systems and allowing extraction of fossil fuels from our federal public lands. We are the largest oil and gas producers in the world now because of decisions our government has made.” Thank you for listening.
At 37:00, Rep. Spendlove (the Republican chair of the committee) made a motion to hold: "I commend the bill sponsor for bringing this to us, I think it’s a very ambitious goal, but probably a little too ambitious for us to start working on at the end of the session." Rep Stoddard (one of the Democrats on the committee) made a substitute motion to pass the bill out of committee with a favorable recommendation, but that substitute motion failed. (The vote was 3-8-3: there were 3 Yes votes, all from Democrats, and 8 No votes, all from Republicans; 3 committee members were absent.) Rep. Quinn (the Republican vice-chair of the committee) then addressed Rep Briscoe and spoke in favor of Rep. Spendlove's motion to hold: "Having had some dalliance in tax reform this year, understanding the complexity of this, I truly would like to commend you for the enormous undertaking in working with these numbers and working on a way to push something that you’re very passionate about and while in the same vein making this—what at least one person said—in a conservative way. I’ve been to a dinner that I think you were at a year ago with a former Republican Congressman from South Carolina [Bob Inglis of RepublicEn.org] on this issue. I was at a meeting in Park City about climate change and your very bill came up in discussion. Again, I just… I greatly appreciate what you’ve done. But I do think… we’ve been tasked—or taxed—with, through the interim, working on another big lift for this committee and I think that this would be appropriate to add to that list. So I would support the motion to not only hold but to put this to an interim series of discussions." That motion passed unanimously (11-0-3)!
What comes next
That's the end of HB304 as far as the current legislative session is concerned, but there are three next steps.
First, give thanks to the legislators on the House Rev & Tax Committee for voting to hold the bill and discuss it during Interim. (See names and contact info below to see if you're in their district. And everyone is encouraged to send a note of thanks to Rep Briscoe <email@example.com> for his leadership!)
Second, get rested and ready for discussions during Interim! More details to come...
Third, we are meeting Tuesday morning at 9am at the Impact Hub(150 State St, 2nd floor). If you're not in town or otherwise can't join in person but would like to call in, please email me (firstname.lastname@example.org) and we'll see if we can make that happen.
Constituents - please contact your legislators!
Constituents in these districts - please contact your legislators to thank them for considering HB304 during Interim. Let them know you are a constituent (and give your address), and give them a few sentences of personal reasons why you support the bill. Spendlove, RobertRSandyH email@example.comQuinn, TimRHeberH firstname.lastname@example.orgAnderson, KyleRNorth OgdenH email@example.comBarlow, StewartRFruit HeightsH 17contact form801-289-6699Briscoe, JoelDSalt Lake CityH firstname.lastname@example.orgEliason, SteveRSandyH email@example.comIvory, KenRWest JordanH 47contact form801-694-8380Moss, JeffersonRSaratoga SpringsH firstname.lastname@example.orgPitcher, StephanieDMillcreekH email@example.comSagers, DouglasRTooleH firstname.lastname@example.orgShipp, RexRCedar CityH email@example.com(801) 538-1029Stoddard, AndrewDMurrayH firstname.lastname@example.orgStrong, MarkRRivertonH email@example.comThurston, NormanRProvoH firstname.lastname@example.org