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Coalition Vote Could Reshape Grand County Council

The Grand County Council voted Tuesday to join a coalition that wants to build a road, a pipeline and a rail line for eastern Utah energy. The upcoming election could prove to be a referendum on that decision.

Hundreds of people wrote letters saying they didn’t want the Grand County Council to sign onto the Seven County Infrastructure Coalition. They see the group as an endorsement of the fossil fuel industry and wildland destruction.

But, 6 to 1, council members opted on Tuesday to join the coalition.

Jim Nyland is a councilman who says his vote to join ensures Grand County has a seat at the bargaining table. He’s also running for reelection.

“We just have a silent majority out there,” he says. “They just watch and listen and, you know, they’ll vote. And, uh, if I lose, that’s just the way it goes.”

Challenger Mary McGann says she’s heard too many good reasons to be wary of the coalition. She’s shocked the council ignored those who don’t want Grand County to be part of it.

“As a public official, as an elected public official, your job is not to push your agenda,” says McGann. “Your job is to listen to the people, represent the people.”

This year’s ballot includes candidates on each side of the issue in all three council contests. If the critics prevail, they’ll have enough votes to pull Grand County out of the coalition.

Lynn Jackson, council chairman and Grand County’s newly appointed coalition representative, wants to see Grand County get jobs and revenue from the coalition’s projects. He says he wouldn’t be surprised to see the election turn into a referendum on the council’s current direction.

“If the majority of people vote out the conservatives and vote in the progressives, they will have spoken, and we’ll move forward or backwards or whatever way we do,” he says. “And I’m prepared for whatever those results are.”

Jackson is not up for reelection, but his position on this issue was part of the reason he was targeted in a recall petition last summer.  

Judy Fahys has reported in Utah for two decades, covering politics, government and business before taking on environmental issues. She loves covering Utah, where petroleum-pipeline spills, the nation’s radioactive legacy and other types of pollution provide endless fodder for stories. Previously, she worked for the Salt Lake Tribune in Utah, and reported on the nation’s capital for States News Service and the Scripps League newspaper chain. She is a longtime member of the Society of Environmental Journalists and Investigative Reporters and Editors. She also spent an academic year as a research fellow in the Knight Science Journalism program at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology. In her spare time, she enjoys being out in the environment, especially hiking, gardening and watercolor painting.
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