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Lawmakers Consider $53 Million For California Port

Judy Fahys/KUER
The Permanent Community Impact Board Fund chipped in $56 million to build this road to improve industry access to energy resources. A Senate bill would provide a $53 million loan to a California shipping port.

Lawmakers have just a few days left to decide whether to use public dollars to help finance a California shipping terminal.

Funding for Utah’s $53 million loan to the Oakland, Calif., port would come from mineral development on federal lands and would be funneled through the state Treasury. Then Utah coal and other products would be first in line for access through the $275 million facility.

“This gives us access to China and the rest of the world,” says Sen. Stuart Adams, R-Layton, who is sponsoring a bill to facilitate what he calls a good “deal.” "Counties could have done it on their own. We think it’s better for state oversight. That’s why we’re involved.  This will be a great opportunity for those counties but for the entire state.”

Utah senators say they’re prepared to fight California officials and environmentalists who try to block Utah coal shipments from the port.

Jeremy Nichols doubts the wisdom of the coal-port idea and says it undermines efforts to stop global warming.

“It just raises the concern that this is just a desperate, last ditch effort by a dying coal industry to stay in business and to continue to profit at the expense of the American public and the climate,” says Nichols, who works on air and climate change for WildEarth Guardians, one of the groups opposing the coal port and Utah’s involvement in it.

Even if senators approve Adams’ bill, it won’t become law unless the House also passes it by midnight on Thursday.

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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