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Health, Science & Environment

Environmental Issues In 2017 Legislature: A Mixed Bag

Utah legislators delivered some big messages on public lands during this year’s 45 days of lawmaking. But air-quality and other environmental concerns saw only modest gains – along with some setbacks.

Rep. Keven Stratton, R-Orem, an advocate of putting states in charge of managing public lands, was pleased to see those principles reflected in more than a dozen measures that lawmakers passed this year. He credits  a new Republican administration in the White House for helping set the agenda.

“It seems to be a better stage to do the things we need to do,” he said a few hours before the session ended. “We can put more energy to solutions.”

A resolution to shrink the Grand Staircase Escalante National Monument, and another to eliminate the new Bears Ears National Monument, prompted the Outdoor Retailers trade show to decide it’s leaving Utah after two decades. Two new state parks are proposed and more multiple-use on public lands for activities like grazing.

Environmental advocates had less to be happy about. Lawmakers are phasing out a tax credit for solar panels. And a bill to continue a clean-vehicle tax credit died.

“Overall, we would have liked to have seen the resolutions on climate change or a carbon tax bill – something truly progressive coming out of this session and it,” said . Ashley Soltysiak, an advocate with HEAL Utah. “And we just didn’t see those major steps forward.”

Advocates had to wait until the day before the session ended to find out that lawmakers fully funded key air-quality programs like updating the state’s pollution monitors.

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