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Climate Change Resolution Scales First Hurdle; Next One, A Full House Vote

High-school students have been pushing Utah lawmakers for climate action in Utah for more than a year. And, on Thursday, a legislative panel voted to advance a climate-change resolution they helped to draft.

Members of the House Committee on Natural Resources, Agriculture and Environment are known for their conservative views on environmental issues. But, in Thursday’s hearing, they praised the students who spoke up on what’s been a hot-button issue in the past. 

“I support HCR7 because it is the first step to creating a livable future for families all over the state," said Mishka Banuri,  a junior at West High School in Salt Lake City. "I urge you to take charge in creating this livable future.”

Testimony focused on good jobs, clean energy and environmental stewardship, along with the notion that leaders can take on climate change AND promote a healthy economy. In fact, they suggested both may be essential to Utah’s future economy. Rep. Tim Hawkes, R-Centerville, complimented sponsoring Rep. Becky Edwards, R-North Salt Lake, and her coalition.

“With the focus on collaboration and stewardship and some of these concepts we can all get behind, I see it as a positive step,” he said.

The 8-3 vote means moving the resolution forward probably won’t be easy. That’s something supporters are keeping in mind as they ask House — and eventually Senate — lawmakers to vote “yes.” 

“The sands are constantly shifting on this," said Michael Shea of the environmental group, HEAL Utah. "But I’m feeling pretty confident with the coalition that we built that we can get this thing through.”

The Utah Legislature approved a resolution critical of climate-change science and policies seven years ago. Whether this climate-action resolution can go that far is still unknown.

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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