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If the Great Salt Lake dries up ‘the dust will be extraordinary,’ says Romney

A screencap from Utah Sen. Mitt Romney's discussion on climate change with reporter Leigh Ann Caldwell during his appearance on Washington Post Live, Dec. 8, 2022.
Washington Post Live
A screencap from Utah Sen. Mitt Romney's discussion on climate change with reporter Leigh Ann Caldwell during his appearance on Washington Post Live, Dec. 8, 2022.

Utah Republican Sen. Mitt Romney told The Washington Post’s Leigh Ann Caldwell that Utah is going to need to “dramatically reduce” its water usage in order to keep it flowing into the Great Salt Lake.

He added that the entire West will suffer the consequences of a shrinking lake, pointing to toxic dust as a result of a bone-dry lake bed.

“If it disappears entirely, the dust will be extraordinary, not just in Utah, but across the country with poisons in the air,” he said. “So there's a great priority to make sure that we don't let that lake continue to disappear.”

Romney’s remarks came during a discussion on the nation’s climate agenda for Washington Post Live.

The Senate recently passed a bill co-sponsored by Romney that dumps millions of dollars into researching saline lakes throughout the Great Basin. But it has yet to hear a vote in the House.

The senator reiterated the idea of funneling ocean water to the lake through a pipeline, although “it hasn’t been studied really thoroughly,” and highlighted studies that take flood waters and bring them to places where there is a water need.

“The cost is very substantial but it’s being looked at now because conservation can only get you so far,” he said.

Romney also expressed his desire to see the U.S. lead the globe in developing climate-combating technologies while defending his vote against the largest piece of climate legislation that has ever slid across a president’s desk –– the Inflation Reduction Act.

He said the Democrats could have done a better job working across the aisle to pass the act with bipartisan support but decided to “put through its agenda without negotiating with the other party.”

“A good portion of the Inflation Reduction Act is associated with investments in new technology. I’m all in favor of those things,” Romney said. “But there are other parts of that act that I think were inappropriate.”

To Romney, a key aspect of bolstering America’s footprint in climate technologies is incentivizing the private sector to invest in green research and development. He expressed concern over the federal government spending loads of money on national policies that don’t address climate change globally.

“If every car in America stopped running, CO2 emissions would keep going up in the world,” he said. “So we have to do things that will be adopted everywhere, not just things that make us feel better about ourselves here.”

The senator knocked Democrats for not passing a carbon tax, a solution that the Massachusetts Institute of Technology said would be a significant step in reducing emissions when they controlled both chambers of Congress. He called the move “a missed opportunity.”

While Romney is on board with a carbon tax, his fellow Republicans aren’t sold on the idea. In 2018, House Republicans agreed to a concurrent resolution that a carbon tax would be “detrimental to the United States economy.”

Although, the senator thinks he might be able to change a few GOP minds during the next congressional term in January.

Saige is a politics reporter and co-host of KUER's State Street politics podcast
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