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AM News Brief: Longest-serving Utah lawmaker dies, waste into renewable energy & climbing meth overdose deaths

Transjordan landfill
Geoff Livingston
/
Flickr, CC BY-NC-SA 2.0
Seagulls descend upon the Trans-Jordan Landfill in South Jordan, UT, May 21, 2015.

Tuesday, Feb. 8, 2022

State

Recognizing Juneteenth as a state holiday

Utah is one step closer to recognizing Juneteenth as an official holiday. June 19 celebrates the day when the last enslaved people were freed in Texas. In 2021, the federal government recognized it as an official national holiday. The bill, HB 238 — sponsored by Rep. Sandra Hollins, D-Salt Lake City — cleared its first hurdle Monday when a legislative committee approved it. Utah could join eight other states in declaring Juneteenth an official holiday. Read the full story. — Emily Means

Utah moves to debate the fate of the death penalty 

The death penalty is up for debate in the Utah house, as a bill to repeal it, HB 147, moves into the House Law Enforcement Committee. The legislation faces substantial opposition. In a meeting Friday, two top Utah House Republicans said they oppose the bill. Salt Lake County District Attorney Sim Gill, who said the movement is encouraging, added, “Utahns deserve to have an open discussion in committee on repealing the death penalty.” About half of the states in the U.S. have already abolished the death penalty. — Leah Treidler

Transforming waste into renewable energy

Waste in Utah could become a critical source of renewable energy, according to a recent report from the Kem C. Gardner Institute. Renewable natural gas captures the carbon dioxide and methane naturally produced by decomposing waste, like discarded food, livestock waste and sewage. The carbon intensity of renewable natural gas is five times lower than conventional natural gas — and it turns waste which, at this point, has no value into fuel and electricity. The report said renewable natural gas could eventually supply 4% of Utah’s natural gas demand. — Leah Treidler

Northern Utah

Utah’s longest-serving lawmaker has passed away

Haven Barlow, Utah’s longest-serving legislator, passed away in his home in Layton at age 100. The Standard-Examiner reported Barlow, who served for 42 years in the Utah legislature, was a key player in the creation of the Utah Board of Higher Education and a leading force behind the founding of the Davis campus of Weber State University. Many Utah legislators praised Barlow for his years of service. Gov. Spencer Cox tweeted Sunday that Barlow “epitomized a dedicated public servant.” — via Tim Vandenack, Standard-Examiner

This source via the Utah News Collaborative, a partnership of news organizations in Utah that aims to inform readers across the state.

Region/Nation

Overdose deaths rise as methamphetamine becomes more potent

The Elko County Sheriff’s Office in rural Northern Nevada is seeing a disturbing trend: more methamphetamine users are showing psychotic side effects. Coz Cusolito, a peer recovery support specialist for Trac-B Exchange who works in the community, said about six months ago many of his clients started acting agitated and aggressive. The Centers for Disease Control and Preventions reported a new process for making meth has increased the drug’s potency and availability, and meth overdose deaths are rising quickly across the Mountain West region. Utah recorded more than 200 deaths in 2020 – a decade ago, there were less than 40. New Mexico’s death rate for overdoses has more than doubled since 2015. — Bert Johnson, Mountain West News Bureau

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