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AM News Brief: Utah death penalty repeal fails, Sen. Lee strikes Colorado deal & the West’s megadrought

The low levels of the Great Salt Lake are particularly evident at a marina near the entrance to Antelope Island.
Emily Means
The low levels of the Great Salt Lake are particularly evident at a marina near the entrance to Antelope Island.

Tuesday, Jan. 15, 2022


Utah immigrants rally for pathways to citizenship

Hundreds of Utah immigrants didn’t show up to work or school on Monday as part of a national campaign called “day without immigrants” — a movement meant to pressure elected officials into prioritizing pathways to citizenship. They waved American and Mexican flags and yelled chants of “Si, se puede” at the Utah State Capitol. Brianna Puga, with Comunidades Unidas, said immigrants cannot continue to be essential and deportable. “It's time for Congress to include a pathway to citizenship for 11 million undocumented immigrants in the Build Back Better plan with the leadership of Utah's congressional delegation,” she said. Read the full story.Ivana Martinez

No more hope for death penalty repeal this year

Repealing the death penalty in Utah is off the table for now, after a legislative committee shut it down Monday. Two Republicans sponsored the bill, which led to more than two and a half hours of public comment and debate. Those who supported the legislation cited court costs and the potential for executing innocent people as reasons to repeal the policy. On the other side, some families of victims of death row inmates said it was a useful tool and justice for terrible crimes. It failed on a 6-5 vote, meeting the same fate as other Republican-sponsored efforts in recent years. — Emily Means

Reducing water use through non-potable metering

Lawmakers are pushing to make Utahns more accountable for their water use through a new bill, HB 242, which passed the state House Monday in a 58-14 vote. The bill would require residents to install meters to measure secondary water use. That’s non-potable water, usually used for irrigating outdoor landscapes like lawns. Bill Sponsor Rep. Val Peterson, R-Orem, said the bill is “about ensuring that we have water for the generations ahead of us.” Currently, users of secondary water systems pay a flat fee, and studies show metering these systems can reduce water waste by informing people about how much water they use. Some lawmakers worry this bill would overburden homeowners and wouldn’t adequately incentivize people to reduce their water use. The bill now heads to the Senate for further consideration. — Leah Treidler


Sen. Lee strikes deal over Amache historic site in Colorado

After initially holding up a bill establishing a historic site in rural Colorado, negotiations between Sen. Mike Lee and the bill’s sponsor, Sen. Michael Bennet, cleared the impasse. According to Colorado Public Radio, the Utah senator wasn’t opposed to the addition of the Amache site to the National Park Service but to the addition of land to the federal government's holdings. CPR reports the final version of the bill now says that the park service will accept the Amache site, which is less than a square mile, as a donation from the nearby town of Granada. The Senate’s unanimous vote Monday night sends the amended bill back to the House for another approval. — Jim Hill

West’s megadrought is the worst-case scenario

According to a new study published Monday in the journal Nature Climate Change, the megadrought in the West is the worst in more than 1,200 years. The megadrought is now the worst-case scenario officials and scientists worried about in the 1900s. The report stated the drought deepened so much in 2021 that it is 5% worse than the old record set in the late 1500s. Scientists compared this megadrought to what would happen in a hypothetical world without human-caused climate change, and they calculate that 42% of this drought is due to global warming from the burning of fossil fuels. — Associated Press

Paris Climate Agreement goals are still within reach

The goals of the Paris Climate Agreement are still achievable, according to new research from the University of Colorado Boulder. It said high-emission scenarios that made the goals to limit global warming seem lofty aren’t playing out. Matt Burgess, co-author of the study, said the “dangers of being overly pessimistic are becoming apparent, in addition to the dangers of being overly optimistic.” Burgess also studies how to de-politicize the issue and is encouraged that in the Mountain West, Utah Republican Congressman John Curtis launched the Conservative Climate Caucus last year. Dozens of House Republicans have since signed on to the effort. — Robyn Vincent, Mountain West News Bureau

Boycott threatened if Outdoor Retailer comes back to SLC

A conservation group and several prominent outdoor recreation companies say they will boycott the Outdoor Retailer Trade Show if it's moved from Denver back to Salt Lake City. Patagonia, REI and North Face announced the possible boycott Monday. The trade show is held twice a year and generates tens of millions of dollars. The group called “The Conservation Alliance” accused Utah's leaders of trying to chip away at protections for national monuments and public lands like Bears Ears National Monument. But Outdoor Retailer's owner is considering moving the show again to Utah after this year when its contract with Denver expires. — Associated Press

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