Utah could be headed to battle against California over coal.
A legislative spending panel voted to hire lawyers to mount the legal fight. They approved $2 million for initial steps to overturn California’s 2006 gradual ban on electricity from coal, and the state’s surcharge on coal-fired power — both part of that state's goal to combat climate change.
Rep. Mike Noel, R-Kanab, said California’s laws are illegal and violate the Commerce Clause of the U.S. Constitution.
“This is critical for the whole state of Utah,” he said, “not just for my county but it’s all the coal mines in the state of Utah.”
GOP Rep. Carl Albrecht, whose district includes coal-rich Emery County, added: “I think California’s law is way out of bounds.”
A representative from the Coal Hollow Mine in Noel’s Kane County spoke in favor of the spending. He said demand for Utah coal has led to 40 percent lower production and a scaled-back workforce.
Lawmakers said California's laws are cheating schoolchildren out of revenue from coal sales. They also say California shouldn’t be allowed to impose its values on Utah.
As a symbol, coal is also designated as the state rock.
The spending still faces a few hurdles, like edging out other state programs that are seeking money from the General Fund.