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Legislators Learn About Energy Development, Rural Education on Trip to Central Utah

Brian Grimmett
Green River High School

Instead of holding their regular interim meetings this month, state legislators hit the road to visit several sites in central and southeastern Utah. 

The trip started bright and early at 7 a.m. at the state capitol. Our first stop would be Price and Utah’s coal country.

The purpose of the two-day long trip is for legislators to visit parts of the state that they aren’t familiar with so that they can better understand the issues rural Utahns face.  Along the way, legislators watched videos produced by the Utah Mining Association and local counties. Local officials also hopped on and off the bus to guide the journey and answer questions. One guide was Joe Peterson, the chancellor of Utah State University Eastern, located in Price.

“In five minutes, we’re going to be driving past the Carbon Power Plant which, in April of last year, was closed down," Peterson said, pointing out the left side of the bus. "The kids around Carbon County say that it made clouds, and it kind of hurts our feelings as we drive by and we don’t see the steam rising off the turbines as they turned and cranked out electricity."

The trip included stops at a brand new building on the campus of USU Eastern to hear about the future of coal, another stop at Green River High School to learn about the challenges of rural education, and finally, a stop at Dead Horse State Park to learn about the economic potential of tourism.

Democratic Representative Patrice Arent represents the Millcreek area of Salt Lake City. She says the stop at Green River High School was particularly impactful.

“When we look at the schools and we think about these teachers that have to teach so many subjects and try and transition with just small classes and those very unique needs, it helps us understand we may need to put additional resources into those smaller rural schools,” she said.

The legislators ended their night with a dinner at the Red Cliffs Lodge in Moab. This is the first site visit lawmakers have taken since before the recession in 2008. 

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