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State Bill Encourages Inland Port Authority To Incentivize Green Projects. Will It Satisfy Critics?

 Photo of a man in a blue suit sitting behind a wooden desk, looking at a man and a woman sitting behind another wooden desk, speaking into microphones.
Sonja Hutson
Rep. Francis Gibson, R-Mapleton, (left) listens to public commenters during a House committee meeting on his bill making changes to the Utah Inland Port.

More changes to the Utah Inland Port may be coming under legislation passed by a state House committee Tuesday. 

The bill, sponsored by Rep. Francis Gibson, R-Mapleton, gives spots on the Inland Port Board to the Salt Lake City mayor's office and Magna township. It also gives tax revenue directly to cities to build infrastructure for the Port. 

“This isn’t about whether or not there’s an inland port,” said Salt Lake City Mayor Erin Mendenhall, who added that the bill was the result of negotiations between the city and the state. “It’s about how it happens, and how it happens means everything to us as a city.”

The city is still moving forward with its legal challenge to the port.

The most controversial portion of Gibson’s bill encourages the Port Authority to incentivize development that is eco-friendly.

“I sit on the Inland Port Board and I want my board members and anyone else to be sensitive to air quality as we move forward in the type of projects we put there,” Gibson said. “This ... is a recognition that I am listening.”

But more than a dozen public commenters said that simply encouraging the authority to incentivize eco-friendly development doesn’t go far enough. 

“If you were serious about addressing environmental harm, you would use words like ‘must’ and ‘shall’ when describing actions to be taken instead of ‘may’ and ‘encourage,’” said Deeda Seed of Stop the Inland Port. “Those are the weakest words in legislative language and you all know that.”

Rep. Suzanne Harrison, D-Draper, agreed. She attempted unsuccessfully to change the bill to require those incentives. Gibson said he is moving in the direction of making that change in future legislation.

Harrison was the lone vote against Gibson’s bill. 

Editor’s note: Rep. Suzanne Harrison, D-Draper, is a member of KUER’s advisory board. 

Sonja Hutson covers politics for KUER. Follow her on Twitter @SonjaHutson

Sonja Hutson is a politics and government reporter at KUER.
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