Summit County residents encourage state representatives to advocate for climate stabilization
December 23, 2018
The recent introduction of a bipartisan energy innovation and carbon tax legislation in the U.S. Senate has spurred the Wasatch Back chapter of the Citizens' Climate Lobby, a grassroots nonprofit advocating for policies to address climate change, into action.
Members of the Wasatch Back chapter met Thursday evening at the Sheldon Richins Building in Kimball Junction with Summit County Councilor Glenn Wright and Summit County's GOP state representatives in the House, Reps. Tim Quinn, R-Heber, and Logan Wilde, R-Croydon. About 35 people attended the meeting.
A majority of the time was spent discussing the Energy Innovation and Carbon Dividend Act, which is the Senate version of a bill that was also recently introduced in the U.S. House. The bills set a price on carbon emissions and are, advocates say, aggressive climate solutions that promote energy innovation.
Another measure that was highlighted is a tax modification bill that Rep. Joel Briscoe, D-Salt Lake City, plans to sponsor in the upcoming Utah legislative session. It was introduced during the 2018 session, but it did not make it past the House Rules Committee. The bill aims to reduce carbon emissions by creating an incentive to create less pollution, while growing the state's economy. Quinn and Wilde were encouraged to lobby and advocate for both bills.
"Our state legislators have a great deal of influence," said Tom Moyer, Utah's coordinator for the Citizens' Climate Lobby. "The whole point of this is to do it in bipartisan fashion. We will not succeed with a Democrats-only bill, at the state or federal level. Until we can engage Republicans in a conversation about this, we can't solve the problem. To me, having two of our Republican state legislators in the room with us is another sign that we are engaging Republicans in a civil and respectful way by saying, 'We want to do this with you.'"
Environmental sustainability and combating climate change is a critical goal of the Park City and Summit County communities, with both local governments taking aggressive stances to address the matter in recent years and completely transition to renewable electric energy.
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Wilde commended the members of the group for organizing the meeting to express to himself and Quinn that there is an interest in changing the environment, as well as supporting policies that are being created on both national and state levels to combat climate change.
Wilde said there are parts of Briscoe's bill that he supports, such as caps on emissions and carbon credits.
"One of the things I've heard recently is we have run out of cheap things to do," he said. "One of the best things we can do is encourage the public to make a change. If we can't get the public to come along, no matter what policy we pass, we are going to fail."
Quinn said in an interview after the meeting he will be interested in reading the federal legislation, but noted that the measure has no bearing on the state Legislature. While he said he has spent a significant amount of time with Briscoe in the past, he was unaware he was going to be sponsoring another climate bill in the upcoming session. He said it will likely make it to the House Revenue and Taxation Committee, which he serves on.
Quinn wants to read the language in the bill before he decides whether to support it or not.
"This is a big shift, particularly for the state of Utah, and even on a national level," he said. "I know it is revenue neutral, but people will be damaged by this. I want to read it first."
He said that from what he knows about the legislation, it is better than some other proposals, in a general sense, and he supports it to "some degree."
"When we give tax incentives to change behavior, even if it is behavior I agree with, I have a tough time with that being our goal," Quinn said. "I would rather create an incentive to bring economic stimulus to the state, not to change my behavior or your behavior. But, this is one of the best proposals to change that behavior than the others that are out there."