Utah has billions of tons of coal. Much of it in areas like the Grand Escalante (the reason Chris Stewart and Mia Love cut the National Monument in half is to get at the coal) and in the magnificent, untouched Book Cliffs.
In 2016, on the last day of the session, the Utah Legislature committed $53 million dollars to subsidize a risky coal export scheme cooked up between investment banker and former Utah Department of Transportation Chair Jeff Holt and private Oakland developer Phil Tagami. Holt’s company was in line for a million dollar commission. (Sadly, the Legislative lawyers told me such a conflict is legal in Utah.) Mr Holt has subsequently moved out of Utah.
But, when the Oakland City Council disapproved the port idea, I thought that the absurd idea was dead. But like a vampire, it is back. A judge will decide if the project can continue, despite the wishes of Oakland. And, sadly Utah cannot wait to throw that $53 million to California. Money out of the pockets of rural Utah, money meant ironically, to compensate local communities from the ravages of fossil fuel extraction in their neighborhoods. Money from rural Utah ushered into the hands of a private California developer!
The Legislature and the Governor are continuing their long-standing bet on the state’s economic future--in coal. Since few in the USA will buy coal anymore, Utah's elected officials are planning on exporting our coal to an Asia market that is reducing its coal consumption faster than Trump can get a tweet out.
If the developer wins in court, Utah public money will be shipped off to make this huge public investment in the private coal port. The other great beneficiary of this $53 million dollar of Utah money will be the huge international fossil fuel companies. There is talk about a necessary follow-up, $100 million dollars plus of Utah public money to build a rail through the roadless Book Cliff. They have to get the coal to Oakland. The Book Cliffs is the largest roadless place in America outside of Alaska."