Just after receiving recommendations on reforms to Utah’s criminal justice system on Tuesday, Governor Gary Herbert addressed the looming problem of poor air quality, water consumption and federal protection of the sage grouse in his monthly media conference.
Herbert said Utah’s air quality problem has effects that extend beyond negative consequences for health.
“It’s not just a health issue; it is also an economic development issue, and if we don’t get a handle on our air quality, we will in fact slow economic expansion,” he said.
To deal with the problem of air quality, Herbert announced a program of public service announcements on air quality to make the issue more visible to the public.
The governor said he has also pushed energy development companies operating in Utah to bring cleaner-burning Tier 3 gasoline to the state, and companies have been responsive to this suggestion.
Herbert said water consumption is a critical issue for the second fastest-growing state in America. He says the Your Utah, Your Future study will provide answers as to how to best deal with water consumption issues.
The governor said the study, which will be released in about 6 months, will look at potential solutions such as changes in zoning by local governments, using more drought-friendly landscaping practices like xeriscaping and ending water subsidies so Utahns are attentive to the true cost of water.
Herbert said the state budget will be rolled out in December, and that money from economic growth will go to education first, as well as other state needs.
“I expect there to be growth money and my number one budget priority has been education so I expect you’ll see a significant amount of those resources put into education. But we also have infrastructure needs,” he said. “We’ve talked a little about our water needs. Our roads and transportation, our maintenance [need funding] and part of education funding is taking care of buildings on college campuses.”
The governor said he believes liquor laws have not negatively affected the tourism industry in Utah, though he is willing to discuss potential improvements to Utah liquor laws in the upcoming legislative session.
Herbert also said the enforcement of the Endangered Species Act, particularly federal protection of the sage grouse, hurts economic development in Utah. He believes environmentalist groups use the sage grouse as a tool to obstruct development on public lands. He also questioned the status of the sage grouse as endangered, citing the existence of numerous populations in other states.