Grand County is considering joining the already-active Six County Infrastructure Coalition. The panel discussion held Sept. 17 was informative but left me with more questions than answers about the coalition’s purposes and what benefits Grand County would enjoy.
After much research and thought, I have urged the Grand County Council not to vote in favor of Grand County joining.
The Six or Seven County Coalition concept is fundamentally flawed in 2 ways:
1) The stated purpose is to plan for regional infrastructure needs. That would be great if ALL aspects of infrastructure needs were to be addressed. Energy security is top on the list for all of us. However, the agreement is lopsided and off-point because it focuses largely on fossil fuel development, extraction and transport. If this is truly a regional planning effort to benefit all communities, all types of energy sources ― and natural resource assets ― should be addressed. For example, southeastern Utah is already rich in sunshine. The 55 million dollars the coalition is seeking, essentially for fossil fuel extraction, could fund a lot of solar-powered independence.
Further, the coalition should be focused on protecting and maintaining the fundamental resources that make our livelihoods possible ― healthy watersheds and clean air. These assets sustain our communities now and in the future.
2) Utah’s Permanent Community Impact Fund monies that are derived from mineral lease royalties are meant to be utilized to offset the impacts to local communities affected by resource extraction. Contrary to this mandate, the coalition, in fact, would be helping to subsidize the extractive industries that create the impacts in the first place. I find this unacceptable.
Our elected county attorney, the council’s legal counsel, has provided an opinion that cautions against the vagueness and potential liability of being a partner in the coalition. He also stated that Grand County would have better bargaining powers if the county is not a member of the coalition. This should be reason enough for the Grand County Council to decline joining the coalition.
The United Nations recently released a report that lays out the reality of human-induced climate change impacts and what that portends for humanity’s future if we don’t turn the trend around. Let’s be bold and prudent. Let’s take on our responsibility and leave fossil fuels in the ground. This will be our true legacy to our great grandchildren and theirs.