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Utah’s Congressional delegation has a positive path forward for the environment
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Utah’s Congressional delegation has a positive path forward for the environment

Utah’s conservative values and protection of the environment go hand-in-hand. Utah’s culture and history embrace responsible stewardship of the environment, including water and land. Unfortunately, Washington D.C.’s conservative leaders were slow to recognize the importance environmental issues. Too often they devoted all their energy to opposing extreme environmental proposals, such as the Green New Deal. Instead of creating proactive policies that support the environment while enhancing the economy,

These are, however, changing. These issues are being addressed by conservative officials in Washington D.C., who are increasingly listening to Western conservatives. This could lead to a breakthrough in solving real problems that affect our state economy like climate change, forest management and water policy. Politicians on both the left and right must find common sense solutions and not push for extreme positions. 

The new Conservative Climate Caucus, which was formed recently by Congressman John Curtis, now includes all of Utah’s congressional delegation Congressmen Christ Stewart and Burgess Owens.  In total, this House caucus includes nearly 70 members – making up a third of all the Republicans in the House.    

Instead of creating excessive regulatory programs that require large federal spending, as far-left advocates, the Conservative Climate Caucus’s goal is pragmatic. It is focused on private sector innovation, which is driven by the free marketplace and uses American resources and R&D investment. These programs are designed to reduce emissions and keep energy affordable.  This means that the caucus seeks solutions to both boost the U.S. economy as well as support the environment. 

Washington D.C. Conservative leaders support conservatism’s proactive role on environmental issues.  Kevin McCarthy, House Republican leader, hosted a three-day conference. Energy Innovation AgendaAn event was held earlier in the year that brought together conservative lawmakers, officials from the energy sector and representatives of conservation groups. They discussed dozens if GOP legislative proposals that would create a safer, cleaner, and more prosperous environment while simultaneously growing our economy.

These proposals address real climate challenges such as securing a domestic source chain for critical minerals used in windturbines, solar panels, and electric cars; streamlining permitting process for clean electricity and infrastructure projects; encouraging zero-carbon nuclear power in particular the developing world; and maximising use of agriculture and forestry to pull carbon out the atmosphere.

Diversifying U.S. energy sources is a conservative proposal that not only benefits the economy but also makes good environmental policy. American energy sources are cleaner and more beneficial for the environment than traditional ones. Russian natural gas exports into Europe and China have more lifecycle emissions that liquefied natural gases exports from the U.S., for example. China’s coal mining produces 33% more methane that the coal it produces here.

McCarthy, the GOP House leader, stated that we can create and build new technology here at home that is affordable, clean, and exportable. Our plans are not like the Democrat plans. They don’t kill American jobs and make American energy more expensive by increasing taxes and regulation.

According to a new Report by The Western WayUtah’s growing renewable energy sector is driving rural economies with $5.3Billion in total output, 4,368 construction jobs and an annual output of $154.4M. Nearly $25M in property tax revenue annually.  

The policies could also provide a boost for Utah’s mining industry. According to the Utah Geological SurveyOur state has 28 of the 35 essential minerals required for clean-energy technology and high-tech devices. The UGS states that six of these minerals are already produced in our state and that Utah is well-positioned to develop more domestic critical mineral resources.

To unlock this potential, we need to have strong, common-sense environmental regulations. Conservatives are developing proactive solutions to achieve bipartisan support for mining investment and jobs in Utah by linking these projects to responsible climate policy.

Congressman Curtis, recently made a statement that sums up why we must advance solutions to actual challenges facing our environment, saying  I had a great Scoutmaster and my father loved the outdoors, and they would take me into the outdoors and I could just see the beauty of Gods creation, he said. I made a promise to myself that I would do my best to make sure my grandkids and children have the same opportunity. 

Utah’s congressional delegation, a Western conservative group, is right to be active in U.S. environmental and energy policies. Real solutions to environmental problems will not only help Utah’s unique environment, but also boost our state’s economy and create jobs. Utah should encourage these elected officials to keep this as a priority in Washington DC.

Steve Handy is the Utah House District 16 state representative. This district includes parts of Clearfield, Hill AFB, and Layton. He has been a House member since 2010. He is a member of Utah’s Clean Air Caucus.

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