While All Eyes Are on Washington, the Real Anti-Environmental Action Is Taking Place at the State Level

CC BY 2.0. wikipedia/ Wyoming wind farm

With all the news surrounding the President-Elect it is easy to lose sight of the environmental follies taking place at the state level, where truly shocking things are happening. Much like Michigan's ban on bag ban covered in TreeHugger previously, the so-called free market Republican Party is in fact the exact opposite- closing down the free market to protect special interests.

Wyoming legislation bans use of wind power

The most egregious is in Wyoming, a big coal-mining state that also happens to be rather windy. In fact, Wyoming has one of the highest wind power potentials of any state. According to Wikipedia, "Wyoming's geography of high-altitude prairies with broad ridges makes the state an ideal site for the development of wind resources." So of course the politicians have introduced a bill making it illegal for utilities in the state to use renewable power. Inside Climate News reports:

Activists and energy experts are alarmed by the measure, which would levy steep fines on utilities that continue providing (or provide new) "non-eligible" clean energy for the state's electricity. But they are skeptical it will get enough support to become law.
"I haven't seen anything like this before," Shannon Anderson, director of the local organizing group Powder River Basin Resource Council, told InsideClimate News. "This is essentially a reverse renewable energy standard."

North Dakota bill would protect drivers who "accidentally" hit protesters in the road

across the lines

Across the lines/ get out of the road!/CC BY 2.0

During the Dakota Access protests, a legislator's mother-in-law was scared by a protester jumping in front of her car. He worries that she might have "accidentally" hit the wrong pedals in a panic. Hence Bill 1203, which lets the driver off the hook if they "unintentionally injured or killed a pedestrian obstructing traffic on a public road or highway." Specifically the legislation reads:

"A driver of a motor vehicle who negligently causes injury or death to an individual obstructing vehicular traffic on a public road, street, or highway may not be held liable for any damages. A driver of a motor vehicle who unintentionally causes injury or death to an individual obstructing vehicular traffic on a public road, street, or highway is not guilty of an offense."

Now if that isn't a licence to kill, I don't know what is. According to the Bismarck Tribune,

“It’s shifting the burden of proof from the motor vehicle driver to the pedestrian,” said Rep. Keith Kempenich. “They’re not there for the protesters,” said Kempenich of public roadways as a staging point. “They’re intentionally putting themselves in danger."

While the bill might have protected Kempenich's mother in law from a pedal malfunction, it also basically makes it open season on anyone in the road, whether protesting or not.

Utah State Government fight National Monument; Outdoor industry threatens to leave town

Outdoor retailer show

Outdoor Retailer Show/CC BY 2.0

When President Obama declared 1.35 million acres of Utah to become a new national monument, the locals were outraged, some "compared Obama's monument designation in Utah to the "unilateral tyranny" exercised by the king of England against American colonies." Senator Mike Lee called the designation an "arrogant act by lame a duck president" that will not stand.

On the other hand, the President notes that it is some pretty wonderful terrain,

Abundant rock art, ancient cliff dwellings, ceremonial sites, and countless other artifacts provide an extraordinary archaeological and cultural record that is important to us all, but most notably the land is profoundly sacred to many Native American tribes, including the Ute Mountain Ute Tribe, Navajo Nation, Ute Indian Tribe of the Uintah Ouray, Hopi Nation, and Zuni Tribe.

It also is a pretty nice place for those who like the great outdoors:

From earth to sky, the region is unsurpassed in wonders. The star-filled nights and natural quiet of the Bears Ears area transport visitors to an earlier eon. Against an absolutely black night sky, our galaxy and others more distant leap into view. As one of the most intact and least roaded areas in the contiguous United States, Bears Ears has that rare and arresting quality of deafening silence.

And in fact, the outdoors industry is pretty important to Utah; the Outdoor Retailers Show is vast, filling Salt Lake City twice a year. Peter Metcalf of Black Diamond helped bring the shows to Utah, and complains:

Our trade show, Utah's outdoor recreation industry and the relocating of many high-tech businesses to the state are predicated in great part on the thoughtful public policy that includes unparalleled access to well-protected, stewarded and wild public lands. Tragically, Utah's governor, congressional delegation and state Legislature leadership fail to understand this critical relationship between our healthy public lands and the vitality of Utah's growing economy.
Gov. Gary Herbert and Utah's D.C. delegation are leading a national all-out assault on the sanctity of Utah and the country's public lands. Together, Utah's political leadership has birthed an anti-public lands political agenda that is the driving force of an existential threat to the vibrancy of Utah and America's outdoor industry, as well as Utah's high quality of life.

He is taking a stand against Utah's anti-environmental policies that could cost the state its leading role in the outdoor industry.

This agenda is antithetical to our industry, let alone the majority of our citizens regardless of party affiliation. By our industry's twice-annual trade show remaining in Utah, we are actually complicit collaborators in our own demise. It's time for the industry to again find its voice, speak truth and power to power while making it clear to the governor and the state's political leadership that this trade show will depart with the expiration of the current contract in 2018 unless the leadership ceases its assault on America's best idea.

It will be interesting to see how this plays out. The outdoor industry is big in Utah, big enough to have a real impact.