Posts Tagged Herbert

The Madness of King Coal

Back when Utah had a governor who thought global warming existed, and who also though we might need to take significant steps regarding our air pollution, the state funded a study by Synapse Energy Economics, Inc, with the help of the Harvard School of Public Health.  It estimated, predictably, that each year over 2 billion dollars in health and water costs are wasted, and approximately 200 lives lost due to coal plant power production in Utah. Not to mention that other “externality” to coal power, global warming.

Wow!  Our state funded study showed us that that nasty air we see every winter is bad for us?  It’s time for us all to come out for energy efficiency and renewable energy power generation, right?  Say farewell to King Coal right Governor Herbert?

Of course not, this is Utah, and what happened next was also as predictable as it is sad.

According to a report at, the state “sidetracked (the study) and refused to vouch for it — after it ran into a wall of opposition from industry.”

The study figured $8 million per death, using long established statistical methods.

Clean energy advocate Arthur Morris was at a state meeting where industry representatives denounced the study.

“Kind of went crazy,” Morris said. “It was a little bit surprising to me that they were so incensed by valuing people too much.”

“Anything that would increase energy costs gets our attention,” said attorney Jim Holtkamp, air quality chairman for Utah Manufacturers.

Of course, no one seems to have quibbled with the 202 lives lost, just how much dollar value was placed upon them.  Which, makes some sense, I suppose, when all you really care about is the bottom line.

Supposedly “public meetings” were held when the study came out a few months ago.  Check out Rocky Mountain Power’s statement to KSL about their meeting:

We disagree with the study’s conclusions. Rocky Mountain Power participated in an initial review of the published study along with a broad group of Utah business stakeholders including the Salt Lake Chamber of Commerce, Utah Manufacturers Association, Utah Association of Energy Users, Utah Industrial Energy Consumers, Utah Mining Association, Deseret Power and others. Together, we identified enough concerns with the assumptions used in the study’s analysis to determine that its results should not be relied on.

-Jeff Hymas, Rocky Mountain Power

Funny, I wonder why clean air advocates and “the public”, never heard about any meeting, and somehow all of the business stakeholders managed to get the news…

It’s time to choose clean air over dirty air, and make the state pay attention to this study and do something about it.  The study not only shows the cost of the current path, but was designed to show the benefits of changing course.  It estimated the cost of substituting energy efficiency and renewables for 1/3 of the least efficient coal plants and found:

To achieve even more dramatic co-benefits, if approximately one-third of Utah’s most inefficient and polluting coal generators are replaced with a rigorous energy efficiency program and either gas or renewable energy, externalities amounting to $70 – $79 could
be realized for each MWh of coal retired or displaced.5

Did I say cost, sorry I meant savings, as that number “exceeds the cost of most electrical generation.”

If anyone out there would like to participate in getting this study publicized and forcing the state to do something about it, feel free to attend this Thursday’s 6pm meeting of the Utah Physicians for a Healthy Environment (UPHE), at the University of Utah Orthopedic Hospitals’ 3rd floor conference room.  All who care about Utah air quality are welcome, whether health care providers or not.  I will summarize the meeting and action plan in a post after Thursday night.

I’m at work but can answer comments or questions about the meeting after 5 or tomorrow.

By the way, hello and thanks for having me, I’m a physician in Salt Lake, and I’d much prefer cleaner air!


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Guv Huntsman resigning for China ambassadorship.

NO SPECIAL SESSIONChannel 4 News (also heard on Channel 2) reports that Governor Jon Huntsman has been offered and will accept the ambassadorship to China. The announcement is to be made tomorrow from the White House.

The good guv has been under a lot of criticism lately for being a no-show at some important R Party events in Utah. This might explain why he has been occupied elsewhere. Now I’m thinking about the implications of being appointed to this slot by a Democratic president. Local Repubs will make the most of it for certain, but it may be a big asset to Huntsman if he decides to run for president in 2012, as he seems to be one of the only in his party who gets it, that the country has moved to the center — including Republican voters.

The question now is whether Lt. Governor Gary Herbert will serve out Huntsman’s term or if there will be a special election. As we recall when Governor Leavitt resigned to fill a Bush cabinet spot, the Lt. Gov can serve in an interim period, but it seems there isn’t an automatic transfer of power. Maybe some of our readers have more knowledge of this process.

Huntsman was scheduled to visit China with other governors later this month, but the trip was canceled because of the swine flu outbreak.

UPDATE 8:30 pm: The Salt Lake Tribune now has the story up. As does the DesNews. UPDATE: Now on KSL. I was feeling a little unsure of the sources earlier, but feel more confident now.

The Deseret News also offers a little more insight about succession and a special election.

The appointment of Huntsman would mean that Lt. Gov. Gary Herbert would take over as the state’s chief executive. A special election for the governor’s office would be held in 2010, under a new state constitutional amendment.

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