Posts Tagged Mike Noel

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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Rep. Noel proposes hunting deer and bighorn sheep on Antelope Island

As a means of generating new revenue, Rep. Mike Noel has announced he will propose hunting permits for deer and bighorn sheep on Antelope Island State Park. The announcement came during a budget hearing of the Natural Resources Appropriations Subcommittee, This was the same meeting at which Senator Buttars made a controversial proposal to privatize state parks (h/t Glen Warchol, Salt Lake Crawler).

Earlier in the hearing, Noel commented on the losses experienced by state parks and wondered “are we ever going to make money on parks?”

Noel suggests that selling two tags each for deer and bighorn sheep will generate revenue of about $250 thousand for the state parks,

Well, the condition that we’re in right now with the funding and things, we could sure use the ongoing revenue of a coupla $150 thousand, may be even more, might even be as high as $500 thousand, some of these state-wide tags have sold for $200 thousand.

Utah Parks Superintendent Mary Tullius responded that in numerous public surveys, people have not supported hunting on the island except for biological reasons, such as overpopulation or disease. The bighorn herds were put out there as nursery herds. Recreational hunting was never an intent.

I just want to alert the committee as we make this tomorrow, I’m going to make a motion to do that, cause I think we could use the money and I don’t’ see any reason why we shouldn’t, we’ve already got bison being hunted out there

If we got two tags for deer and two for goats, we could bring in $300 thousand to 400 thousand a year, seems like a pretty good deal to me. And put at a time when there’s not a lot of people out there, a very controlled situation. Anyway, thank you very much, ‘preciate it.

I am not sure I understand how two tags can generate the kind of money Noel suggests. I checked Utah’s website for hunting Licenses, Permits and Fees. A license to hunt bison on Antelope Island goes for $1,105 for residents, and $1,513 for non-residents. I wasn’t able to determine how many licenses were granted in a year for this hunt.

I’ll admit I’m not a hunter, so maybe I don’t understand how many animals may be taken with one tag. Perhaps I’m not doing the math correctly, but I fail to see how offering two tags each of these animals on Antelope Island will produce even a small fraction of the amount stated by Noel.

Antelope Island is a unique and popular recreation area. Easily accessed from Antelope Drive in Davis County, It attracts large numbers of families, bicyclists, bird and animal enthusiasts, photographers, boaters, and just plain sight-seers. It’s hard to imagine, even if the revenue projections are correct, being able to conduct a hunt in a way that wouldn’t impact regular public use.

Audio of the hearing is available here: See the file for February 8, 2010, 2:00 pm.

Cross-posted at Davis County Democrats and Utah Legislature Watch

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Environmental Terrorist? Takes One to Know One

Here it comes.  Another fantastic idea from from a Utah cow farmer.

mikenoelWhat an ASS! Utah State Rep. Mike Noel has decided that he should decide what happens to public federal lands that happen to be in Utah.  Who can blame him.  He’s probably been grazing his methane factories on federal land for so long, he thinks he owns it too.

But not Tim. No Tim DeChristopher is “laughing” because he stole millions from Utah schools.  What a putz.

Lets see.  Which land use is more destructive of the environment.

a. Preserving it.

b. Ranching

c. Drilling

If you answered ‘b’ you are right.  Mike Noel knows an environmental terrorist when he sees one BECAUSE HE IS ONE!

Rural Utah lawmaker angered over block on drilling

‘Environmental terrorism’ » He aims to enact a new state law against disrupting oil lease sales
By Cathy Mckitrick
The Salt Lake Tribune

Posted: 02/05/2009

One lawmaker says that it’s time for Utah to fight back over the sale of 77 oil and gas leases disrupted last month by University of Utah student Tim DeChristopher and since shelved by the Obama administration.

Rep. Mike Noel said he initiated a bill Thursday to make DeChristopher’s actions a felony.

“To me, it’s environmental terrorism,” said the Kanab rancher. “I’m really upset that he participated in taking millions [of dollars] away from the school system that he benefited from and he sits out there laughing at us.”

Noel told his GOP colleagues in the House that the state could miss out on $30 million in royalties over the next 15 years because those leases are now off-limits.

“Utah is in the gun sights of the environmental community,” Noel said, blasting the Obama administration for — in one month — reversing the opening of public lands, including near national parks, to drilling.

Noel urged the GOP caucus to galvanize in opposition to the recent shelving of the leases by Interior Secretary Ken Salazar.

“We’re the Legislature, the ones who are supposed to have the control. It’s time to stand up and be counted.”

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The Utah Legislature Desperately Seeking Ethics

Why would ethics be a problem among Utah politicians? By far, the majority of those in the legislature, and government leadership positions espouse personal commitment to their religious beliefs. This would seem to imply a devotion to moral and ethical conduct. Indeed, they often seem overeager to legislate morality for Utah’s citizens. But this year, it appears our legislators have turned introspective and are now showing concern about their own morality.

SL Trib tells us that up to 14 different ethics-related bills are currently being prepared for introduction in the upcoming January session.

On the heels of a campaign season rocked by allegations of bribery and influence-peddling, Utah lawmakers are crafting a bevy of bills to address campaign-finance reform, lobbyist gifts and the Legislature’s rarely used ethics investigations.

We only have to go back as far as October to be reminded of the ethics investigation into Republican Representative Greg Hughes’ alleged bribery of a fellow legislator. With procedural biases that favored the legislator, the ethics committee was unable to do more than find Hughes guilty of conduct unbecoming a legislator and an admonishment for him to apologize for his wrongdoing.

As to the ethics charges themselves, the committee gave Hughes a pass, not because it found him innocent, but because, in the Committee’s view, the legislature’s current ethics standards were too vague to be applied.

And just this week State Senator Howard Stephenson is being accused of using his senate position to threaten and intimidate employees of the Utah Office of Education for “shabby treatment of ProCert Labs, an Orem-based company whose services Stephenson had been advocating for years.”

In a series of heated e-mails and phone calls, Stephenson, who heads the committee that sets the public education budget, threatened to withhold support from the Utah Office of Education, suggested it be downsized and have work outsourced and that the malcontents mistreating ProCert could be fired. [snip]

[State Superintendent Patti] Harrington said Stephenson is the “singular example” of a legislator who has weighed in with the education office and, as the senator who controls the education budget, his wishes are hard to ignore.

Also this week, the state Lieutenant Governor’s office is looking into the possible misuse of the State seal on a letter of endorsement by Attorney General Mark Shurtleff for DigitalBridge of Orem, just days before receiving a campaign contribution of $10,000 from the company. This just adds to the AG’s previous admitted misuse of official stationery for political purposes, as well as personally beneficial relationships with Ameriquest, payday lenders, and others.

And then there is state representative Aaron Tilton whose company Transition Power Development LLC, wants to build a 1,500-megawatt nuclear power plant, and representative Michael Noel, executive director of the Kane County Water Conservancy District, who wants to provide the water needed for the project. These two men are vice chairman and chairman, respectively, of the legislature’s Public Utilities and Technology Committee. Yet both claim no conflict of interest.

Certainly the laws are not designed to keep our public servants honest. We sort of leave it up to them to walk that line. And they know exactly where the line is, and they’ll walk right up and kiss it without stepping over. Seemingly moral and ethical individuals don’t always ‘choose the right’.

Let’s see if the next legislative session produces meaningful ethics laws or simply more fluff.

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Let’s play Spot the Conflict of Interest

We’ll make this like a little game of Connect the Dots, Utah Legislature version.

The SL Trib reports:

Critics hope that, without water plans for Utah’s first nuclear power plant will evaporate.

To that end, they recently filed formal protests with the State Engineer’s Office aimed at stopping the Kane County Water Conservancy District from preserving its right to 29,600 acre-feet of water already under lease by the reactor’s developers.

Utah law puts the public’s needs first, giving communities extra flexibility to ensure any future needs of their residents. [snip]

Aaron Tilton, chief executive officer of Transition Power Development LLC, the company behind the 1,500-megawatt nuclear station, is paying the water district $100,000 a year to lease the water right. His company also has promised $500,000 a year after five years, and $1 million a year once the plant comes online (emphasis mine).

“We haven’t even paid much attention to it,” Tilton said, noting that he hasn’t seen the protests.

Mike Noel, the water district’s administrator, isn’t worried either. [snip]

“Their agenda is to stop any construction and growth in Utah,” Noel said. “It’s not an environmental agenda. It’s a no-growth agenda.”

Let’s take a closer look and connect the dots (some of the following excerpted from my own blog post of October 2007 with attribution to the Deseret News):

  • Aaron Tilton is chief executive officer of Transition Power Development LLC.
  • Mike Noel is the exeuctive director of the Kane County Water Conservancy District.
  • Noel is chairman of the Legislature’s Public Utilities and Technology Committee, and Tilton is vice chairman.
  • Both men are members of the Public Utilities and Technology Interim Committee, which is co-chaired by Noel. The interim committee heard extensive testimony for and against nuclear power in its July and September [2007] meetings.
  • A bill to assist utilities in building nuclear power plants was discussed extensively by the Public Utilities Interim Committee on July 18 and Sept. 19 [2007] (emphasis mine).
  • Concerning the bill that was discussed July 18 and Sept. 19, Tilton said that he has no conflicts of interest. “I really don’t have a conflict of interest, because I’m not a regulated utility,” he said, and the bill dealt with those utilities.”
  • On his Declaration of Conflict of Interest form, Noel noted that he was associated with several groups: Michael E. Noel Environmental Consulting, Flood Canyon Ranch and Kane County Water Conservancy District. But he said it was not a conflict to co-chair the committee that is considering legislation involving a nuclear power plant. “The district is a public entity, like a city, a community, leasing water to them,” meaning the nuclear power plant, he said. ‘We’re a public utility. I work for the water district as a paid employee.'”

So if you own/run a business or if you control a public works operation, and you also have legislative power recommending approval or regulation of those things, would that be a conflict of interest? Just asking.

And remember, this post is not about the merits of nuclear power in Utah, it is about conflict of interest. Interestingly enough, the Salt Lake Tribune recently had an article entitled, New Utah House Speaker Clark says ethics reform top priority. As we saw with recent ethics investigations in the Utah legislature, our ethics laws are so puny, it doesn’t matter how blatant the misbehavior of our elected officials, no actual rules are ever broken.

UPDATE: I corrected the date and link to my original post on this topic.

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