Utah leaders are spending public funds poorly, abandoning Utah youth for fossil fuels

The Utah Legislature tolerates corruption that denies necessary aid to rural communities.

Trent Nelson | Salt Lake Tribune oil wells along the Nine Mile Canyon National Backcountry Byway in Duchesne County on Tuesday, January 19, 2016.

Something wonderful happens when you hang out with kids. They give you hope.

High school and college students who participated in the recent International Youth Summit are prime examples. They are committed to making Utah and the world a better place. But they have lost faith in selfish politicians who have repeatedly shown that they don’t give an iota for their future.

The last example? State officials embezzled nearly $ 110 million of public money to fund fossil fuel projects, leaving rural Utah communities in deep trouble, worsening the health and well-being of every Utahn and giving our young people more reasons not to trust them.

For more than a decade, the Permanent Community Impact Board has stolen revenues from federal mining leases and royalties intended to help small towns and cities overwhelmed by fossil fuel extraction. Money that should have been spent on water and sewage services, road improvements and much needed public safety equipment has instead funded projects that will make matters worse, like a railway and oil refinery project.

A new report from the Utah Clean Infrastructure Coalition and a State audit 2020 spell everything. The board of directors has been violating federal mining leases since at least 2009.

The August 17, 2021 coalition report documents that in 2020, Duchesne and Uintah counties identified $ 86.6 million of top priorities for Community Impact Board funding, including water reservoirs , sewer lines and fire hydrants. So far, Duchesne County has received less than $ 8 million in grants and loans, and Uintah County has received only $ 4.3 million. In 2019 and 2020, the council funded seven fossil fuel projects totaling more than $ 48 million, including roads to facilitate oil and coal extraction.

The investigation by the Auditor General of Legislation showed that the Community Impact Board often did not follow rules and guidelines limiting attribution to projects that help communities cope with the impacts of mining development. The audit highlighted the Uinta Basin Railway Project as one of the projects demonstrating the need to improve council practices.

How did the Utah legislature react? After years of turning a blind eye and failing to bring that theft under control, then ignoring the recommendations of its own auditor, the Legislature this year passed legislation to expand how these federal funds can be used, allowing the money to benefit the fossils. fuel industry.

Of course, this new state law violates federal law and conservation groups are suing. But, perhaps worse, it shows how far the Utah legislature will go to stifle local control and how little lawmakers care about corruption.

I have been out of politics since leaving office, but I cannot remain silent when the very people in charge of Utah’s future – who are supposed to represent all Utahns – are busy. of the fossil fuel industry and ignore the needs of the local population. communities.

Maybe by breaking my silence you will break yours and together there is a chance we can stop this.

I have also directed the United States Department of the Interior and the Bureau of Land Management to conduct a thorough investigation into the spending of federal mining concession funds in the state of Utah since 2009, and take the necessary steps to ensure that local communities receive the funds they deserve. .

I know times are tough, but I ask the people of Utah to please take five minutes to contact their senators and state officials and ask them to commit all federal mining concession funds to community projects. unfunded premises.

We can stop this corrupt activity and give our young people a reason to be proud of Utah. We must act as if our future, and theirs, depends on it. Because yes.

Jackie Biskupski served as mayor of Salt Lake City from 2016-2020 and a member of the Utah House of Representatives from 1999-2011.

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