Questions to ask candidates for elected office:
What is the Tax Payer Risk?
The prospectus issued by the Utah Inland Port Authority to solicit its $150 million in tax-payer-backed bonds lists a number of mostly-standard disclaimers. However, one category is very relevant to conditions now acknowledged to exist around the Great Salt Lake: "Climate change, including change caused by human activities, may have material adverse effects on the development of taxable property within the AJL [Authority Jurisdictional Land] Project Area." A reference to "economic activity” also warns, "drought conditions may result in a delay or an inability to pursue development within the AJL Project Area."
This year's direct allocation of state funds to the Port Authority is almost four million dollars, making a total of roughly twenty million dollars over five state fiscal years. Significant additional funding for infrastructure projects is difficult to track.
· Do you think that any more state funds should go into the Port project?
· Do you think that UIPA should publish the existing quarterly financial reports on the $150 million Crossroads bond, which is backed by taxpayers, but produces tax-free revenue for investors?
· Should the Port now be self-supporting?
· What do you think the role of a state legislator should be in ensuring that the Utah Inland Port is successful?
What is the air pollution impact?
Utah gets most of its imported goods from Southern California seaports. Utah Inland Port officials say that moving some California ports’ freight handling functions to Utah would ease congestion at those ports and vastly improve efficiency in freight handling logistics.
Utah Inland Port officials say that a transloading facility in Salt Lake City (yet to be built with funds from taxpayer-backed bonds) will enable more freight currently brought to Utah from California, by truck, to arrive by rail. The transloading process would take three ocean containers off a train and repack them into two larger domestic containers for truck delivery to final destinations. (It is cheaper to truck two larger containers inland than three smaller ones.) Therefore, say Port officials, the Inland Port will process higher levels of both imports and exports in the Port’s jurisdictional area, but the diesel truck traffic will decrease. However, the anticipated increased volume of goods arriving by train, and the simple fact that some trucks will not be using the transloading facility—but loading, and off-loading directly at Port warehouses—creates concern about the diesel truck numbers.
· Because most locomotives and heavy trucks serving the Utah Inland Port will be diesel for at least the next decade, and the diesel truck and locomotive traffic in the Port jurisdictional area is likely to increase, would you support a requirement, similar to what California ports will mandate by the end of this year, that only low-emission diesel trucks (those built after 2010) be allowed to access Inland Port facilities?
· As a legislator, would you also support a requirement that other diesel-powered equipment used within the Port be low- or zero-emission as well?
What will you do to help the people most harmed by port development?
EPA Region 8, in conjunction with Salt Lake City and the Westside Coalition, has begun work on an EPA-funded Environmental Justice Assessment of a range of factors affecting residents of the Westside of Salt Lake City. One major consideration will be the Utah Inland Port.
· As a Utah State legislator, how do you think your decisions might be influenced by Environmental Justice Assessment information regarding the effects that the Utah Inland Port will have on the physical and economic well-being of area residents?
· Will you accept the EPA Assessment as a credible source of information?
· What other sources of information will you use in forming your opinions about the environmental impacts and hazards associated with the Utah Inland Port?
· What other studies do you think may be needed to make informed decisions concerning environmental, and other, impacts of the Utah Inland Port?
What will you do to protect water quality and wildlife?
The jurisdictional area of the Inland Port is surrounding 20,000 acres of wetland habitat adjacent to the Great Salt Lake. Under what circumstances would you support a cap on the numbers of warehouses built in the area?
· Do you think that concerns about damage to wildlife habitat surrounding the Port--most notably for millions of migratory birds--could justify a limit on the use of privately held land?
· Are you in favor of using public funds to purchase land to create a greater wildlife buffer?
· What problems might a switch from warehouse construction to manufacturing solve?
· Do you believe that managing pollution from warehouse storm-water runoff is a valid concern of the Utah State Legislature, and Salt Lake City, especially considering increased mosquito spraying and the increased water usage (and runoff) generated by the mitigation of the previous landfill section of the Port?
· Should water usage around the Port area be limited, and is the water volume required for the mitigation of the previous landfill section of the Port a consideration in your response?
What will you do to prevent chemical pollution of water and air?
Pesticides have long been recognized as hazardous to public health. They are especially toxic to early brain development, even at very small doses of exposure. Recently, concern about pesticides has further increased because they can be contaminated with, or are often chemically similar to, PFAS chemicals (the “forever” or “Teflon group”), for which the EPA has declared there is no safe level of exposure. The full toxicity of pesticides is often unknown, and underestimated, because the chemical makeup of pesticides can be hidden behind the shield of "proprietary information." Nonetheless, mosquito abatement districts in the state, overseen by public health officials without expertise in environmental toxins, are conducting aerial spraying of pesticides over the state’s most highly populated areas, including the same area as the inland port.
· How would you address this public health hazard?