Wake up and smell the coffee, Utah. Or maybe I should say, wake up and smell the coal. I am a student at the University of Utah and an avid follower of energy issues here in this beautiful state, and I am appalled at the lack of aggressive concern in Gov. Gary Herbert's 10-year energy plan regarding pollution and a healthy environment. Herbert's "Energy Task Force" is comprised of mostly CEOs and business types. The one person who could, by title, be at all related to protecting the health of Utah's environment is the executive director from the Department of Environmental Quality. Gov. Herbert has always stuck to his approach of balancing the issues, and I find no balance in this energy plan whatsoever.
Now, I don't know about you, but I don't want a plan that is as unbalanced as this one. Coal is the leading energy production source in Utah and should be recognized as such. There are indeed many coal towns throughout Utah. Carbon County, Emery County and Sevier County all hold a few of these towns and in 2009 employed roughly 2,000 employees. That is, however, only a 10th of total energy employment and not even two-thousandth of a percent of total employment in Utah. Let's keep the facts straight and not let narrow-mindedness influence either side of the debate.
Utah Physicians for a Healthy Environment note, "Because of the strong link between air and water pollution and public health, an energy policy adopted by the state of Utah will simultaneously become a de facto public health policy." Coal-fired power plants contribute substantial quantities of pollution. Small airborne particles are released, which can cause chronic bronchitis and aggravated asthma. Let's begin to aggressively pull back on coal production while simultaneously supporting our local coal-based communities with new avenues of energy development, and begin to move toward cleaner forms of production and a much healthier environment.