It's been a pet project of Gov. Norm Bangerter for the past two years. And even groups as diverse as the Sierra Club and the Utah Petroleum Association think it would be a good idea to create a new Department of Environmental Quality to deal with the multitude of environmental concerns facing the state.
But Bangerter may have a hard time convincing his fellow Republicans. Only two members of the House Republican Caucus voted for an early consideration of a bill to fund the new department.The rest, meanwhile, questioned why they should spend $300,000 a year more for something that is already being done by the Department of Health. And they simply didn't believe the department would not impose any more regulations than are currently being imposed by the federal government.
"We don't need any more monsters," said Rep. Brad Johnson, R-Aurora.
House Majority Whip Byron Harward, R-Provo, argued the new state department would allow more direct gubernatorial control over the state's environmental problems. Proponents said the $300,000 needed for a department would go to pay the salaries of department managers.
But even a letter to House Speaker Craig Moody couldn't sway the tide. "So much of what we want to accomplish in terms of economic growth is dependent upon our ability to maintain a good quality of life, and to achieve this, a sound environment is essential," Bangerter wrote.
"Such a department will enhance our ability to resolve important environmental issues and provide the necessary focus to address environmental policy and implement our decisions."
That didn't set well with the caucus, which instead voted to wait until the end of the legislative session and force the proposal to compete head to head with other programs needing money - like social services and education.