SALT LAKE CITY — Citing cataclysmic impacts to the economy — from ranching to mining to small-business interests — a legislative committee Thursday threw its support behind a resolution urging the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency to halt its carbon-dioxide reduction policies.
"We are responsible to look at the big picture," said Rep. Kerry Gibson, R-Ogden, sponsor of the measure. "The economy is as important as the environment."
Fueled by concerns over devastating impacts to Utah's farmers, ranchers, mining industry, businesses and consumers, HJR12 is intended to send a message to the federal government that the regulation of carbon dioxide as a greenhouse gas is fraught with economic impracticalities and based on unproven global warming theory.
"Sometimes when we don't have all the answers, we need to have the courage to do nothing," said Rep. Mike Noel, R-Kanab, arguing forcefully on behalf of the resolution. Making reference to the medical profession's Hippocratic oath, Noel said, "As policymakers, we should first do no harm."
The cornerstone of concern is the "endangerment finding" by the EPA that carbon dioxide constitutes a greenhouse-gas emission and by extension falls under the purview of the agency to be regulated under the Clean Air Act.
Critics of that practice, such as the National Farm Bureau, have gone into a tailspin, fearful that ranching and farming activities will fall under the agency's hammer.
Randy Parker, chief executive officer of the Utah Farm Bureau, said such regulation would be "crippling" to Utah's agricultural industry.
"Agriculture is being regulated and taxed to death because of this mentality," he said. "We are at the breaking point. … The cost of producing food in this country is on the verge of being unsustainable for the agricultural industry."
Explicit in the resolution is the dismissal of global warming as a sound phenomenon and the assertion that the premise has given rise to a climate-change "gravy train" supported by an annual $7 billion in federal grants. At the same time, the resolution states, manipulating alarmists thwart the voices of skeptics.
"We seem to have lost our common sense in some of these matters," said Gibson, a dairy farmer from Weber County. "People pushing this squelch all the voices of opposition."
Supporters of the resolution pointed out that there are similar measures being introduced and discussed in the halls of Congress. Mike Peterson, with the Utah Rural Electric Association, said the Clean Air Act was never intended as a vehicle to regulate carbon dioxide.
Even one of its crafters, U.S. Rep. John Dingell, D-Michigan, has said the regulation of carbon dioxide as a greenhouse gas by the EPA would constitute a "glorious mess," Peterson said.
Rep. Phil Riesen, D-Salt Lake, was the lone dissenter on the committee and disapproved of the resolution, saying steps need to be taken now to preserve the environment for generations to come. Joining in his opposition was a University of Utah engineering professor, who in testimony got caught up in a confrontational debate with Noel over carbon dioxide and its classification as a pollutant.