SALT LAKE CITY — The third installment in Gov. Gary Herbert's series of public hearings to solicit input on a 10-year energy plan drew a crowded roomful of participants who urged an array of energy options as diverse as Utah's geologic landscape.
From the steep mountain canyons that produce wind to propel turbines to the state's vast expanses of tar sands, Herbert stressed all alternatives are on the table as he and task force committee members and working groups craft the plan.
"There has been a healthy difference of opinion on what we should be doing when it comes to energy," Herbert said, describing comments received thus far at hearings convened in Price and Cedar City.
The Tuesday afternoon session will be followed by another public hearing set from 3 to 5 p.m. in Vernal on Sept. 23 at Western Park, 302 E. 200 South.
Emphasizing the plan's goal is to tap a wide range of energy resources — from coal to renewables such as solar and wind — Herbert said the ultimate objective is to incorporate a "give and take" approach that strives for balance.
Such diversity, he noted, can be at natural loggerheads, as the marketplace seeks to embrace cleaner, more affordable energy that may require huge capital investments.
Multiple interest groups were represented at the latest hearing, including Wild Utah Project, Grand Canyon Trust and the state Board of Education, whose school Trust Lands representative urged "active promotion" of all energy development.
Margaret Bird told Herbert and the panel that the Trust Lands' Permanent School Fund funnels the state's only nondiscretionary funding to 900 educational institutions in the state, augmenting dollars that support critical education needs determined at the local level.
Those moneys are derived from development projects on 3.4 million acres and from mineral rights on 4.3 million acres of lands in Utah held in trust for Utah's school children.
Generous applause, however, filled the room as coal critics urged the state to cease its dependency on fossil fuels, saying such continued practices represent environmental folly.
"It is a declaration of war against the living" to continue to focus on traditional energy resources, environmental activist Tim DeChristopher said.
Wesley Sorensen, general manager of Canyon Fuel Co. in Helper, said the company's collection of mines supply 60 percent of the coal in Utah, supporting a $60 million payroll in 2009 and paying out more than $2 million in property taxes.
Coal, he noted, has played an important role in the economic development of Utah, which gets 82 percent of energy needs from that source.
Written comments to help craft the energy plan are due Oct. 15, and a rough draft of the plan will be available for viewing on Nov. 3. A public hearing on the draft will be Nov. 10, with the final document scheduled to be released Dec. 13.
More information is available at www.energy.utah.gov.
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