Dabakis Diary Day 21

I am from Pluto, are they from Neptune?

You might get the idea from my ‘occasional’ complaints that it is tough for me to go up to work at the Capitol every morning. That would be wrong. Dead wrong. I struggle with talking and voting ‘against’ so many things. However, on a personal level, I absolutely enjoy every Senator (now, the House, that’s a cat of a different color LOL). With so many of my colleagues it is like we are from two different solar systems. On one hand, we agree on 90% of the nuts-and-bolts of running a state. Where we do disagree though, it is often soooo different a view.

For example, apparently there is a serious decline in interest among the young Utahans in hunting. Last week on the floor there was a bill allowing some special inducements to try and get more young people into the sport. There was no controversy on the bill. It did not cost the state any money. I had prepared a short barb about how I was a fan of bowling and how, in order to promote the non-growth sport of bowling, I was preparing a bill. However, as I listened to the Senators, one after each other, speak of the experience of their youth and of their traditions of preparing, camping, hiking, and hunting, I started to change my mind.  As they described the bonding with their fathers and families and how hunting makes up some of the warmest memories of their lives, it became clear to me that I should just shut up and give no wise cracks about bowling. I should stand down. I don’t understand hunting. I bristle at the idea. I have never gone; I never will. I don’t like guns. However, hunting is a very important link in the lives of many in our state and to ridicule it or be disrespectful of it would be wrong. Clearly, my urban experience is completely different than that of so many of our legislators that grew up in rural Utah. I can respect that. No need for me to belittle things that are important to others, especially things I do not understand.

On the other foot, it reminded me of one of the most hurtful bills introduced this session: HB0087. The bill defines gender identity as whatever a person’s “phenotype” is. It makes children use the restroom that correlates with their phenotype instead of their gender. It makes the state an official bully. The bill would make life even harder for our state’s transgender children. The transgender bill in the House, frankly, was the equivalent of me making hunting laws or belittling hunting. I doubt that the bill’s sponsor has ever met a room full of Utah trans children. I doubt he has ever sat with parents who are bewildered and frightened by something they do not understand in the life of their most precious child. I doubt the bill sponsor has ever talked to the family of a 14 year old trans child who killed himself in Utah because of the constant, inescapable bullying.

As legislators we have an obligation to represent our people, with vigor, but always with an eye toward our own prejudices and the recognition of our own inexperience, hopefully with civility and respect.

Much Cleaner air in 2015 or 2030?  SUPPORT SB 164

What if Utah could cut tailpipe emissions by 70-80% and fast? This is not some secret elixir from Harry Potter–it is on the way to America, thanks to the EPA! Question is, when will clean tailpipes arrive in Utah? Will it be in 2016-17 or long, long, long beyond that?

harry potter (dabakis)

I am talking about Tier 3, the latest round of federal EPA air pollution standards designed to clean up tailpipe emissions. The new standards that EPA requires beginning in 2015 will allow much cleaner air to come to the Wasatch Front soon… or it might not happen until the 2030s. It depends what the legislature does in the next few days.

Tier 3 is both new engines (which all new model cars must have beginning 2015) and cleaner gas (starting in 2017). Tier 3 will lower tailpipe emissions by 70-80%. However, the EPA is letting refiners ease into compliance. Nationally, refiners will only be required to convert 80% of their product. So, 20% of production will keep on polluting at high levels. Great news. Except, guess which states will get the 20% dirtier air? Drum roll…the dirty air will stay with those states that do not require Tier 3 gas.

Right now the lowest possible EPA standards for air quality are de facto the maximum level Utah laws allow. Dumb. Unless Utah changes its law and allows for regulations higher than EPA minimum national ones, Utah is likely to get the 20% allotment of dirty, dirty air. SB 164 will let Utah decide its clean air standards not DC bureaucrats. A hope for significantly cleaner air–is to pass Senator Gene Davis’s clean air bill. It will repeal the ugly law requiring EPA minimum standards to be our Utah maximum standards. This bill must pass this session if we are serious about changing our dirty air to clean air. This is the test for everyone who says they are for clean air.

 **For more information, read below.

 Insult to Judges?

judge judy (dabakis)

Here is what upsets me about Representative Ken Ivory’s (from West Jordan) H.B. 120: the bill would require Utah judges and state and local government lawyers to attend a seminar every two years to “study the constitution” and to examine “sovereignty, supremacy and jurisdiction.”  My guess is that the intent is no normal, fair, historic, balanced study of the constitution.  My concern is that this mandatory seminar will be an ‘out there’ Tea Party extremist, Mike Lee version of the constitution–and we will require our judges and lawyers to spend valuable time taking this one dimensional view of the constitution.

Is this a bit  insulting to our attorneys and judges? Perhaps a bit of an  imperial legislative mandate to the judicial branch? Is this an attempt to make sure everyone is thinking alike? Like some kind of Soviet style propaganda training to make sure everyone is drinking the kool-aid properly. Will there be grading? Will there be sanctions on those who disagree?

This bill came about when Rep. Ivory was disappointed in the results of a lawsuit. Among the bill’s required lessons are the history and workings of the 10th Amendment which grants states control over powers not specifically designated to the federal government. It also requires coaching on how and when challenges should be made to federal rules, and outlines which state powers are meant to be checks on Washington. The state will pay costs.

Spoiler alert. Looks like this nasty little bill might become law. It passed committee by 7-1 vote. Only Rep. Rebecca Chavez-Houck, D-Salt Lake City, opposed the proposal. She questioned requiring a course not sanctioned by the Utah State Bar for attorneys who are already “expected to have a certain level of expertise.” YEA REBECCA!

I get it, some have a very strong view of the constitution. Very strong. So do a lot of other Utahans. The reason that the document has served America so well and endured as a model for representative government everywhere is that it is so few words. It is simple and flexible. The document does not lock generations into trivial policies—it covers the 50,000 foot level of principle and allows the document to breathe, with time.  I fear presenting our judges and lawyers only one idea in a market place of ideas. I grant everyone their right to see the constitution with their own twist. Where I have, and I suspect many Utahans have problems with this bill, is that it insists that one peculiar view is the ‘correct’ view. The sacred view. The ‘real’ constitution.  Their’s is just another look, and frankly, in my mind a very narrow, dangerous, and limited view of our most important unifying national treasure.

** More Information from Matt Pacenza :

1. What is Tier 3?

It’s the latest round of federal standards from the EPA designed to clean up tailpipe emissions, both by requiring low-sulfur gas (10 parts per million, down from 30 ppm now) and more robust pollution controls in cars.

2. Could the state of Utah require Tier 3 without a change in the law (the fed minimum our max)?

The car part would be very difficult if not impossible. The gas part we think Utah could do, either to accelerate the process (more below) or by closing a loophole that could prevent Utah from getting the gas. The EPA proposed that any given refinery company could “average” 10ppm, so a big company (like Chevron) could theoretically choose to drive their bigger refineries even lower (7, 8 ppm) and keep Utah higher. That’s a loophole the state could and should close.

3. When do Tier 3 requirements take bite nationally?

The Tier 3 standards require refineries to produce lower-sulfur gasoline by 2017 and carmakers to begin phasing in advanced vehicle pollution control systems beginning in 2015. However, since Utah’s refineries are considered “small” refineries, they would have an extra three years, until 2020. It would be great if either the Division of Air Quality or the Air Quality Board could accelerate that process.

4. How much would all Tier 3 help air along the Wasatch?

When the rules are fully in effect and most cars on the highway include the new technologies (by the late 2020s), tailpipe emissions will be reduced by 70 to 80 percent. Since cars produce roughly half of total emissions, and accounting for growth of all sectors, a rough guess is Tier 3 could cut our total pollution by perhaps 25 percent, reducing both the number and severity of red air days.

5. How much more would Tier 3 cost at the pump?

Estimate range from less than a penny per gallon to a 2-3 cents.

6. If Utah does not change its current Fed max, Utah minimum, would Utah be less likely to get Tier 3 from refiners?

Yes, but later than some states and it is possible one or two of our refineries might not at all. We need to close those two loopholes (the “small” refinery one and the “credits” one) to make sure we get the gas here as soon as possible.

7. Is Tier 3 a fuel or engine?

Both! They work together. The gas by itself delivers an immediate emissions benefit (cuts pollution by 10-15 percent right away) and then when paired with the new technologies in motors, you get to the 70-80 percent.


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