Biden Could Face Uphill Battle In Utah Over Clean-Energy Plan

Sep 15, 2021

Coal mining and coal-fueled electricity generation provides direct employment to about 2,500 Utahns, and millions of dollars in royalties to state and local governments.
Credit agnormark/Adobe Stock

President Joe Biden's $150 billion clean-energy plan aims to rid almost half the power grid of carbon-based fuels by 2035, but conservation groups say his proposal will likely see resistance from Utah and other energy-producing states.


The plan, which goes before the U.S. House Energy and Commerce Committee this week, would reduce the use of coal and natural gas to cut carbon emissions and develop a green-energy economy. 

Scott Williams, executive director of environmental watchdog Healthy Environment Alliance (HEAL) of Utah, said losing Utah jobs in coal and gas production could be a major barrier to implementing the plan's changes.  

"[In] states where coal mining and oil and gas exploration are a significant part of the economy, like Utah and Wyoming," he said, "there's much less of an appetite to impose regulatory requirements on the power companies."

Biden's program would provide financial incentives to energy suppliers for increasing the amount of clean electricity supplied to customers each year. Most Republicans oppose the plan so far, saying it costs too much.

Williams said he believes Utah regulators and policymakers need to rethink their own incentives for power producers.

"Their primary charge in doing that is to provide power to customers at the lowest possible rate," he said, "although they are also charged to consider other societal benefits."

Sandy Bahr, director of the Sierra Club's Grand Canyon Chapter, said climate change is here now, and waiting around to deal with it is not an option. 

"We should be getting more of our electricity from solar," she said. "We definitely need to move rapidly in that direction. What the president is proposing fits in well with the direction that is needed - not just for the West, but for all of us who live on this side."

Biden's Build Back Better plan also includes funding electric-grid improvements, decarbonizing federal buildings and vehicle fleets, providing rebates for energy-efficient homes and appliances, and subsidizing solar projects in low-income communities.