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Environmental issues have bi-partisan support in Utah legislature

Inversion over Logan Utah
While some improvements have been made, air quality continues to be a central issue in Utah's politics.

The League of Women Voters, a bipartisan group of women from districts across the state, held their Annual Forum Wednesday night where legislators discussed their priorities for the upcoming legislative session. One priority that featured heavily was the environment.

Senator Luz Escamilla, co-chair of the Clean Air Caucus, said air quality is one issue that unites Utah legislators across party lines.

“It's probably one of the very few places where we all come together, both House and Senate Democrats and Republicans coming together. Because we know we need to fix this, this is just a huge problem for the whole state.”

She said Great Salt Lake is another bi-partisan issue.

“I know there's obviously a very comprehensive response to the Great Salt Lake and that needs to happen now.”

Representative Cheryl Acton agreed saying Great Salt Lake is an economic issue as much as it is an environmental one.

“We're all concerned about it. And actually, it's not just a good idea environmentally. But it's a great fiscal idea. Because the cost of mitigating a dust bowl from the Great Salt Lake with all of the arsenic and the lithium and the things that are in the lake, it would be an economic disaster for our state,” she said.

She said conservation efforts from individuals, paired with innovations in agricultural irrigation are steps toward improvement, but there is no guarantee they will save Great Salt Lake.

“We are also optimizing agricultural use of water, which is where most of the water actually goes. And if we can optimize that, we will have a lot more water resources. But that still won't resolve the Great Salt Lake necessarily. So it is terrifying.”

With high levels of precipitation improving snowpack and lessening drought conditions across the state, there is some optimism about the future of the lake, but without drastic action, its water level will continue to decline.

Anna grew up begging her mom to play music instead of public radio over the car stereo on the way to school. Now, she loves radio and the power of storytelling through sound. While she is happy to report on anything from dance concerts to laughter practice, her main focus at UPR is political reporting. She is studying Journalism and Political Science at Utah State University and wants to work in political communication after she graduates. In her free time, she spends time with her rescue dog Quigley and enjoys rock climbing.