Utah lawmaker asks legislature for $500,000 to fight Richmond coal ban

(KCPW News) A Utah lawmaker is asking the state legislature to allocate $500,000 to mount a legal challenge against Richmond, California’s ban on the handling and storage of coal. The Levin-Richmond terminal based in the city is a major export point for Utah coal bound for overseas markets. In January, Richmond’s city council approved the ban, citing environmental and health concerns.

On Monday morning, Brian Somers, president of the Utah Mining Association told members of the Executive Offices and Criminal Justice Appropriations Subcommittee that the ban will significantly impact Utah’s coal industry.

“We send about three million short tons a year out of that port which, when you put that in royalty dollars, is about $4 million that comes back to the state per year,” he said.

“If there were to be a diminishment of exports that would also be a diminishment of economic activity [and] coal production would have to be cut because of this ordinance.”

Somers told the committee that the new Richmond ban was part of a growing trend, one that he saw as troubling.

“Essentially the coastal states and coastal cities are using their zoning ordinances and other things – the Clean Water Act in the case of a port in Washington – to stop these shipments and so essentially they’re interfering with interstate commerce,” Somers said.

With the passage of its ordinance, Richmond joins other West Coast cities that have instituted fossil fuels bans at their own ports, effectively choking-off a key route for coal and other extractive products.

Environmentalists say they hope the bans will limit pollution from coal dust in cities and help to deter the burning of fossil fuels driving climate change.

Emery County Republican Sen. David Hinkins sponsored the request. He said that the sooner the money could be allocated the better.

“We’d like to be able to have it available as soon as possible because it’s very important that we get this lawsuit started,” Hinkins said.

A vote on the funding request will be heard in the same committee on Friday morning.

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