Statewide land-use planning is needed in managing the environment, says Joe Urbanic, who is both chairman of the Utah Solid and Hazardous Waste Committee and director of the Tooele County Department of Development Services.
Urbanic spoke Thursday at a hearing on economic development and the environment. During the meeting, Gov. Norm Bangerter, chairman of the hearing, heard from experts in real estate, industry, wilderness and energy.At the end of the session, Bangerter announced formation of a task force to make recommendations on protecting the environment while achieving a balance between the needs of economic development and the state's regulatory climate.
Urbanic said one company planned to locate in Weber County, but because that county does not meet federal clean-air standards, it was forced to move. It ended up in Tooele County.
He called for formation of a public-private partnership in the area of environmental protection.
Utahns may need to start statewide land-use planning, he said. Urbanic added that Tooele County has taken the lead in land-use planning.
Walker Wallace of Wallace Associates - which has consulted on urban redevelopment projects and the savings and loan crisis - called for some sort of state guarantee against some kinds of future liability on hazardous-waste sites. After a cleanup, he said, the owners and lenders involved with the site could get a "certificate of compliance."
If the owners and lenders had carried out their job properly, they shouldn't be forced to meet further unexpected costs that might show up, Wallace said.
"This might also give rise to insurability akin to title insurance, which would enable developers and lenders to proceed without future undisclosed liability.
"Otherwise, urban areas may be faced with tolerating contaminated properties that languish undeveloped, indefinitely into the future, and with very undesirable health and economic consequences."
Bangerter said the "downside" of the proposal is that the state might get stuck with giant cleanup costs.
"If they don't have that protection, they're simply not going to do it," Wallace said, referring to developing property that has been cleaned up.
Michael Heyrend, lawyer for the Southern Utah Wilderness Alliance, said wilderness areas generate tourism, and state officials should consider that as part of their planning process.
He said the state should work to attract non-polluting industries.
Heyrend called for state officials to foster the perception nationally that they are protecting the quality of the environment.
That idea could help attract clean businesses, he said.
Lance Gyorfi, manager of the Chevron USA refinery in North Salt Lake, said that industry's emissions must be reduced to achieve air-quality goals.
"The desire of industry, as we progress toward our environmental goals, is to maintain a level playing field vs. our competitors within and external to the state," he said.
For example, if Utah required that no diesel fuel with sulfates could be produced in the state (to reduce air pollution), other companies outside the state might be able to ship in fuel with sulfates. Unless refineries are protected from unfair outside competition in meeting environmental goals, he said, Utah's "economic engine" could be harmed.
Gyorfi also attacked the notion of ordering across-the-board percentage reductions in emissions. That would be an unfair cost to companies that already reduced emissions on their own, without being ordered to make the cuts, he said.
"We should not penalize companies that act ahead of regulations." Later, Gyorfi conceded, "I'm not certain business has always been honest." Honesty is important in developing a productive climate, he said.
Dr. Kenneth N. Buchi, assistant professor of medicine at the University of Utah School of Medicine, said a high cost is extracted by air pollution. This is true both in terms of economics and human suffering, he said.