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Stimulus projects to help ‘green’ Utah

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New stimulus wish lists submitted to the federal government by Utah, Salt Lake County and Salt Lake City include money to jump-start projects that will get people working and bolster a struggling economy.

But a fringe benefit may be a boost to projects that will also turn the state a little greener.

Transportation and transit projects lead the lists of both the state and Salt Lake City, but Salt Lake County listed $47.9 million in "green infrastructure" projects, which include a countywide solar distributive grid, updating buildings for energy efficiency and retrofitting street lights with solar-powered LED fixtures, at the top.

Mayor Peter Corroon's environmental policy adviser, Ann Ober, said the projects will do much more than just lessen the county's impact on the environment.

"These projects create green jobs, diversify the county's portfolio and have a valuable education component," Ober said.

Ober lauded Gov. Jon Huntsman Jr. for his advocacy for "greening" the state and said the county was already benefiting from pro-environment work done at the state level. Huntsman has pledged a plan to reduce statewide greenhouse gas emissions to 2005 levels by 2020. Though some green jobs would be created in the event Huntsman gets his full stimulus wishes granted, the biggest apportionment is earmarked for transportation.

Of the $14.4 billion the governor is requesting on behalf of the state, $11.7 billion is slated for transportation projects, with just $27 million going toward so-called energy infrastructure needs.

The energy projects, which include new natural gas fueling sites and energy efficiency upgrades in buildings on four state college campuses, represent just a small slice of the estimated 124,000 jobs that would be created.

Salt Lake City has a transit-heavy request roll, looking for $403 million in federal help in that area. They do, however, outstrip both the state and Salt Lake County in their spending in enviro-friendly projects. Chief in that category is a $70 million plan to construct a 20-megawatt geothermal power plant. A spokesman for Salt Lake Mayor Ralph Becker could not be reached to provide details of that plan.

Other items include upgrading energy efficiency in city-owned buildings, installing solar panels and solar thermal systems in some of those buildings and building a $10 million fuel-cell co-generating plant for the library/City-County Building boiler room.

None of these projects will be funded, or considered for funding, until after the administration of President-elect Barack Obama is in place.

E-mail: araymond@desnews.com