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Romney’s infrastructure bill is important for Utah’s future

With the Great Salt Lake evaporating and drought threatening Utah, a focus on transportation, water and power needs will provide climate-change resiliency to the state.

A boater floats at Jordanelle Stake park, where drought has reduced water levels.
A boater enjoys what water is left at Jordanelle State Park on July 16. With drought reducing water levels throughout the state, Sen. Mitt Romney’s infrastructure bill, focusing on transportation, water and power needs would help Utah survive.
Jeffrey D. Allred, Deseret News

The other day, I saw a sign that said, “Satan wants his weather back.”

In Utah and across the West, the heat has been otherworldly. Over the last few weeks we’ve broken records for extreme heat across the state. In fact, June was the hottest month ever recorded in the U.S. When we want to see records broken, we prefer to watch the Olympics.

My personal discomfort is the least of my worries. Extreme drought conditions are hurting agriculture and recreation statewide. The Great Salt Lake is set to drop below its all-time low. That adds dangerous dust to existing air pollution, costing us both health and dollars. Lake Powell is at a critically low water level, as are many of our water supplies.

This is why most Americans support the provisions of Sen. Mitt Romney’s bipartisan infrastructure plan, which focuses on sustainable transportation, water and power infrastructure, and climate resiliency. The plan provides for investments in critical programs that improve our ability to manage drought, mitigate wildfires and other extreme weather events and prevent further environmental damage.

Investments for Utah’s public transit infrastructure will be key for the Wasatch Front, where air quality is a critical concern. The package also reflects a Utah priority, set by former Gov. Gary Herbert, of investing in electric vehicle infrastructure to create a charging network along highways and in rural communities. In addition, these investments could assist with electrifying the nation’s school and transit buses to reduce harmful emissions. According to the American Lung Association, many of our counties have failing grades for ozone and particulate matter.

Gone are the days when most of us could afford to ignore environmental concerns. More than three-fourths of Americans say it is important to pass federal legislation to address the underlying climate-related factors that cause drought. And 72%, including a majority of Republicans, support stronger pollution limits for vehicles and power plants in order to improve air quality. In fact, climate and environmental policies are cited as a key issue area by more voters under 30 than any other single issue except health care.

It’s great to have the public so united on a cause, and even greater to have a bipartisan proposal. What’s not great are extreme weather events that threaten our health, economy and food supply. The devil is in the details, so it’s vital that our senators work together to support this infrastructure bill. We don’t have to agree on everything to accomplish something. Let’s just do it.

Christine Graham is a writer and a longtime resident of Salt Lake City. She volunteers with the op-ed lab for Mormon Women for Ethical Government.