Poll: Most Utahns Oppose Spending Money on Oakland Coal Port

Source: Utah Policy

Most Utahns oppose four counties spending $53 million in special impact funds to rehab an Oakland, CA., port to accommodate Utah coal shipments to Asia and other possible markets, a new UtahPolicy poll finds.

And so it is probably a good thing that the four counties announcedThursday at a Community Impact Board meeting that they are withdrawing their proposal – but still expect the money to be used to help their energy-driven local economies.

In the wake of Oakland local governments banning coal distribution in their jurisdictions, it would have been a long legal fight for the four Utah counties who wanted to spend the $53 million on rehabbing a port terminal to ship the coal out to Pacific Rim buyers.

The counties would have pursued the coal shipment plan against the wishes of most Utah voters, finds UPD pollster Dan Jones & Associates.

Jones finds that 51 percent of Utahns are against the coal plan, 24 percent support the expenditure, and 25 percent don’t know.

That is a large “don’t know” number considering how much the counties’ plans have been in the news this year.

Utah’s top two coal-producing counties – Carbon and Emery – are in the 3rd Congressional District (which also includes the large population Utah County).

Jones finds that even in the 3rd Congressional District more votes are against the coal port project than favor it:

  • 47 percent of 3rd District voters oppose the plan.
  • 23 percent support it.
  • And 31 percent don’t know.

Even though Utah coal is a cleaner coal to burn environmentally, as various counties, states and nations turn to fuels like solar, wind, even nuclear, the consumption of coal in U.S. energy production is suffering.

Advocates said rehabbing the Oakland port would have allowed Utah coal to be mined and shipped out of the country for years to come – re-energizing the local coal production in the state.

But there were any number of opponents of the plan besides environmentalists, including local Oakland officials who said they were worried about air pollution and other problems with large-scale coal shipments coming into their cities.

The death of the Oakland deal won’t come against Utahns’ wishes, Jones finds:

  • Among Utah Republicans, usually pro-energy development, 32 percent favor the port deal, 37 percent oppose it, and 31 percent don’t know.
  • Democrats really disliked the idea – even though Carbon County is one of the few Democratic strongholds in the state outside of the Wasatch Front: Only 9 percent of Democrats statewide favor the deal, 79 percent oppose it, and 12 percent didn’t know.

State Rep. Brad King, D-Price, is the only Democratic member of the Legislature outside of Salt Lake County.

  • Political independents also oppose the idea, 55-22 percent while 23 percent don’t know.

The decision was first reported by The Alliance For a Better Utah, a progressive group that opposed the CIB spending.

In an email, the Alliance said: “The decision was announced this (Thursday) morning in a meeting of the Community Impact Board (CIB) by Carbon County Commissioner Jae Potter following discussions he had with each of the involved counties. The decision was made with the understanding that the $53 million would be returned to the general CIB fund for use in other projects over the next two years.”

Jones polled 858 Utahns from July 18 to Aug. 4. The survey has a margin of error of plus or minus 3.34 percent.

Read Utah Policy article here.

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