Press Release: Utah advocates call for block of $20 million bailout for bankrupt coal port company

PRESS RELEASE
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE: August 13, 2020

 Salt Lake City– Today, a team of Utah environmental and public interest groups called on the Utah Legislature and Permanent Community Impact Fund Board (CIB) to forgo spending public funds to bail out a bankrupt California coal port developer. As reported by the Salt Lake Tribune, Insight Terminal Solutions has asserted in bankruptcy proceedings that the Utah Legislature would vote on August 20 in a special legislative session on whether to give public money to pay off the development company’s debts. 

As of last month, four Utah counties were planning to go through the CIB to try to send $20 million out of a $53 million throughput infrastructure fund to Insight Terminal Solutions. Going through the Legislature instead would fast-track the handout and avoid the CIB’s vetting process. A public petition calling on the CIB to not spend public money bailing out the coal port developer is available here. So far, more than 650 people have signed. 

Below is a timeline of Utah’s involvement with the coal port: 

  • In 2015, the CIB radically expanded the permissible use of CIB funds to include private, out-of-state fossil fuel export infrastructure projects. Under federal law, CIB funds are intended to help rural communities offset some of the harmful impacts of mineral extraction, such as coal mining.
  • In 2016, the Utah Legislature passed S.B. 246, creating a $53 million throughput infrastructure fund and substituted sales tax revenues for the federal funds normally passed directly to the CIB, in  an effort to legalize the 2015 action of the CIB.
  • In 2019, the Utah Legislature passed S.B. 248, directing over $50 million of public money in the Throughput Infrastructure Fund to be used for a “bulk commodities ocean terminal.” 
  • In July 2019, Insight Terminal Solutions filed for bankruptcy with $20 million in debts. 
  • In May 2020, four Utah counties disclosed their intention to ask the CIB, which controls the throughput infrastructure fund, to give $20 million of its $53 million fund to the would-be coal port operators in hopes of bailing out the developer and salvaging the project. Insight Terminal Solutions has revealed no other source of financing beyond Utah’s contribution.

Carly Ferro, director of the Utah Chapter of the Sierra Club said, “Utah’s $20 million would be squandering Utahns’ money on a bad investment for the economy and the environment. Insight would still need to raise an estimated $250 million in construction costs for their development, and currently, its only backer is the State of Utah. The best interest of our communities must remain at the forefront. This action is an investment in corporations and not people. This is a project Utah should know it needs to quit.”

Dick Cumiskey, president of Sevier Citizens for Clean Air and Water said, “Coal mining and shipping has supported many of our families for several generations, but that past is behind us now. Instead, we should invest in new futures for the next generation reaching employment age. We should be giving back to rural Utahns in ways that will actually help, not bailing out a private California developer.”

Dr. Brian Moench, president of Utah Physicians for a Healthy Environment said, “The urgent needs of Utah residents is what this session should be about. Making our schools safe enough for a return to class should be at the top of their list. We urgently need money to invest in upgraded and filtered ventilation systems and class room air purifiers to prevent spread of the virus. Instead of doing that, it looks like powerful legislators would rather send $20 million dollars of our money to protect a bankrupt coal port developer in California, rather than protect school children and teachers in Utah.”

Lauren Simpson, policy director for Alliance for a Better Utah said, “Our public funds are not insurance for rich developers who make bad decisions. Now more than ever, Utahns are anxious for leadership they can trust. Utah leaders should earn that trust by choosing to be done with the failed coal port once and for all.” 

Richard Holman, chair of the Westside Coalition, said, “The proposed use of Utah taxpayer furnished resources to salvage a bankrupt California company during times when so many Utah families and children are experiencing unprecedented hardship, homelessness, and hunger is unconscionable.” 

Supporting organizations: 

  • Alliance for a Better Utah 
  • Center for Biological Diversity
  • Sevier Citizens for Clean Air and Water
  • Utah Chapter of the Sierra Club
  • Utah Physicians for a Healthy Environment
  • Utah Citizens Advocating Renewable Energy 
  • Westside Coalition

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Alliance for a Better Utah is a nonprofit that holds politicians accountable and advocates for progressive policies that make Utah an even better place. The organization improves the lives of all Utahns through advocacy, transparency, and accountability in Utah politics, policy, and government. More information at www.betterutah.org.

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