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Abort the Polluting Port!

  • October 21, 2022

UPEC (the Utah Population and Environment Council) was founded in 1997 because we (and I was among the founders) despaired that Utah leaders were failing to recognize how continued rapid growth, both in population and consumption, would destroy what we love about the state.

Sadly, it looks like we were right. Even though UPEC has made some progress in convincing Utahans that smaller families are OK, we have failed dismally in convincing either the Utah government or the business community that runaway growth is making our state increasingly unlivable.

The Utah Inland Port development, just south of the Great Salt Lake, exemplifies much of what is discouraging about Utah’s obsessive faith in growth.

The port threatens the health of the Great Salt Lake and its bird populations and increases the pollution and congestion already inflicted disproportionately on Salt Lake City’s Westsiders. Both the lake and the Westside would be better off without the port. 

In addition to the threats it poses to the environment and to human wellbeing, the Utah Inland Port fails all economic tests. UIPA (the Utah Inland Port Authority) has no business plan: the board and staff have failed to develop a proposal that could pass muster in any MBA program. That is probably because there are no trade or transportation facts to support such a proposal. 

It should be of no surprise, then, that the Auditor of the State of Utah agrees with inland port critics:  Why were millions spent for dubious projects with no competitive bidding? What was the purpose of the network of cameras to be built by a dubious company called QuayChain?

In another example of its lack of business acumen, UIPA touted the critical nature of a trans-loading facility as the key to repackaging and transferring goods between trucks and trains, but no such facility has yet been built, and nor does it appear that it ever will be. Perhaps this is because Salt Lake City does not really need a transloading facility. 

For a more detailed discussion, see the excellent recent Deseret News editorial “The fatal flaw in Utah’s Inland Port idea.”

There is one last piece of evidence why UPEC firmly opposes the Port. As much as we love our home, evidence continues to mount that Salt Lake City is not a center of world trade; it is not now, and it will not be in the future. The city is simply not a geographical hub for trade routes, Utah is not a significant manufacturer of diverse export items, and oil and gas exports can only decline. The port, a thoughtless and hasty attempt to increase the value of land better off left to the birds of the Great Salt Lake, exemplifies the overly wishful thinking (and short-sighted greed) of Utah’s real estate developers. 

The first, best, and simplest step in the process of rethinking our commitment to growth would be: “Abort the polluting port?”

Photo Credit: Deseret News

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