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Utah Inland Port Authority postpones vote as protestors gather outside

September 20, 2021: David Scheer with Stop The Polluting Port, at podium, flanked by protestors outside the UIPA offices in Salt Lake City. Photo credit: Paul Nelson

SALT LAKE CITY – Dozens of protestors wanted to speak out against the latest proposals from the Utah Inland Port Authority on Monday, claiming the port will cause extreme damage to Utah’s fragile environment.  But the vote they had shown up to protest, was postponed.

The vote would have addressed a $150 million bond proposal

The Utah Inland Port Authority was scheduled to vote on a $150 million bond proposal that would create a Public Infrastructure District. However, Salt Lake City Mayor Erin Mendenhall and City Council Chair Amy Fowler wrote a letter to the board asking them to delay their vote until they answer the mayor’s questions. 

For instance, they had concerns about a high-interest bond rate that would cost taxpayers more than $225 million dollars over 35 years. 

“Without a defined list of the projects that will be funded through the PID,” a letter to Inland Port Authority officials said, “(Salt Lake City) is concerned about whether it will ultimately be required to own and maintain this infrastructure.”

(Some of the signs held by protestors outside the UIPA offices. Photo: Paul Nelson)

Protestors outside the UIPA offices said the board members have found ways to expand the number of diesel trucks and trains into Utah, which will use more water and increase the amount of dust and pollution in the air.

Doctor Brian Moench with Utah Physicians for a Healthy Environment said board members once claimed the port would reduce the number of trucks entering Utah, but he said that hasn’t been the case for other similar ports.

“When that is proven false, I fully expect that next they will tell us that air pollution is good for us,” Moench said.

He also refutes the claims that the port would turn into an economic boom for Utah.

“The jobs created are mostly low-wage jobs with no benefits and little benefit to the community,” Moench said.

“Even those jobs will eventually be lost to automation.”

The vote was never taken

But just as Moench finished his speech outside the UIPA offices, Deeda Seed stood before the group. What Seed, the representative of Stop The Polluting Port had to say sparked a wave of cheers among the protestors.

“The Port Authority has canceled its meeting,” she said.

UIPA Executive Director Jack Hedge sent Mendenhall and Fowler a six-page response to their letter. However, he decided to postpone the meeting until later.

“At this time as Executive Director, I’ve chosen to delay the vote in an attempt to bring this PID discussion back to merit arguments, and not further fuel the political fires,” Hedge said. 

Seed said the long fight over the inland port is far from over. But she sees the delay of the vote as a small victory.

“This is the first time that they have ever responded to expressed concerns about what they intend to do,” Seed said.

Seed also said that the board has not been as transparent as it should be. And, that Utahns deserve to know what the UIPA intends to do with taxpayer money.

“We submit that the reason they aren’t being more transparent is because, really, the sole purpose of this is to literally export pollution from California to Utah,” she said.

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