POLITICS + GOVERNMENT

A Utah bill denying ‘personhood’ to bodies of water passes committee

Jan 24, 2024, 2:01 PM

Rep. Candice Pierucci, R-Herriman, talks with Rep. Walt Brooks, R-St. George, on the first day of t...

Rep. Candice Pierucci, R-Herriman, talks with Rep. Walt Brooks, R-St. George, on the first day of the general legislative session in the House chamber at the Capitol in Salt Lake City on Tuesday, Jan. 16, 2024. (Kristin Murphy, Deseret News)

(Kristin Murphy, Deseret News)

SALT LAKE CITY — A bill that bans legal personhood to any body of water, among other things, passed out of the Utah Legislature’s House Business and Labor Committee on Tuesday. 

St. George Rep. Walt Brooks, R – St. George, said he crafted HB249  not necessarily with Great Salt Lake in mind. However, environmentalist Nan Seymour said she fears the bill’s eventual passage could damage efforts to protect the lake.

Great Salt Lake reached a historic low in 2022. 

“As the center of our ecosystem, Great Salt Lake has an inherent right to live, flourish, and be replenished,” Seymour told the committee. 

Brooks said there are ways to protect species of animals and the lake without considering any of them a person. 

“There are ways we can preserve it and go forward, but trying to mix the ideas that it’s actually a human person is not appropriate,” Brooks said. 

Specifically, the bill says that a “governmental entity may not grant legal personhood to, nor recognize legal personhood in:

  • artificial intelligence;
  • an inanimate object;
  • a body of water;
  • land;
  • real property;
  • atmospheric gases;
  • an astronomical object;
  • weather;
  • a plant;
  • a nonhuman animal; or
  • any other member of a taxonomic domain that is not a human being.”

HB249 now heads to the House floor for a final vote. 

If the bill passes the Utah Senate and Gov. Cox signs it, it would go into effect May 1, 2024.

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A Utah bill denying ‘personhood’ to bodies of water passes committee