Governor hints he may veto bill over wood-burning bans

Posted at 3:06 PM, Mar 19, 2015
and last updated 2015-03-19 23:41:54-04

SALT LAKE CITY -- Governor Gary Herbert has suggested he may veto a bill that strips Utah air quality authorities of power to implement seasonal wood-burning bans.

"That's one that I have some concerns about," he told reporters during his monthly news conference on KUED. "You know, to just take out of the hands of our air quality board that have a responsibility to help us develop rules that help our environment and air quality, seems to be an overkill."

House Bill 396 passed the Utah State Legislature last week. It was in response to overwhelming public opposition to wood burning bans in a series of public meetings. But environmental groups have said wood burning pumps a disproportionately high amount of pollution into the air.

HB396 sponsor Rep. Brad Dee, R-Ogden, was out of town and did not return messages seeking comment on Thursday. The clean-air group Breathe Utah recently asked the governor to veto HB396.

"It's frustrating to have the state (legislature) step in and say, 'We heard that you heard from a lot of our public on this issue, and so we're going to tie your hands for you,'" said Erin Mendenhall, the policy director for Breathe Utah. "The process is working just as it should be and the air quality board has dealt with contentious issues in the past and they can deal with this one."

The governor would not directly say if he would veto HB396, but called the bill an "overreach" by state lawmakers.

"To say they cannot put in place parameters and rules and regulations about wood burning is probably a little short-sighted," the governor said. "So I'm going to take a hard look at that.