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New partnership for Utah Inland Port Authority sparks old debate

Posted at 6:01 PM, Jun 10, 2021

SALT LAKE CITY — A new announcement from the Utah Inland Port Authority has sparked back up the debate over the potential impact on the environment.

With posters in hand and chants ready, Deeda Seed once again brought together a group of environmentalists to raise their voices against UIPA.

“We’ve been working on this issue for three years,” said Seed.

Seed helped organize the Stop the Polluting Port Coalition in hopes to bring environmental awareness to a plan that could help boost Utah’s economic trade.

“The truth is there’s nothing green about turning thousands of acres of undeveloped land into a sea of massive, polluting, industrial warehouses,” said Seed.

One of the major issues Seed said they have with UIPA is transparency about where the money is spent and how UIPA plans to mitigate environmental impacts.

Bryce Bird, the Air Quality Director for the Department of Environmental Quality said they have a 15-year “maintenance plan” projection for air quality in Utah.

“We looked at current emissions, we looked at reductions that were on the books from current regulations, including federal fleet standards and tier-three fuels and growing populations,” said Bird.

Up to 2035, Bird said the models show Utah maintains its current air quality standards, even emissions going down.

A hopeful possibility, said Bird, because of the Federal emissions standards in place for counties and businesses to adhere to.

“We’re not done yet,” said Bird. “To steal a phrase from Envision Utah, how we grow matters.”

Jack Hedge, the UIPA Executive Director, said their focus is to allow economic growth and environmental sustainability, simultaneously.

Part of their plan, said Hedge, is to move operations from a diesel base to an electric base to help decrease emissions.

Another way Hedge mentioned they are looking to be environmentally friendly is by shifting cargo from truck delivery to trains.

Currently, ninety percent of the cargo coming into Utah today, said Hedge, comes by truck.

“As our population continues to grow, we’re going to consume more cargo,” said Hedge. “The more efficiently we can bring that cargo into this market, the more benefits it can have on our air quality, our traffic, our quality of life, and our community in and around the port area.”

On Tuesday, UIPA signed a deal with the Port of Long Beach to improve the flow of international cargo from California to the Beehive State with a promise from both entities to reduce air pollution and improve energy efficiency.

“Our whole goal is to make things better than they are today,” said Hedge.

A quarterly meeting will be held next week by UIPA to approve their budget for the year.

Within the meeting, Hedge said they hope to address building a new trans-load or cross-dock facility, which could allow more cargo to be transferred in fewer vehicles.

“Three boxes go into two trucks, so by simply trans-loading them here we reduce the number of truck trips in and out of the intermodal rail facility by a third,” said Hedge.

The new facility would have two new parking lots included, to allow truck drivers to plug in overnight, preventing drivers from parking along the roads and neighborhoods in the area.

Measurable benefits Hedge hopes can eliminate emissions.