Legislators and Power
Nine legislators from the urban areas of Utah visited eastern Utah over the weekend. During a Friday night reception and a tour on Saturday, their eyes were opened to many issues of which they previously had limited knowledge.
"I worked on hate crimes legislation for six years and thought that was controversial," said Representative David Litvack, (D) District 26. "But I found that that issue holds no water to water. Water is a very heated and often debated issue. During the session, the deal with Sanpete County wanting to build a dam came up. But being from an urban area, I had a lot of things going and probably didn't understand it. Now I have heard from people who will be affected by it."
The group of three state senators and six members of the House of Representatives, all from the Democratic caucus, spent Friday night at a dinner hosted by Representative Christine Watkins (D) District 69 at her home in Miller Creek. Several county officials attended the dinner with the legislators and took the time to explain local issues to them.
"It was really a good thing," said Watkins on Saturday. "We had county commissioners, representation from the college and other entities there to talk about issues concerning the community, including water, land use, the colleges' situation, energy development and other items."
On Saturday, many of the same legislators toured the Huntington Power Plant at the mouth of Huntington Canyon, visited the Crandall Canyon mine memorial above the defunct mine, and spent some time at Huntington Park eating lunch and listening to a briefing from Castle Dale Mayor Neal Peacock. Then they got to see the San Rafael Swell's Wedge Overlook, an area where much controversy regarding land use has swirled over the years. All marveled about the memorial above the Crandall Canyon mine as they walked through the sacred ground dedicated to the six miners and three rescuers who died in the mine over two years ago. They were also impressed by the community spirit shown in all the tributes given to the miners both there and at the memorial in Huntington.
The Wedge was another place that blew them away. Only one legislator had visited the Swell previously. They all said they couldn't believe the beauty and majesty of viewpoint and said that it wasn't more prominently known in the state.
But the power plant tour was the center of the day. All had good words for PacifiCorp, its managers and employees.
"I think what I got out of that tour was the detail, the sequential steps it takes to generate power," said Litvack. "The part about the mines and the mining industry almost seemed to me to be a separate thing from power generation before I went on the tour. But it's not. I was also very pleased to see the emphasis the plant has on worker safety and the environment. You could tell that the people that gave us the tour (plant management) care deeply about those things."
Representative Brian King who represents District 28 in Salt Lake City was also impressed by what he saw.
"I thought it was amazing," he said. "You know you take this kind of stuff for granted. But when you go through on the tour, you start to realize how much time, effort and money goes into generating electricity. And it is so complex from a technological viewpoint. For instance, I had no idea that the coal used in power plants is crushed down to the consistency of flour for burning in the boilers."
Representative Carol Spackman Moss (D) District 37 was impressed by the safety and environmental measures the plant has taken. She also thought the master control room was amazing.
"I was surprised by that control room that takes care of the entire plant," she said as she stood on the edge of one of the Wedge viewpoints. "It looked like NASA. It's also amazing that they run that plant with as few employees as they do."Â
Litvack also said the trip was a time to get to know people in the state who weren't necessarily his constituents,Â but were other members of the Democratic Party.
"I came up here to connect with people who I may not represent, but [who] are members of the same party," he said. "I also came here to understand issues in a different way. It wasn't necessarily that we were coming here to change our viewpoint so much as to gain a better understanding. When you have a better understanding of an entire issue, you make better decisions."