This is an archived article that was published on sltrib.com in 2016, and information in the article may be outdated. It is provided only for personal research purposes and may not be reprinted.
A bill to help Rocky Mountain Power recoup its spending on power purchases that was all but dead on the last night of the legislative session is now law, after it was signed Wednesday by Gov. Gary Herbert.
Herbert also signed legislation declaring pornography to be a public health crisis, and a bill creating an account that can be used to fund a potential $14 million lawsuit to shift ownership of 30 million acres of federal land to the state.
SB115, the energy bill, was voted down in the House on the final night of the legislative session, only to be revived hours later when 13 representatives changed their votes amid a massive lobbying blitz and passed the measure.
The bill does away with a $10 million solar incentive program, shifting the money into research on clean coal, building electric vehicle charging stations and other solar programs. It also allows the utility to pass on additional costs for power purchases from the open market. Previously it could only recoup 70 percent of the cost.
Opponents said the decisions were best left to the Public Service Commission, which has the expertise to regulate the utility, and the legislation was an end-run meant to avoid unfavorable rulings from the commission. Solar groups also feared it could undermine the push for rooftop solar.
But proponents, including the sponsor of the legislation, Sen. Stuart Adams, R-Layton, argued that it's the Legislature's job to set power policy, not the commission's, and the bill would make sure money for alternative energy programs is being spent where it could produce the most benefit.
"Our customers have told us that they want reasonably priced electricity but also want clean energy options," Rocky Mountain Power President and CEO Cindy Crane said in a statement after the bill passed the Legislature. "We worked with legislators and community leaders to refine the [Sustainable Transportation and Energy Plan] bill so we could accomplish that goal."
Herbert also signed a resolution declaring pornography a "public health crisis." The resolution, sponsored by Sen. Todd Weiler, R-Woods Cross, garnered national attention for the sentiment expressed by the Legislature and, now, the governor, although it has no real practical effect.
The governor also signed a bill that would keep adults under the age of 21 who engage in consensual sexual conduct with a minor between the ages of 14 and 16 off the sex offender registry, provided it was a first offense.
And the governor signed HB270, which creates an account where the public and businesses can contribute money to fund a potential lawsuit against the federal government in which the state would claim ownership rights to more than 30 million acres of federal land within Utah's borders. Lawmakers put up the first $4.5 million toward the estimated $14 million price tag for the potential litigation.
The governor has now signed 420 bills passed by the Legislature during the 2016 session. Wednesday is the final day for the governor to act on legislation.