SALT LAKE CITY – A bill that has passed the Utah Legislature and is waiting for Governor Gary Herbert’s signature could stop many of Utah’s citizens and organizations from going to court to challenge governmental decisions that can affect our health and our environment.
HB399, sponsored by Representative Mike Noel-R, Kanab, requires a bond for lawsuits involving three agencies: the School State Institutional and Trust Lands Administration, the Department of Natural Resources and the Department of Transportation. The original bill included the Department of Environmental Quality, but was removed after the legislature heard from the EPA.
Basically, if a company or individual attempts to take any of these agencies to court, they will have to pay for a substantial bond to cover costs while whatever the agency is doing is delayed by the lawsuit. That financial consideration will limit the power people have to bring anything these agencies are doing into question.
Governor Jon Huntsman vetoed a similar bill and an attempt two years ago to get this passed died in the Senate two years ago.
Noel says it will level the playing field by making environmental groups responsible for their actions if they decide to sue over a project. Representative Brian King-D, Salt Lake City said, “To me, this is an attempt to stack the deck in dealing with a certain type of litigation in a way that is unnecessary and unfair.”
Noel has been unable to provide an example of how a stay granted by a Utah court created a financial burden for a project granted by a state agency. He maintains it is fair and that the bill is intended to protect “stranded investments” that are slowed by lawsuits attempting to stop development.
In other words, Noel wants to protect these agencies and any development project they do from public input by requiring a large cash bond by the plaintiff in a law suit to cover any delays. So unless you can afford to complain, don’t.
If you would like to let Governor Herbert feel about HB399, call him at 801-583-1000 or 800-705-2464. His office is also available through email and you can access that by clicking here.
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Source: HEAL Utah, Salt Lake Tribune