[Politics as Usual] You already know that the Utah Legislature's hayseed Cowboy Caucus hates the Southern Utah Wilderness Alliance (SUWA) and holds the environmental advocacy group 99.9 percent responsible for locking up millions of acres of federal lands from oil, coal and nuclear power interests.
Betcha didn't know this: SUWA is also the culprit behind the disproportionately high energy costs people of color pay to drive their cars and heat their homes.
No word yet as to whether SUWA has any weapons of mass destruction hidden in its downtown Salt Lake City office, but if Reps. Mike Noel (R-Kanab) and Aaron Tilton (R-Springville) can find a link, they'll be all over it.
I just returned from a press conference at the Capitol in the waning hours of the 2008 Legislature. Noel and Tilton, both of whom have well-publicized personal and business interests in diverting Green River water to develop at least one, and perhaps two nuclear power plants in Southeastern Utah, hosted. Yesterday, Noel sent a letter to SUWA, signed by 45 legislators (42 of them Republicans) demanding the private not-for-profit interest group to produce information related to securities fraud convictions of two board members last year.
Former SUWA board member Bert Fingerhut and former treasurer Mark Ristow are serving 24-month and 20-month federal prison sentences, respectively, for their criminal private securities dealings. SUWA director Scott Groene has stated that an independent audit of the organization shortly after the charges were filed has determined no SUWA involvement in their cases.
The Salt Lake Tribune's Patty Henetz and I tried to get the boys to more fully discuss their ties to the nuclear project they're pushing for the red rock of Emery County, but Tilton quickly brushed us off. "We didn't come here today to talk about that," he blurted. Noel added: "We can talk about that later if you want."
Today, Noel began the show by introducing Niger Innis, spokesman for the Congress of Racial Equality (Core). "When the energy companies get the sniffles, my people get the flu," Innis said.
Innis said the poor and urban black populations pay a disproportionate amount of utility costs in this country. No argument there. Therefore, he argued, every last bit of public land should be available for energy exploration to keep oil and gas prices in check. "I'm an environmentalist," Innis said. "But I'm not an extreme environmentalist."
Earlier this legislative session, House Republicans were all agitato during floor debate about New York Rep. Maurice Hinchey's involvement in protecting public lands in the West. They reasoned he had no right to do so. He doesn't even live here.
Niger Innis flew into Salt Lake from CORE headquarters in--wait for it--New York City.
No irony here, people. Nope, not a whit.
Disclosure: My husband, Ted Wilson, is vice chairman of the SUWA Board. (Holly Mullen)