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Utah reactions to Paris climate change departure mixed


The decision by President Donald Trump to pull the United States from the Paris climate change agreement sparked angry and disappointing rebukes from Utah’s environmental community but praise from the state’s GOP senators.
SALT LAKE CITY — Clean air advocates, Salt Lake City’s mayor and coal critics decried President Donald Trump’s decision to pull the United States from the Paris climate change agreement, but his move brought praise by the state’s GOP senators.
“I look forward to working with the president to rein in the overregulation of the Obama administration and help America’s businesses compete globally, ” said Sen. Orrin Hatch, R-Utah, who added the plan did little to help the environment but had negative impacts on jobs.
But the mayor of Utah’s capital city said the action sets the country back.
“This unprecedented action by President Trump affects each and every one of us. We must lead where the White House refuses to, ” charged Salt Lake Mayor Jackie Biskupski, a Democrat, in a statement released Thursday after the announcement.
Biskupski joined a group of 61 mayors nationwide in affirming a commitment to goals outlined in the climate accord, which include holding the rise in the global temperature to well below 3.6 degrees Fahrenheit above pre-industrial levels.
“Salt Lake City is warming at a rate twice the global average, which is already impacting water supplies, worsening air quality and threatening our $1 billion ski industry, ” Biskupski said.
Michael Shea, a senior policy associate for the environmental group HEAL Utah, criticized Trump’s reasons for withdrawing from the agreement and said the decision would not slow the decline of coal energy production.
“It is incredibly disingenuous to these communities by giving them false hope that somehow these jobs are going to come roaring back, ” Shea said.
Lindsay Beebe, an organizer for the Utah Sierra Club’s Beyond Coal Campaign, similarly said the decision to leave the agreement was one “based on a false hope that coal jobs will return.”
Clean energy advocates also expressed dismay.
“The decision to withdraw the United States from participation in the Paris climate accord is incredibly disappointing and a backward step. The decision ignores science, and all of the benefits we gain from renewable energy, energy efficiency and electric vehicles which represent new industries, jobs, economic development and climate solutions, ” said Sarah Wright, Utah Clean Energy’s executive director.
But Sen. Mike Lee, R-Utah, called pulling out of the agreement “absolutely” the right decision. He stressed that people did not vote for Trump so that taxpayers could send billions of dollars overseas for a “global crony capitalist slush fund.”
“I look forward to working with President Trump, my congressional colleagues, states and local governments to follow up this decision with additional energy policy reforms that benefit the American people like repealing harmful regulations and reducing federal barriers to energy production, ” Lee said.
Pressure over the accord comes as carbon dioxide emissions from the U. S. energy sector were measured in 2015 at levels 12 percent below 2005, according to the U. S. Energy Information Administration.
The research agency note that since the 1990s, the transportation sector has produced the most carbon dioxide emissions — while the industrial sector that had produced the most in the 1990s has been experiencing declines.
The international agreement to reduce global greenhouse gas emissions was made in 2015, with President Barack Obama signing on the United States the next year without a vote of Congress. It will likely take four years for the U. S. to complete its withdrawal from the agreement, which involves 186 countries seeking to lower emissions through 2025 or 2030.
Utah’s senators joined 22 Republican senators who urged Trump in a letter last week to make a “clean break” with the climate accord.
The two Utahns are also among GOP senators who have received major campaign contributions from oil and gas companies.
Hatch has accepted $466,250 from those industries since 2011, while Lee has taken $231,520, according to opensecrets.com, a website that tracks campaign finances.
Former Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney weighed in on Twitter, implying the U. S. should have stayed in the pact.
“Affirmation of the #ParisAgreement is not only about the climate: It is also about America remaining the global leader, ” he tweeted.
Contributing: Ryan Morgan

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