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Understanding the needs of Millard County and the importance of the coal industry highlighted an annual fact-finding tour of southwest Utah with Utah lawmakers last weekend.

Speaker of the House, Greg Hughes said the goal of the tour was to see parts of the state lawmakers don’t typically get to see. He said most legislators are from the Wasatch Front and don’t understand the needs of rural area. Hughes expressed hopes of reviving the coal industry in Utah now that the U.S. has a more coal-friendly president.

“We want to see with our own eyes, the areas of the state affected by the policies we make,” said Hughes. “We’re hoping a pro-coal administration will change some attitudes within the states about coal power. We can’t force California to buy our energy, but we hope the politics would make it less costly to buy coalfired energy. We’re optimistic, we’re not ready to throw up a white flag.”

President of the Senate, Wayne Niederhouser, echoed Hughes’ sentiments.

“We’re hoping this new administration will affect national policy regarding EPA standards,” said Niederhouser. “As we face each situation, we find that other opportunities come along. We need to keep a constant overview on what the other possibilities are.”

The reality however for Millard County, is the coalfired plant will be phased out by 2027 and replaced with a state-of-the-art natural gas facility, as per California requirements, according to Jon Finlinson president and COO of IPSC.

The first leg of the multi-county tour began in Millard County, where 81 legislators and their spouses, commissioners and other state officials took a guided tour of the IPP facilities.

“IPP is the crown jewel of Millard County,” quipped Lt. Governor Spencer Cox, as he addressed the group, assuring them he was not trying to “highjack” the tour.

Craig Broussard, president and CEO of Magnum Development, also presented during the tour, emphasizing Magnum’s storage facilities in the salt dome and the future impact they will have in the county.

Representative Merrill Nelson was pleased with the outcome of the fact-finding tour. He said it was good for other legislators to see the importance of IPP, not only to Millard County, but also on a state level. Nelson has worked to pass legislation in 2017 called the Utah Rural Jobs Act, which creates incentives through tax credits. Nelson said the new act is aimed at enticing small businesses to relocate to rural counties, rather than along the Wasatch Front, where there is much congestion.

“We’re hoping that industries looking to expand, will look for areas off the Wasatch Front, in rural counties. This offers tax breaks to companies that will create jobs in rural counties,” said Nelson. “With these tax incentives we can make it economically viable for them. We hope to have the utility infrastructure in place, which is needed for industries to expand.”

According to details outlined in the Utah Rural Jobs Act, the provisions of this new law are as follows: providing a state nonrefundable tax credit for investments in eligible small businesses primarily located in rural counties; authorizing the state to approve up to $24,360,000 in tax credits if $42,000,000 is invested in certain small businesses in the state; and implementing the requirements for the Governor’s Office of Economic Development to approve a rural investment company, whose investors may qualify for a tax credit.

Legislators toured other energy sectors as well as agriculture areas and schools throughout the throughout Millard and neighboring counties. They spent the night in Cedar City, where Governor Herbert joined them for dinner and entertainment at SUU. It was the first time in nearly a quarter century that a governor joined in on the legislative tour.

The next day they participated in recreational activities in Bryce Canyon, such as hiking, ATV riding, horse-back riding and sightseeing before moving on to Piute High School and then Central Utah Correctional Facility in Gunnison.