July 21, 2024

Legislator visit hijacked by coal special interest group


This archived article was written by: Nathaniel Woodward

Normally I would continue the trend of my editorials of writing on academic topics and how they apply to life, however events on USU Eastern’s campus over the past week necessitate a response. What was intended to be a tour and promotion for the Central Instruction Building (CIB) quickly turned into a biased conservative fracas spearheaded by Bowie Resource Partners (BRP) CEO John Siegel and promoted by local county commissioner Jae Potter. The USU Eastern campus merely served as a staging point for the heavily republican legislatures agenda. Continuing to lobby BRP’s attributes in the interest of personal gain Siegel sited anecdotal evidence and provided a free copy of the critically panned “The Moral Case for Fossil Fuels” in his arguments. Going on to state that the coal industry are the only ones allowed to truly call themselves environmentalists, a statement which was immediately met by thunderous applause by the largely Republican crowd.
The speech was thick with anti-environment sentiment calling all claims by those opposed to coal absurd or unfounded. What should have been a display of USU Eastern’s academic integrity and infrastructure was marred by heavy political ideology and partisan politics. Carbon County Commissioner Jae Potter continued that only a few environmentalists view coal in a negative light, an obvious absurdity, and that we need not listen to what the federal government has to say and by association any scientist. Potter later asked that all should “Do their homework” in relation to climate change and what impact moving away from fossil fuels would have. Notably and curiously absent from the speech were many academic staff of USU Eastern, who were not invited.
The highlight of the event was a visit from Utah Lieutenant Gov. Spencer Cox who spoke briefly on the tragedy which hit southern Utah this week involving the death of nearly 20 people, including many children in the recent flash floods. Cox, a Sanpete County resident poked fun at the rivalry between Sanpete and Carbon Counties and greatly lightened the mood. Chancellor Joe Peterson also spoke briefly detailing USU Eastern’s commitment to advancing coal coke technology as well as introducing the various speakers. Peterson continued to speak on the attributes of USU Eastern and thanked the legislature for their partnership with the University, without which we would not have the new CIB.
The mood of the few students in attendance was dismal, many of whom were in shock at the lack of discussion on education and the new addition to campus. What should have been a wonderful opportunity to show off USU Eastern’s glowing new addition turned into a politically driven debacle propagated by local leaders using biased and unscientific views to persuade a willing audience.
Next issue I will return to my academic musings but the utter lack of integrity shown by our political leaders was too egregious to overlook. I have high expectations for those with authority and suggest that they themselves “do their homework.”