Sen. Orrin Hatch inserted $294,000 into a massive federal spending bill, claiming he did not realize that the lobbyist behind the requested money was his own son. So Hatch said, explaining why he filed a letter stating neither he nor his family would receive any money from Hatch’s budget “earmarks.” The senator requested money for a community center in Riverton. Son Scott Hatch is a lobbyist for the city and traveled to D.C. to ask for the money. (Discovery of the “unintended and unfortunate oversight” occurred shortly after The Salt Lake Tribune requested that all Utah’s congressional delegation reveal the special-project budget earmarks they had requested.)
A large wind-power farm received the green light to start construction in Utah’s Beaver County after a vote by the Los Angeles City Council to purchase the bulk of the plant’s power for 20 years. The Massachusetts wind company project was spurred by tax credits the Utah Legislature granted to renewable energy projects last year. California cities are being pushed toward such investments by a state policy that says Californians will get 20 percent of electricity from renewable energy by 2010. Utah, meanwhile, has no such requirement. Gov. Jon Huntsman Jr. toyed with creating a renewable power-portfolio goal, but his own blue-ribbon energy panel waffled on the idea. In Utah, “alternative” energy still means a nuclear power plant on the Colorado River.
Turns out those empty TRAX cars don’t have riders on them. Who knew? Not UTA, which was surprised when new electronic passenger tracking calculations showed the UTA likely has overestimated rider numbers since the train opened in 1999. This year’s figures show 18,000 fewer riders than last. Not to worry, says UTA boss John Inglish, who blames downtown construction for passenger drops and notes riders remain above projections. Besides, UTA says, the agency always knew the old numbers had a large margin of error. Don’t remember UTA saying that when trumpeting the now-discredited passenger numbers. The result is: lawmakers now are beginning to question TRAX expansion. Exaggerating TRAX’s success only hurts the cause of those pressing for more mass transit in the valley.