ST. GEORGE – At a luncheon held by the Washington County Republican Women Thursday, District 73 Rep. Mike Noel, R-Kanab, spoke against national monument designations and in favor of the proposed Lake Powell Pipeline, which he said will allow Southern Utah to grow to potentially the size of the Wasatch Front. Noel also discussed his bid to head up the Bureau of Land Management.
Noel has served in the Utah House of Representatives since 2003, representing a large swath of Southern and southeastern Utah. District 73 encompasses several counties, including all or part of Garfield, Kane, San Juan, Wayne, Beaver, Iron and Piute counties.
Noel spoke strongly in favor of the Lake Powell Pipeline, saying it is needed if Southern Utah is going to grow.
Noel helped found the Kane County Water Conservancy District, which now has 3,000 water connections and $166 million in infrastructure, he said.
“I’m a member of the Lake Powell Pipeline Management Committee,” he said. “And I will just testify to you today that we’ve got to have that Lake Powell Pipeline in Washington County if we want to continue to grow. And I think you want to continue to grow here.”
Newcomers tend to think growth should stop after they move to the area, Noel said; however, water planners need to think 20 years ahead. Water from the proposed pipeline will be needed by current residents’ grandchildren and great-grandchildren, he said.
“Maybe we’ll reach the vision of Brigham Young, and it’ll be like the Wasatch Front down here,” Noel said. “But that’s kind of my vision, too.”
Noel spoke at length against national monument designations, which he says prevent economic development and take away jobs.
Before the November 2016 election, President Barrack Obama designated 24 national monuments and enlarged three existing monuments, reserving more than 548 million acres of land, Noel said, much of it in the outer continental shelf.
Monument designation adds an additional and unnecessary layer of bureaucracy, he said.
“So, essentially you can’t do anything.”
Noel used the example of his previous experience as the project manager for the proposed Smoky Hollow coal mine on the Kaiparowits Plateau, which is now within the Grand Staircase-Escalante National Monument.
The project would have developed the largest untapped coal reserve in the United States, he said, and could have been accomplished with only 30 acres of surface disturbance.
“Low-sulphur, high-Btu (British thermal unit) coal, highly valued coal, coal that was called ‘compliance coal,'” he said. “It was the cleanest coal you could get.”
After the project was shut down, Noel said, an Indonesian firm that was a big donor to the Clinton Foundation started bringing in compliance coal from southeast Asia.
The Federal Land Policy and Management Act and the National Environmental Policy Act were designed to help land managers make better decisions, he said, but that purpose has been convoluted by environmental groups that use the acts to delay the process and file lawsuits.
Noel continued to say that similarly, the Equal Access to Justice Act, which authorizes the payment of attorney’s fees to a prevailing party in an action against the United States, has allowed environmental groups to sue federal land managers and then settle, leaving locals out of the discussion.
“And you’re left out in the cold.”
If Noel is selected as the head of the BLM, he said he will do everything he can to get rid of the Equal Access to Justice Act.
The Antiquities Act was appropriate for 1906 when looting of archaeological sites was more common and people were less educated, Noel said, but the law is no longer needed. He said:
We’ve got all that information now. We can do what we need to do. We can be better managers of the public lands. We can make sure the land is multiple-use but yet people can enjoy the pristine nature of the public land.
States should be sovereign, he said, and sometimes the federal government forgets that it was the states that created it and it takes too much power.
“We are the ones that are supposed to be in charge of this environment, of this area here,” Noel said. “We can do the things right if we use local people, if we go by our core values.”
It would be wrong to give up farming, ranching and fruit production for tourism, he said, but it is possible to do both.
Noel wants to revoke or modify Obama’s Bears Ears monument designation, as soon as possible after President-elect Donald Trump takes office.
Noel said his bid to head the BLM is coming together. He has the support of 800 sheriffs in 11 Western states. Noel received endorsements from the Utah Cattlemen’s Association, the Utah Farm Bureau, the Utah Rural Electic Association.
Lesa Sandberg, president of the Washington County Republican Women, told St. George News that their organization also believes Noel will be a good fit for the new BLM director.
“The Washington County Republican Women love Mike Noel,” Sandberg said. “We fully endorse him and hope that President Trump will chose him as the BLM director. We feel that he has all the experience and knowledge needed to take care of public lands. And we were just grateful that he came to our group and shared his insights with us.”
Sen. Orrin Hatch will present Noel’s application to president-elect Trump, Noel said.
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