The little-known Community Impact Board usually spends its meetings considering funding requests for rural Utah projects like a new justice center in Grantsville or improvements at Grand County’s airport.
But ever since four coal counties requested $53 million dollars to invest in the Oakland, California, port last year, the board has been venturing into controversial, new territory. That explains the new due-diligence checklist the board’s now considering. Keith Heaton is the board’s president.
“Before we spent that type of money, as good stewards of the fund,” he says, “we would want to have an expert look at some of the details of this and make sure that it is a sound investment – not only for the applicant but for the community impact fund and the people of Utah.”
Heaton’s board still hasn’t received that funding application and it hasn’t hired a consultant yet. But environmentalists are challenging the plan after the Oakland California City Council voted to block coal shipments through their port.
Environmentalists have sent a letter with five pages of detailed questions about the port investment. They’ve also called for a federal investigation into the legality of the coal-port plan.
“I think the bottom line is that there’s still a huge question mark over the future viability of this coal terminal,” says Michael Shea, policy director for HEAL Utah. “And I think there’s also a question mark about the legality of this money being allocated the way it has.”
Shea said ordinary impact board projects are also at risk because of the funding committed to the coal-port plan.