SALT LAKE CITY - Claiming it is an easy way to cut emissions during inversions, Gov. Gary Herbert is renewing his call to ban the burning of wood from Dec. 15 to March 1.
Herbert used a Thursday meeting with the media to say a ban on wood burning would cut emissions by approximately 5 percent. He suggested part of any initiative could include a grant program to help homeowners who use wood-burning as their sole source of heat transition to a new heating alternative.
"We ought to say no wood burning. If you want to have a fire, make sure it's natural gas or some other kind of fuel," Herbert said.
Legislative leaders have expressed concern about going too far in imposing a ban. Senate President Wayne Niederhauser said lawmakers want to address the issue, but also want some flexibility.
Discussion of a potential ban on burning wood comes during a 45-day legislative session that is expected to have a heavy emphasis on clean air measures. To date, there are 20 air quality-related bills pending in the Legislature.
The governor also weighed in on a decision Wednesday from a prison relocation board recommending the state prison be relocated from its existing Draper site. He urged lawmakers to take their time in evaluating any relocation plan.
"I'd rather do it right, than do it quick. Prison relocation is a big deal," Herbert said.
He said the prison should only be moved in the context of prison reform.
Herbert also used his first press conference during the legislative session to distance himself from a potential confrontation with House Speaker Becky Lockhart, R-Provo. Lockhart is not running for re-election this year and many have speculated she will run against the governor in 2016.
Herbert said he hasn't decided whether to run again.
"I'm only preparing to serve the people of Utah as governor. I have not made that determination," Herbert said when asked about the possible showdown with a fellow Utah County Republican.
The governor also addressed another issue where there is a divide with the House Speaker. Herbert has indicated he will opt to expand Medicaid, but has not outlined specifics of that proposal, or how many people would be impacted. Lockhart has opposed any expansion of the federal program.
Herbert continued to maintain he hopes to find a consensus on how the state will expand the program, in conjunction with the Legislature. He said there will be a solution in place by the end of the session.