SALT LAKE CITY (ABC4) – Utah Governor Spencer J. Cox, giving his monthly news conference, reminded residents of the importance of water conservation during what could be the worst drought in state history and continued to urge Utahns to get vaccinated.
However, a development came out of the question-and-answer portion of the conference when the governor stated there will not be a statewide ban on fireworks this summer.
Responding to a direct question on whether or not he will enact a statewide ban on fireworks, Cox answered that he had been advised he does not have the legal authority to do so. However, he stated his strong support and said that if he had been given the authority, he would have implemented a ban.
According to Cox, he received a legal opinion Wednesday on his ability to impose a ban. The response he received from the state attorney general office and his own general counsel was that he was not empowered to enact a ban on fireworks.
Even though he has announced several emergency measures in response to extreme or exceptional drought conditions, Cox is unable to make a specific ban on the aerial explosives, and the state legislature, which does have the ability to empower such a move, is unwilling to yield on the issue, according to Cox.
It will be up to city government to enact, or not, any fireworks restrictions.
“I’ve told the legislature I think it’s a terrible idea not to have additional restrictions this year. They haven’t shown any interest in doing anything more around that, so we are relying on local governments to put those restrictions in place,” Cox explained.
Saying he does not plan to pursue a change in future restriction laws with the legislature, Cox proposed a simple solution that would be locally-focused and based on the conditions at the time.
“If it were up to me, a really easy fix would be just say areas in exceptional drought shouldn’t have fireworks,” Cox stated.
Beginning his press conference by stating the facts on Utah’s drought conditions, Cox stated the landscape is especially ripe for wildfires. According to the figures he listed, 100% of the state is in a drought and over 70% is in exceptional drought conditions, which is the highest possible designation.
“It’s worse than you think it is out there,” said Cox of the shape the state finds itself in thanks to a low snowfall last winter and a difficult heat wave that currently grips the area.
While Cox admitted he cannot enforce a fireworks ban, he firmly reminded Utahns that those who start a fire through their own negligence will be held financially responsible for any damage caused.
“If you start a fire, you will be held liable,” Cox stated.