Gov. Herbert talks wood burning, prison relocation and firing squads during monthly press conference

SALT LAKE CITY (AP) — Gov. Gary Herbert says he’s concerned about a bill that would stop Utah regulators from banning wood burning for an entire season.

The Republican governor said at his monthly televised news conference on KUED-TV on Thursday that he’s going to take a close look at the proposal before signing or vetoing it because lawmakers may be imposing an unnecessary restriction on a state board tasked with overseeing state air quality.

The proposal from Rep. Brad Dee, R-Ogden, would still ban all wood burning on bad air days and ban burning by non-EPA certified stoves on the moderate days.

It’s supported by wood burners but strongly opposed by clean air advocates.

Herbert has until April 1 to sign or veto the bill.

He is leaning toward signing a proposal that would make his state the only one to allow firing squad executions if lethal injection drugs are unavailable.

Republican Gov. Gary Herbert said Utah is a capital punishment state and needs a backup method to carry out executions if a shortage of lethal injection drugs continues.

However, Herbert said he doesn’t think Utah will need to use the firing squad because there are ways to find the drugs. And state corrections officials “will take whatever steps are necessary” to obtain them, the governor said at his monthly news conference. He didn’t elaborate.

It’s unclear when Herbert will officially sign the bill. He has until April 1 to make the decision.

Utah lawmakers passed the measure last week amid a nationwide shortage of lethal injection drugs.

States have struggled to keep up their drug inventories as European manufacturers opposed to capital punishment refuse to sell the components of lethal injections to U.S. prisons.

Utah’s measure, from Republican Rep. Paul Ray, requires the state to use a firing squad if it fails to get the drugs 30 days before an execution.

Ray has argued trained marksmen offer faster and more humane deaths than the drawn-out, painful ones some lethal injections have caused in recent years, including executions in Oklahoma and Arizona in 2014.

Utah is the only state in the past 40 years to carry out a death sentence by firing squad. It stopped allowing death row inmates to choose a firing squad in 2004, citing concerns about the excessive attention it draws to the condemned.

A handful of Utah inmates sentenced before 2004 still have the option of a firing squad execution. But they’re all several years away from exhausting legal appeals to their sentences.

Critics argue Utah should avoid the Old West-style executions, saying the method is barbaric and archaic and will leave victims forgotten.

Herbert said Thursday he hopes critics realize that because the state has capital punishment, a lethal injection is preferable, and opponents should push drug manufacturers to sell the drugs to states.

Additionally, Herbert said he’s pleased that state lawmakers passed a bill that gives his office and the full Legislature input on where a state prison may be rebuilt.

Gov. Gary Herbert said that lawmakers and his office will weigh in later this year when they call a special session to consider a location.

Lawmakers passed a bill last week that requires a state prison relocation commission to pick a new location by Aug. 1. Herbert will then call lawmakers into special session.

Herbert has not yet signed the bill laying out that process. He has until April 1.

Lawmakers were originally considering allowing the state commission to make the final choice without the Legislature but Herbert threatened to veto that idea.

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