Utah Gov. Gary Herbert told reporters on Tuesday that while he recognizes the "frustration" some have with the activities of the National Security Agency (NSA), he is not likely to support a measure to cut off the water supply to an NSA facility in the state.
“I know people have had some frustration with the NSA,” said Herbert in a Tuesday conference call with reporters, according to The Washington Post
“If it’s not stored in Utah, it’ll be stored somewhere else,” said Herbert, who believes the contract with the NSA is “something I think we need to continue to honor.”
The bill at issue, sponsored by Republican state Rep. Marc Roberts, would grandfather in the financial agreements between Bluffdale, a Salt Lake City suburb, and the NSA and would prohibit municipalities in the future from providing any material support for any NSA facilities.
In November, lawmakers debated the measure in a hearing held before Utah's House of Representatives Public Utilities and Technology Interim Committee and it could be moved to the floor for a vote in the coming months, reports Wired magazine
Committee members did not directly oppose the bill, but did seek clarification on who would be impacted should the bill pass and whether taxpayers are subsidizing the NSA.
"I just don’t want to subsidize what they’re doing on the back of our citizens," said Rep. Roger Barrus, according to The Salt Lake City Tribune
Roberts introduced similar legislation earlier in 2014 seeking to cut off the water supply to the NSA's $1. 2 billion data center, which opened up in 2013.
While the NSA will not provide details on how many data servers are housed at the Utah Data Center, the site requires 65 megawatts of electricity per day, which is equivalent to powering about 65,000 homes, and approximately 1.5 million gallons of water for cooling purposes, reports Utah Public Radio
The city issued $3.5 million in bonds to pay for the water lines and sells the NSA water for less than the price set by city ordinances.
Utah is not the only state considering legislation to prevent local resources from supporting NSA facilities. A similar bill was filed in the Missouri legislature in December, reports the Tenth Amendment Center
, a libertarian organization that advocates for states to push back against the NSA.
The Utah and Missouri bills likely face the same fate as bills in Maryland and Tennessee that died in committee last year, says Michael Knapp of the Lawfare Institute
"These bills would probably not survive a challenge by the federal government. Federal law pre-empts state law when the state law 'stands as an obstacle to the accomplishment and execution of the full purposes and objectives of Congress.' Courts make this judgment by determining Congress’s objective in enacting the federal legislation and by considering the nature of the state law," writes Knapp.
A more effective approach, Knapp argues, would be for states and cities to simply refuse to renew the water contract or provide other services to the NSA facility.
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