Energy & Environment

Cathy / Flickr Creative Commons

Environmentalists want state regulators to come up with a tougher plan to clean up air pollution in rural Utah caused by coal-fired power plants.

Don Sharaf / American Avalanche Institute

Jim Steenburgh began probing the deep questions about the Greatest Snow on Earth since he settled in Utah after college.

Fusatia / Flickr Creative Commons

    

Utah lawmakers will be taking a hard look next year at how much water developers pledge for each new property.

Mike Mozart / Flickr Creative Commons

Gas prices are tumbling, thanks to a glut of petroleum on the world market. That may be great for consumers, but it’s tough for Utah’s petroleum industry and the state budget.

Phil Douglass / Utah Division of Wildlife Resources

 Congress is facing a midnight deadline to pass a huge spending bill.  One of its provisions would put a possible endangered species listing for the sage grouse on hold. 

The US Fish and Wildlife Service is facing a deadline based on a court settlement with environmental groups.  It has until September next year to make a decision on whether to put the greater sage grouse on the list of endangered or threatened species.

Photo courtesy Foxboro residents

The Utah Air Quality Board has approved a 2.3 million dollar settlement between the medical waste company Stericycle and state environmental regulators.

To be clear, Vice President of Stericycle’s Corporate Communications Jennifer Koenig says the company is not admitting fault for alleged emissions violations at its North Salt Lake incinerator, but she says they’re pleased with the settlement.

File: Utahdriveselectric.org

The Governor’s Office of Energy Development launched UtahDrivesElectric.org Tuesday.

Jeffery Barrett is the Office’s Deputy Director. He says it’s an effort by Governor Herbert to be a leader in transportation advances like electric vehicles while recognizing the Wasatch Front’s air quality challenges.

Brian Grimmett / KUER

The company that operates a medical waste incinerator in North Salt Lake City has agreed to pay a record 2.3 million dollar fine. If approved by Utah’s Air Quality Board at their meeting Wednesday, the settlement would resolve allegations that Stericycle’s incinerator violated emissions limits and falsified stack test results. Bryce Bird, Director of the Utah Division of Air Quality, says it’s a strong settlement.

U.S. National Archives and Records Administration

  A battle is shaping up over a permit to produce oil from oil shale on state land in eastern Utah.  The permit is based on technology that’s still being developed.

Courtesy: / Utah Public Lands Policy Coordinating Office

Utah lawmakers will have to wait a little longer for an analysis of a federal lands transfer.

The state public lands policy coordinating office told them Wednesday a report on transferring federal lands to state hands still needs finishing touches.

Assistant Attorney General Tony Rampton said the analysis is clear-eyed, scrupulously objective and exhaustive at nearly 800 pages.

EnergySolutions

The Utah Department of Environmental Quality is planning to consolidate two state agencies to improve efficiency.

Utah’s Radiation Control Division oversees everything from dental X-ray machines to a massive radioactive waste site, and the proposal has scientists and engineers joining the state’s solid and hazardous waste program. DEQ Director Amanda Smith says the plan retains staff expertise and institutional knowledge.

AFP-REUTERS-GETTYIMAGES&AP via Flickr

Salt Lake City Mayor Ralph Becker was in Washington D.C. today presenting the final recommendations of the White House Climate Change Task Force. 

Last November, Mayor Becker and 25 other State, Local and Tribal leaders from across the country were picked to join the task force.  Over the past year, Becker says the group compared notes on how the warming climate is impacting their respective communities.

Arby Reed / Flickr Creative Commons

A new snapshot of the nation’s water use shows a downward trend.

But Utah is using more water, according to the

U.S. Geological Survey’s five-year study,  based on 2010 data,  shows the nation’s homes, farms, industry and power plants are using significantly less water than they have in more than four decades.

Utah bucked that trend, using 7 percent more water than in 2005.

Michael Shea

Students at Pacific Heritage Academy spent the morning planting foliage next to their building’s storm drain. The work is part of the Lower Jordan River Restoration Project.

As part of a greater study of Utah’s water system, students at Pacific Heritage Academy planted nine different types of trees and shrubs in front of their school. The “habitat patch” as it’s called will help absorb storm runoff from the school’s parking lot and provide nesting grounds for birds. Hilary Ward is a Teacher at the academy. She says the work is much more than just storm water management.

File: Utah Division of Wildlife Resources, Brent Stettler

The U.S Fish and Wildlife Service has decided to list the Gunnison Sage Grouse as threatened under the Endangered Species Act and that has Utah wildlife managers, environmentalists and politicians upset.

Flickr: Lyza

The Utah Department of Agriculture and Food is launching a new program that rewards farmers and ranchers who are working to protect the environment.

Eagle Mountain City voters have decided they want Rocky Mountain Power to provide their electric service. Eagle Mountain has been managing their own utilities since the city was founded in 1996 with 250 residents. But Mayor Chris Pengra says the city has since grown to more than 25,000 people, and the population is expected to quadruple by 2050. Pengra says if the city continued to run the utilities, it would have to issue bonds to accommodate the growth, and that would drive up rates.

University of Utah

  Imagine a cellphone or a laptop that runs on jet fuel.  New research at the University of Utah is showing how that could happen.

Chemistry professor Shelley Minteer and her team have demonstrated how enzymes extracted from bacteria can be used to make fuel cells that operate at room temperature.  The enzymes create a chemical reaction that generates electricity from a kind of military jet fuel called JP-8.  Minteer says you don’t need much.

Maj. D.J. Gibb / Utah Army National Guard

    

The UN climate change panel issued its latest status report this weekend. The group says the world must act swiftly to avert the risks in a rapidly warming planet. IN Utah, local efforts are already underway.

Dan Bammes

  A national environmental group is raising concerns about proposed plans to upgrade mobile phone service in Yellowstone National Park. 

The group Public Employees for Environmental Responsibility argues there’s just no need for high-speed mobile service at Yellowstone.  Executive Director Jeff Ruch says the Park Service shouldn’t have to pay for the kind of infrastructure needed for streaming movies.

Dan Bammes

  Utah Governor Gary Herbert is asking Utah’s oil refineries to produce cleaner gasoline.  But it may be years before they’re actually ready to do that. 

Courtesy: / National Weather Service

October’s been warmer and drier than usual so far in Utah. The warm trend is expected to continue into winter, but forecasters can’t say how much rain and snow will fall in the coming months.

The National Weather Service’s long-term outlook says normal precipitation is just as likely this winter as especially wet -- or dry --weather.  But the state’s had three extra dry years in a row, and that might be the single most important factor ahead.

The Grand County Council voted Tuesday to join a coalition that wants to build a road, a pipeline and a rail line for eastern Utah energy. The upcoming election could prove to be a referendum on that decision.

Dan Bammes

  A complex court case involving winter ozone pollution in Utah’s Uintah Basin came before an appeals court in Washington DC Tuesday morning.  The central question is how much federal regulators need to know before they can act to control pollution.

Back in 2012, the Environmental Protection Agency decided the winter ozone problem in the Uintah Basin was “unclassifiable,” and it decided not to designate it as a non-attainment area for federal ozone standards.  Environmental groups sued, arguing the EPA had all the information it needed to act.

Dan Bammes

  An environmental activist says a plan to expand the US Air Force test and training range in western Utah is nothing more than a land grab.

The proposed amendment to the Defense Authorization Act would add more than a thousand square miles to the Utah Test and Training Range.  It’s sponsored by Senator Orrin Hatch.

  The Utah Legislature appropriated two million dollars to try to avoid an endangered species listing for the greater sage grouse.  The consulting firm hired to do that presented its report to the legislature today on its work so far.

Courtesy: / Utah Division of Wildlife Resources

Environmental officials have confirmed that levels of toxic algae are elevated at Utah Lake. But they say ordinary activities are fine as long as people steer clear of the bright blue-ish green blooms.

Water tests came back on Thursday showing some of the pond scum on Utah Lake has reached worrisome levels. Environmental officials tested the blue green algae near the Lindon Marina on Monday, after they heard that a dog that had been playing in it died Sunday.

Public Opinion Strategies

  Utah has pioneered the effort by Western states to take control of federal land within its borders.  But a recent poll finds that most voters in those states think it’s a bad idea. 

The poll of voters in eight Western states shows a majority -- 52% -- oppose attempts by their states to take control of public lands managed by the federal government.

The only state where a majority of voters favor the idea is Utah. A law passed by legislators in 2012 threatens legal action if the federal government doesn’t turn over title to those lands.

Bill Bryant (used by permission)

  Nine Mile Canyon near Price is famous around the world for its rock art, which dates back a thousand years or more.  Federal land managers want some guidance on how to manage the area so the public can enjoy it.

The Bureau of Land Management is starting work on an environmental assessment for Nine Mile Canyon.  There are as many as 100-thousand Native American rock art images on the canyon walls, but it’s also close to some of Utah’s most productive oil and gas fields.

The Utah Foundation has released a new report on the state’s water outlook in the face of what is expected to be huge population growth over the next 35 years. 

The report is the third in a series of studies looking at the impacts population growth will have on Utah. It looked at the challenges Utah’s water supply could be facing and came with several recommendations, including moving away from funding water agencies with property taxes, and toward funding them with increased water rates.

Pages