Energy & Environment

Southern Utah Wilderness Alliance

Kane County and the state of Utah have regained ownership of several back-country roads that cross federal land. A federal judge granted the state and county title to 12 of 15 roads being contested in a legal dispute with the Interior department and Bureau of Land Management. 

Utah Attorney General John Swallow says the decision proves the state of Utah and 22 of 29 Utah counties involved in the lawsuit are not just barking in the wind.

Dan Bammes

  Governor Gary Herbert traveled to the Snake Valley on the Utah-Nevada line yesterday to talk to people who might be impacted by a plan to pump groundwater from the Great Basin to Las Vegas.

Last month, when Utah Mom’s for Clean Air petitioned Governor Gary Herbert to take action on Utah’s poor air quality, his office responded by asking the group to come back with possible solutions. Friday, the group delivered that plan, which includes putting a price tag on air pollution. 

Cherise Udell is President and Founder of Utah Mom’s for Clean Air. She called the Airshed User Fee the most innovative idea in the plan. It’s a tax on the six specific pollutants regulated by the Environmental Protection Agency including particulate matter.

Utah DEQ Ready For New EPA Chief

Mar 6, 2013
EPA

  The head of Utah’s Department of Environmental Quality says she’s had a good experience working with the person picked to head the federal Environmental Protection Agency.  Gina McCarthy was head of E-P-A’s air quality division until President Obama tapped her for the top job this week.

Amanda Smith at  DEQ says she’s optimistic McCarthy will be able to work with the state on Utah’s unique problems, such as winter ozone in the Uintah Basin.

Courtesy of the Bureau of Land Management

Members of Utah’s Congressional delegation are asking the federal government for more time before it designates the Gunnison sage grouse an endangered species. 

The Gunnison sage grouse is a smaller cousin of the grouse that lives all over the west.  In Utah, it lives only in San Juan County, mostly on private land near Monticello.  There are only about a hundred of them left.

Courtesy of the Bureau of Land Management

Members of Utah’s Congressional delegation are asking the federal government for more time before it designates the Gunnison sage grouse an endangered species. 

The Gunnison sage grouse is a smaller cousin of the grouse that lives all over the west.  In Utah, it lives only in San Juan County, mostly on private land near Monticello.  There are only about a hundred of them left.

Brian Grimmett

Governor Gary Herbert along with legislators and government leaders are putting their support behind a bill that would help local and state agencies expand their fleets of Compressed Natural Gas vehicles.

The University of Utah is starting a new center to study air pollution and its impacts on health and society.  The U hosted a retreat Monday, bringing academics together to talk about what they have to contribute and how they can collaborate. 

Clearing the Air: Big Industry

Feb 28, 2013
Dan Bammes

The air pollution that we can see suspended in the cold air trapped during Utah’s infamous temperature inversions is called PM 2.5 – particulate matter 2.5 microns in diameter or smaller.  Just how much of that comes from large industrial polluters is a subject of some dispute, along with just what should be done about it. Dan Bammes has the third in our series of reports on Clearing the Air.

Andrea Smardon

As Utahns persist through one of the worst winter inversion seasons in a decade, many have focused their frustration and anger over dirty air on elected officials in the Utah legislature.  In part two of our series Clearing the Air, KUER News explores the  short and long term solutions lawmakers are proposing.

Study Looks at Uintah Basin Ozone

Feb 19, 2013
Dan Bammes

  After a year of studying winter ozone air pollution in Utah’s Uintah Basin, a team of scientists has determined that oil and gas wells are causing most of the problem.  

The team at Utah State University’s Uintah Basin campus studied ozone last winter – when there were only a few inversion days and not much of a problem.  It’s been worse this year, and Seth Lyman with the Bingham Research Center says a big part of the problem is the volatile organic compounds such as benzene coming from thousands of oil and gas wells.

Compromise Delays Stream Access Bills

Feb 15, 2013
Dan Bammes

The battle over access to fishing streams in Utah probably won’t be resolved in this legislative session, but that was welcome news to anglers who brought the issue to the state capitol on Friday.

About 400 people who had gathered on the capitol steps cheered the news that the sponsor of House Bill 68 will hold on to his bill for now.  It would declare the state has met its obligations to keep streams open as a public trust.

Utahns are well-acquainted with the dirty air lurking beyond their front doors in a winter inversion or summer ozone day.  A long string of unhealthy air days this winter has many residents saying "enough". Today KUER News and RadioWest begin “Clearing the Air,” a special series aimed at exploring the problem of Utah’s poor air quality and ways to improve it.  One of the contributing factors is car emissions, but is public transit a viable option for those living on the Wasatch Front? Can people use their cars less without compromising their lifestyle? 

Andrea Smardon

Utah citizens and activists gathered on the steps of the Capitol Wednesday to demand action to clean up the state’s polluted air.  The rally was part of a grassroots effort, including a Facebook campaign and petition.

University of Utah student Carl Ingwell started the Facebook campaign, urging people to inundate the Utah governor’s office with calls and e-mails, demanding action. His campaign led him to the steps of the Capitol, speaking to about 150 concerned citizens.

Interior Appointment Applauded

Feb 6, 2013
REI

  President Obama's appointment of a new Secretary of the Interior is winning qualified praise from environmentalists and at least one member of the Utah Congressional delegation.

The president picked Sally Jewell, the top executive of REI, the outdoor equipment retailer, to replace Ken Salazar.  Tim Wagner with the Sierra Club says that's a good choice.

Brian Grimmett

Democratic State Lawmakers are calling the federal government to protect and preserve Utah’s greater canyonlands.  

On the steps of the state Capitol Tuesday, State Senator and Utah Democratic Party Chairman Jim Dabakis sought to preserve one the state’s natural treasures. He introduced Senate Joint Resolution 10 that seeks public comment on how to protect the greater canyonlands.

Most strategies to reduce air pollution in northern Utah focus on emissions from cars and industry, but the state’s Division of Air Quality (DAQ) is targeting another source of pollution – the products in our bathroom cupboards, cleaning closets, and garage shelves.  The DAQ board will consider a new rule Wednesday that would regulate consumer products containing volatile organic compounds. 

Andrea Smardon

Clean air advocates filed a legal challenge last week against the US Environmental Protection Agency, claiming a new policy allows some coal-fired power plants to continue releasing haze-causing pollutants in Utah, New Mexico and Wyoming.  Environmental organization HEAL Utah was one of the groups who filed the challenge with the US Court of Appeals for the 10th Circuit in Denver. 

A spokeswoman for Utah Governor Gary Herbert says the governor disagrees with dozens of Utah Doctors who say the region’s current air pollution levels are causing a public healthcare emergency.  A group of physicians hand-delivered a letter to the Governor’s office Wednesday afternoon, asking him to take prompt action to address poor air quality along the Wasatch Front and in Cache Valley.

Governor, Outdoor Industry Share Vision

Jan 23, 2013
Paul McKee / Utah Governor's Office

  Utah's governor has promised to create an Office of Outdoor Recreation in a vision statement that's just been released.  The Outdoor Industry Association, which sponsors Utah's largest trade shows twice a year, complained last summer that Utah's state government wasn't taking outdoor recreation seriously enough and threatened to move unless the issue got some attention.  So Governor Gary Herbert assigned his Balanced Resources Council to sit down with industry leaders.

UDOT Signs Silent on Air Quality

Jan 21, 2013
Utah Department of Transportation

Two events that attract tens of thousands of visitors to Utah are taking place this week: The Sundance Film Festival and the winter Outdoor Retailers show. Some activist groups are wondering if there's an effort to avoid drawing attention to the state's lousy air quality while they're in town.

Salazar to Step Down as Interior Secretary

Jan 16, 2013
Dan Bammes

President Barack Obama will have to find a replacement for the Secretary of the Interior in his second term. Ken Salazar is planning to leave the job in March.  

Utah Department of Natural Resources / Utah Division of Wildlife Resources

The Great Salt Lake occasionally smells strange during the summer and then there’s the “lake effect” in the winter. But within the waters of North America's most salty lake lies a unique variety of brine shrimp species that has spawned a rare public/private partnership between the Utah Department of Natural Resources and more than a dozen businesses.

Rocky Mountain Power

Rocky Mountain Power is opening another lottery for their customers who want to receive incentives to help offset the costs of installing solar energy equipment on their homes or businesses. The program opens Tuesday the 15th and runs through the 28th of January. Rocky Mountain Power spokesperson Jeff Hymas says the $50 million dollars up for grabs through 2017 will benefit all power users.

Brian Grimmett

Members of Utah’s congressional delegation called for more energy development during a panel at the Governor’s Energy Development Summit. But the discussion wasn’t without some push back from local environmental advocacy groups.

US Department of the Interior / Bureau of Reclamation

The federal Bureau of Reclamation’s recent release of the Record of Decision (ROD) for the Narrows Dam on Gooseberry Creek in Sanpete County is likely to be contested in court. The relatively small water project would allow the Sanpete Water Conservancy District to develop an existing Gooseberry Project right to 5400 acre-feet of water for farmers’ late summer crop.

EnergySolutions

Salt Lake City nuclear waste company EnergySolutions announced Monday that it will be acquired by private equity firm Energy Capital Partners.  But numerous parties are questioning the deal, including HEAL Utah.   The environmental organization's Policy Director Matt Pacenza told KUER that he is wary about a private equity firm managing nuclear waste. 

Refinery Promises Cleaner Air

Jan 4, 2013
Utah Division of Air Quality

The Holly oil refinery in Woods Cross is promising to reduce its air pollution significantly at the same time it's expanding to handle twice as much crude oil from eastern Utah.

Mining Claims Come Cheap

Dec 31, 2012

Monday is the deadline for people who own a few mining claims on public land to make sure the government knows they want to keep them.  The paperwork is minimal and the $140 fee for maintaining a claim can even be waived.

Under a federal law that dates back to 1872, the rules for mining claims aren't that different for the lone prospector and the huge companies that extract millions of dollars' worth of minerals from public land.  That bothers Tim Wagner with the Sierra Club, who says big corporations pay almost nothing for the minerals they extract.

BLM Approves Las Vegas Water Pipeline

Dec 28, 2012
Kristi Fillman

The U.S. Bureau of Land Management announced its approval Thursday for a 300-mile pipeline from the interior valleys of the Great Basin to Las Vegas.  The pipeline would be used to carry more than 84,000 acre-feet of water pumped from underground aquifers each year.  The project is opposed by environmental groups, ranchers, local government officials and Native American tribes in both Nevada and Utah.

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