Energy & Environment

David Rankin

This week parts of Southern Utah have been hit hard with heavy rains and flash flooding. The National Weather Service has issued a flood watch today for most of Southern Utah around Dixie and Zion National Parks. These storms can be extremely dangerous, especially around slot canyons and dry washes where a flood can hit hours after rain fell miles away.

More Wild Horses Will Stay on the Range

Jul 22, 2013
Bureau of Land Management

  More wild horses will be left on the range as the government runs out of places to put them.  Here in Utah, there are no plans to remove horses from public land this year.  

It’s not unusual for Utah to go several years without removing wild horses from public rangeland, though it’s not uncommon to see mustangs from Nevada and other states brought here for adoption.  Lisa Reid with the Bureau of Land Management says there are actually more mustangs in government holding facilities than there left on the range.

Dan Bammes

After being closed for months following a fuel spill, the north marina at Willard Bay State Park is reopening to the public.    

Repeal of HB 155 on Special Session Agenda

Jul 16, 2013
Dan Bammes

  One of the items on the agenda of Wednesday’s special legislative session is the possible repeal of a controversial bill restricting the authority of federal law enforcement officers.  KUER’s Dan Bammes has more.

House Bill 155 limits the authority of Bureau of Land Management or Forest Service personnel to enforce state laws on public land, and threatens them with prosecution if they try it.  A federal court has issued an injunction preventing the state from implementing the law.

Interest Fading in SkiLink Project

Jul 15, 2013
Dan Bammes

  Support for the SkiLink – a tram that would connect Park City with Big Cottonwood Canyon – appears to be fading away.  

The Salt Lake Tribune reports members of Utah’s Congressional delegation have backed off their support for a bill to sell 30 acres of Forest Service land on the crest of the Wasatch Range for the SkiLink project . . . and a new management deal signed by the owners of the Canyons ski resort could also mean diminished interest in pursuing the idea.

Funding Approved for Nine Mile Canyon Road

Jul 12, 2013
Wikimedia Commons

  Nine-Mile Canyon is home to priceless rock art – thousands of Native American petroglyphs on the canyon walls.  But it’s also a major transportation route for oil and gas development in eastern Utah.  

The Utah Division of Air Quality regulates airborne dust and other pollution from sand and gravel operations – and a new legislative audit says it could be doing a better job.  

The Legislative Auditor General’s office cites lost paperwork, long delays and enforcement of permits that haven’t been issued yet as problems in the way the division regulates sand and gravel operations.

Bryce Bird, the director of the Division of Air Quality, says it’s clear there’s room for improvement.

Utah regulators are trying to educate people on the dangers of ozone, an invisible gas produced by smog that doctors say taxes the lungs of even healthy people.

The press conference took place under clear blue skies at a park in Woods Cross, with children playing nearby. It seemed like a nice day, but Director of the state’s Division of Air Quality Bryce Bird says ozone often goes overlooked because people can't see it.

Wikimedia Commons

  The new study in the Journal of the American Water Resources Association estimates about 380,000 acre-feet of water a year is lost when it soaks into the lake's sandstone banks each year.  That’s more than the state of Nevada is entitled to take from the river under a 1922 interstate compact.

The state’s Director of the Division of Air Quality (DAQ) says there is a possibility the agency will revoke the permit of Stericycle’s medical waste incinerator in North Salt Lake.  DAQ Director Bryce Bird met with concerned members of the community, and health and environmental advocates today (WED). They called on the agency to shut down the incinerator, which they say is an urgent public health threat.

North Salt Lake resident Natasha Hincks Henderson

North Salt Lake residents are stepping up pressure to close a medical waste incinerator in their neighborhood. Environmental and health advocates are joining them in a protest outside Stericycle’s incinerator Tuesday evening, and representatives from the group will be meeting with the Director of the state’s Division of Air Quality to voice their concerns Wednesday morning. Among the protestors concerns is the use of a bypass stack which allows the company to release unfiltered, toxic pollutants like dioxin and mercury directly into the air.

Dan Bammes

The South Marina at Willard Bay State Park is open and operating, but the North Marina will remain closed through the July 4th holiday weekend.  

North Salt Lake resident Natasha Hincks Henderson

Environmental advocates and concerned residents will be holding a protest Tuesday evening at Stericycle’s medical waste incinerator in North Salt Lake. They want the incinerator – which emits dioxins and other toxic chemicals - shut down.

Protest organizer Bradley Angel is Director of Greenaction for Health and Environmental Justice. He says Stericycle’s incinerator is a direct threat to the health of the families in the neighborhood.

NuScale Power

  Several Western states are involved in an initiative to study small-scale nuclear power plants. The first of this new generation of nuclear reactors could be built in Idaho.

Oregon-based NuScale Power has been developing its design for a 47-megawatt power plant that would not need extra water, electricity or even human intervention to stay safe in an emergency.  Now it hopes to build one at the Idaho National Laboratory near Idaho Falls.

Utah Division of Air Quality

  In the winter, air pollution can stay trapped in the valleys of the Wasatch Front until the wind picks up and blows it away.  In the summer, ozone pollution can be a problem day after day even when the wind is blowing.  

Unlike particulates, which can build up for weeks in a winter inversion, new ozone is created every day by a reaction between tailpipe emissions and sunlight. Erik Crosman, a researcher in the University of Utah’s Atmosopheric Sciences program, says the wind doesn’t make much difference to pollution levels on a hot summer day.

Western Governors Release 10-Year Energy Vision

Jul 1, 2013
Dan Bammes

  Utah Governor Gary Herbert chairs the Western Governors Association, so this year, the group held its annual meeting in Utah.  The topics included reforming health care and education, but a lot of the focus was on energy and public lands. 

Dan Bammes

  The Secretary of the Interior is promising more cooperation with Western states  before the federal government takes unilateral action on public lands. 

Interior Secretary Sally Jewell has been on the job just a couple of months.  She was invited to speak to the Western Governors Association at its meeting in Park City.  Jewell  was asked whether the Obama administration is ready to create a new national monument in the Greater Canyonlands area.  She repeated a commitment made during her confirmation to ask local residents what they think before taking that kind of action.

Bob Nelson

A broad coalition of water conservation groups is calling for a legislative audit of the Utah Division of Water Resources. The partnership includes Living Rivers, the Taxpayer Association of Kane County and Glen Canyon Institute. Zack Frankel is the executive director of Utah Rivers Council which is also part of the coalition.

Tax Incentives Boost Green River Refinery Plan

Jun 27, 2013
Wikimedia Commons

  Work could begin soon on a new oil refinery in Green River, Utah, bringing more than a hundred stable new jobs to that community. 

The Governor’s Office of Economic Development will provide more than 12-million dollars in tax incentives to Rock River Resources, based in Houston. It’s agreed to create 125 new jobs at its proposed refinery to be built next to I-70 in Green River.  The state has already issued an air quality permit for the project, and construction on rail links to the site could begin this summer.

Rocky Mountain Power Defends Environmental Record

Jun 25, 2013
Wikimedia Commons

Environmentalists are applauding President Obama’s proposals to limit greenhouse gas emissions by executive action.  But Rocky Mountain Power says one group’s criticism ignores what it’s been doing for years.  

SUWA

Utah’s governor doesn’t much like the idea of creating a Greater Canyonlands National Monument covering a large area of public land in southern Utah.  

Environmental groups are asking President Obama to use the federal Antiquities Act to set aside 1.4 million acres of public land on both sides of the Colorado River as a national monument.  Governor Gary Herbert says there are better ways to protect public land.

DOE Marks a Milestone at Moab Cleanup Site

Jun 18, 2013
Alicia Geesman

  The U.S. Department of Energy says it’s moved six million tons of uranium mill tailings off the old Atlas mill site in Moab.  That’s 38-percent of the total, with about ten million tons still to go.

Workers on the site take three months off every winter, but project director Don Metzler says President Obama has proposed an increase in funding to keep them working longer.

 “It would allow us to go for twelve months a year, year-round," Metzler says, "with maybe a two-week vacation just so we could watch the dollars there a little bit.”

Image by <a href="http://www.flickr.com/photos/19779889@N00/7420600368/">arbyreed</a> / <a href="http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-nc-nd/2.0/deed.en">Creative Commons</a> via flickr

Firefighters are still trying to contain three fires started in south eastern Utah last week. The Rock Creek Fire near Price, the Lackey Fan Fire near La Sal and the Dark Canyon Fire west of Monticello all began when a storm rolled through southeast Utah late last week.The Lackey Fan Fire is the biggest of the three having already burned about 900 acres with a crew of over 300 firefighters battling the blaze. The fire is currently burning in the opposite direction of La Sal and crews aren’t planning evacuations at this time. Jason Johnson is the information officer for the Rock Creek Fire.

Sequester Cuts PILT Payments to Rural Counties

Jun 14, 2013
Dan Bammes

  Rural counties in Utah will get less money this year from the Payment in Lieu of Taxes program, or PILT.  The federal government provides the funding to counties with large areas of public land.  Garfield County has more than two million acres of federal land, but this year it will get just over $800,000 dollars from the PILT program.

County Commissioner Leland Pollock says providing services on federal land is a burden on local taxpayers.

Dan Bammes

The Grand Staircase-Escalante National Monument covers 1.9 million acres of Kane and Garfield Counties.  It’s not the easiest place to visit, but there’s an effort underway to improve access along one of its most popular roads.  

Bob Nelson

State officials re-launched the Utah Clean Air Partnership or UCAIR today as a non-profit entity with a a new board of directors.  

Governor Gary Herbert gathered many new members of the UCAIR board in West Valley City on Tuesday to announce changes to the organization. Until now, UCAIR had been a state-run organization dedicated to improving the state’s air quality. Governor Herbert says reorganizing the day-to-day management of UCAIR was always a goal.

Gary Kramer/USFWS

After several decades of recovery efforts the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service is proposing to remove the gray wolf from the endangered species list.

Science Panel Studies Wild Horse Management

Jun 6, 2013
Dan Bammes

  A panel of scientists working with the National Research Council released its report this week on the management of wild horses in the West.  One of the experts is from Brigham Young University. 

City planners, designers and developers from across the country are in Salt Lake City through Saturday to discuss how to build more walkable, transit-oriented and sustainable neighborhoods. The Congress for the New Urbanism brought its annual convention to Salt Lake City this year. 

The New Urbanism philosophy harkens back to neighborhoods designed before the automobile existed. The pedestrian-centered balance of jobs, housing and transportation is intended to rein in urban sprawl and relieve traffic congestion.

Lawsuit Could Challenge Tar Sands Leasing

May 29, 2013
Bureau of Land Management

Seven environmental groups are telling the Bureau of Land Management they plan to sue the agency over its leasing plan for oil shale and tar sands.  They say the agency didn’t consult the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service over the possible impact on endangered species.   

Attorney Steve Bloch with the Southern Utah Wilderness Alliance says the 60-day notice is required before the suit can be filed in federal court.

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