Energy & Environment

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.

Challenge to BLM Plans Moves Ahead

Dec 26, 2012
Scott Braden

The Southern Utah Wilderness Alliance filed new court papers last week to move its case ahead challenging six Resource Management Plans for Utah adopted by the Bureau of Land Management at the end of the Bush administration.  The new filings focus on the RMP for the Richfield field office, an area that SUWA lawyer Steve Bloch says includes some of Utah's most spectacular country.

"Places like the Dirty Devil, Factory Butte, the Henry Mountains, Muddy Creek on the southern end of the 

Private Fuel Storage, LLC www.privatefuelstorage.com

After major opposition from Utah’s top elected officials a group of utility companies has once and for all scrapped their plans to build an above ground nuclear waste storage facility in Tooele County. The companies wanted to construct radioactive waste containers on a 100-acre area on the Skull Valley Goshute Reservation. The site also sits very close to the Utah Test and Training Range where the military frequently drops and tests explosives.

Brian Grimmett

About 30 members of the United Mine Workers Union of America from the Deer Creek coal mine located near Huntington, Utah gathered outside of the Gallivan center Friday to tell people they’re concerned about their safety. Right now they are in the middle of contract negotiations with their employer, Energy West Mining, who they say is planning to cut safety provisions. The proposal includes eliminating 11 of the unions 14 safety representatives. Union spokesman Brad Timothy says that won’t keep them safe.

New Plan Lets Ferrets, Landowners Get Along

Dec 18, 2012
Utah Division of Wildlife Resources

  The U-S Fish and Wildlife Service has worked out a framework for state agencies and private landowners to cooperate on protecting the black-footed ferret.  It allows landowners to continue grazing or other uses on their land if they're willing to set aside some habitat for the ferrets.

Brian Maxfield, a biologist with the Utah Division of Wildlife Resources, says it gives the ferret's neighbors a clear understanding of what they can expect in areas where the ferrets have been re-introduced.

Dan Bammes

A coalition of ranchers, environmentalists and political leaders sent a letter to Governor Gary Herbert, asking him not to sign a deal worked out with the state of Nevada to divide water rights in the Snake Valley.  Steve Erickson represents the Great Basin Water Network.  He says the deal worked out three years ago should be scrapped and the states should negotiate a new one.

"We have plenty of time to do further science and assess the potential damages from this project before we sign on the bottom line," Erickson told reporters at the Utah state capitol.

Utah Facing Tough New Air Quality Regulations

Dec 4, 2012
Dan Bammes

The Utah Air Quality Board will meet tomorrow to look at a new set of state regulations aimed at cleaning up winter air pollution.  The new rules would impose stricter standards in Cache County as well as the Wasatch Front.  The new plan has to meet standards set by the U-S Environmental Protection Agency, with federal highway funding at risk if it fails.

Salt Lake Chamber Makes Business Case for Clean Air

Nov 29, 2012

Utah business leaders are making a case for why clean air is integral to a strong economy. At the Salt Lake Chamber’s 2nd Annual Clean Air Conference this morning panelists from the Utah division of Air Quality, Wasatch Front Regional Council and Overstock.com discussed how environmental responsibility can benefit bottom lines and improve quality of life for everyone. 

Bob Nelson

The Utah Division of Air Quality is adopting a new rule and amending a current rule for increased restrictions on wood burning stoves. They’ve also expanded the areas of enforcement.

Bob Nelson

Utah’s new air pollution alert system has some health advocacy groups concerned.  Under the new system announced Monday by the Utah Division of Air Quality, there will be fewer days that will trigger a Red Air Action alert.  Red Air days are considered to be unhealthy for everyone.  In the current system, they are triggered when PM2.5 levels are at 35 micrograms per cubic meter.  The new system raises the threshold to 55. 

Protesters Challenge Tar Sands Decision

Nov 19, 2012
Tar Sands Monster
Dan Bammes

About two dozen demonstrators gathered outside the Bureau of Land Management Office at the Gateway to offer their own "People's Environmental Impact Statement" on tar sands.  They object to a decision by the federal government to make more than 130,000 acres available for tar sands development in Utah.  Right now, the only active tar sands project in Utah is the proposed U.S.

David Walsh, Bureau of Reclamation

U.S. Secretary of the Interior Ken Salazar is expected to make an appearance just south of Utah’s border at Glen Canyon Dam Monday.  Salazar will be there to trigger a controlled flood from Utah’s Lake Powell into Arizona’s Glen and Grand Canyons, the first high-flow release conducted at that dam since 2008. 

New National Monument Proposed for Southern Utah

Nov 13, 2012
Island in the Sky
Dan Bammes

    More than a hundred businesses involved in outdoor recreation are sending a letter to President Obama asking him to create a Greater Canyonlands National Monument.

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