Energy & Environment

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.

Governor Asks for Cleaner Gasoline

Oct 27, 2014
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.

Contractor Works to Avoid Sage Grouse Listing

Oct 15, 2014

  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.

BLM Wants Input on Nine Mile Canyon

Sep 23, 2014
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.

U.S. Bureau of Land Management

State lawmakers hosted a freewheeling discussion Wednesday on the impact of federal land ownership and policies on Utahns. But their hearing focused almost exclusively on criticizing the federal government.

For more than two years state lawmakers have had an eye on transferring the control of federal lands to Utah. On Wednesday, a House-Senate panel heard more than a dozen witnesses describe their frustrations with feds.

Herbert: No Surprise National Monument for Utah

Sep 17, 2014
Ray Bloxham, SUWA

  Utah Governor Gary Herbert says he has a promise from the Obama administration – there won’t be a new national monument appearing suddenly on the map of Southern Utah.

Governor Herbert was in Washington DC last week and spoke with U.S. Interior Secretary Sally Jewell.  He told reporters at his monthly news conference on KUED that Jewell promised there would be no designation of a Greater Canyonlands National Monument without some advance notice.

Morgan Council Chair: Study Sage Grouse Issue

Sep 16, 2014

  Tuesday's Morgan County Council meeting has been getting national attention because of a land-use planning question that could impact the sage grouse.  But the council may put off a vote on the issue to allow for further study.

At the last meeting two weeks ago, the Morgan County council split 3 to 3 on the question of whether to change the land use designation on a 27-hundred acre parcel near East Canyon Reservoir.  The area includes a sage grouse lek, where the birds mate and nest in the spring.

Beau Uriona / Courtesy: NCRS

Ranchers throughout Utah feared at the beginning of this summer that the drought would be sticking around. But a remarkably wet August has transformed the landscape.

Parts of Northern Utah received almost 4 times as much water as the 30-year average. And, in southern parts of the state, the skies blessed the parched landscape with up to twice as much rain as usual.

File: University of Utah

Thursday the University of Utah became the first organization in the state to be recognized by the Department of Energy’s Better Building Challenge.  A recently completed project cut energy consumption by more than 40 percent in the Dumke Health Professions Education Building. It houses the Departments of Physical Therapy, Occupational Therapy, Neurobiology and Anatomy with classrooms and labs. Myron Willson is the director of the Sustainability Resource Center at the U.

U.S. Bureau of Land Management

The Wilderness Act turns 50 on Wednesday, and the anniversary has some Utahns thinking about the value of wild places

Congress created the formal system for protecting the nation’s wild places. It’s designated more than 107 million acres as wilderness. In Utah, 1.1 million acres of federal land has earned wilderness protection so far.

Dan Bammes

UPDATE:  The council vote Tuesday evening was 3 to 3, which means the change for the 27-hundred acre parcel did NOT pass.  The property owners plan to try again to win approval for the change at the next council meeting in two weeks.  They’re hoping all seven members of the council will be present for that meeting and that will break the tie. 

The Morgan County Council will look at a change in its master land use plan on Tuesday that could impact the future of the sage grouse in Utah.

Rocky Mountain Power

The Utah Public Service Commission rejected on Friday a request from Rocky Mountain Power to institute a metering fee of more than four dollars a month on customers who generate their own power trough solar panels.  Commission officials ruled that the private power provider did not present enough evidence to prove the proposed fee was just and reasonable.  Matt Pacenza is a policy director with Heal Utah, one of several groups opposing the fee. He says Rocky Mountain Power officials didn’t present a convincing case for the fee.

U of U Commuter Services

Demand for parking spaces on the University of Utah campus is expected to nearly double on the only Thursday game of the Ute Football season.  

Alma Allred is the executive director of commuter services at the U. His suggestion is simply to not drive to campus.

Courtesy: / Dale Thurber

Most of Utah continues to struggle with drought. But an especially cool and rainy August has eased the dryness and triggered other consequences, too, including a monster tomato.

National Weather Service Meteorologist Mike Seaman’s put some numbers to the climate trends that Utahns have been living firsthand this August.

Eagle Mountain City officials voted Tuesday to approve Rocky Mountain Power's bid to purchase its municipal power company. But it will be up to voters to make a final decision in November.

Eagle Mountain is projected to be among the fastest growing areas in the state over the coming decades. That’s one of the reasons City Councilor Tom Westmoreland thinks the city should get out of the power business.

Garrett / Flickr Creative Commons

Cities are getting hotter thanks to climate change. And the heat in cities is rising faster than rural America. It’s a trend playing out in Utah.

Eric Pardyjak is a University of Utah mechanical engineering professor who studies what are called “heat islands,” which generally make summer nights hotter in cities than in rural communities.

Grand County Council Delays Coalition Vote

Aug 20, 2014

The Grand County Council has decided to take another look at joining a coalition that will pool resources on construction of roads and other projects in eastern Utah. 

The Seven County Infrastructure Coalition was created earlier this year to study rail links, pipelines and road proposals stretching from Daggett County in the north to San Juan County in the south.

Grand County Council Considers Joining Coalition

Aug 19, 2014
Dan Bammes

Six counties in eastern Utah have formed a coalition to plan and build infrastructure projects such as roads and rail lines.  The Grand County Council will decide this afternoon whether to join the group.

Grand County is the last to consider joining what’s called the Seven County Infrastructure Coalition.  It was formed earlier this year and already includes Daggett, Uintah, Duchesne, Carbon, Emery and San Juan counties.

Phil Douglass/Utah Division of Wildlife Resources

Landowners won a decision from the Morgan County Planning Commission Thursday night. Conservation groups had asked them to protect a nesting area for the greater sage grouse. But it appears a compromise is already in the works.

The group of about 50 landowners wants to develop a new resort community near East Canyon Reservoir. They were asking the Morgan County Planning Commission to change the designation of their property on the county’s master land use plan from “Natural Resources and Recreation” to “Master Planned Community.”

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