Energy & Environment

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.”

Dan Bammes

  Conservationists say a change in Morgan County’s master land use plan could have a big impact on the future of the greater sage grouse in Utah.  A potential resort development is the subject of a hearing planned for Thursday evening.

Judy Fahys / KUER News

Drinking water advisories have been lifted in the Davis County community of Clinton, but the weeklong ordeal caused by bacterial contamination isn’t quite over yet

The problem started when someone illegally connected the irrigation water system to the separate system of drinking water pipes.  

Southern Utah Wilderness Alliance

  Five members of Utah’s Congressional delegation are hoping to persuade President Obama not to create a huge new national monument in southern Utah, while other members of Congress are urging him to act.

Clint Losee / Flickr Creative Commons

Utah’s business community is launching a new initiative this week focusing on water. Business leaders say protecting current water supplies and developing new ones is essential if the state is going to continue to operate smoothly and to grow.

Judy Fahys / KUER News

Drought is shrinking the Great Salt Lake. So, boat owners enlisted a big crane this week to haul their boats out of the water.

Brad Silver’s bonds with the Great Salt Lake go deep. His family actually built the Great Salt Lake Marina in the 1960s, and his bedroom was a boat here when he was a teen. He can’t recall the last time the lake was this low -- he was just a tot. But lately the bottom of his sailboat’s been digging into the floor of the harbor where so many family adventures began.

U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service

  Two wildflowers that grow only where there are oil shale or tar sands will stay off the federal endangered species list for now.  Instead, an agreement has been worked out to protect some of the areas where they grow in eastern Utah.

The two species are Graham’s beardtongue and White River beardtongue, two small flowers related to snapdragons.  They grow in eastern Utah and western Colorado where oil shale or tar sands are close to the surface.

Judy Fahys / KUER News

Hearings in downtown Salt Lake City this week put Utah at the center of a national controversy over solar power.

Electric companies in 43 states allow homes with solar panels to put unused electricity back on the power grid. Utah is one of those states. But it is deciding on becoming one of the first states to charge solar customers a monthly service fee.

Environmentalists call it a “sun tax.”

U.S. Forest Service

 

The U.S. Forest Service says it wants to do a better job safeguarding the nation’s groundwater. But its initiative to protect that vital resource is coming under attack in Utah and elsewhere. KUER’s Judy Fahys reports.

Utah’s State Water Development Commission has a simple message for the Forest Service and its new groundwater directive.

Utah Clean Energy

Rocky Mountain Power subsidizes new solar power installations through its Blue Sky program. But it’s also insisting it needs additional money from residential customers who have solar panels on their homes.

The Utah Public Service Commission is preparing for a hearing next week on Rocky Mountain Power’s request for residential solar power users to pay four dollars and 65 cents a month to connect their homes to the grid.

Judy Fahys / KUER News

    

A drought in southwestern Utah means there’s not enough water to fulfill the needs of all property owners in the area. KUER’s Judy Fahys reports on the priority list that’s leaving some Washington County water users dry this year.

a4gpa / Flickr Creative Commons

Plans are moving forward to build a 100-mile rail line from Duchesne, through the wild Uinta Basin, and into Price. KUER’s Judy Fahys reports on the ambitious and expensive proposal to move Utah energy products into the market.

The Uinta Basin rail project is a big idea. And its price tag is big, too – as much as $4 billion. But state transportation officials estimate an even bigger financial cost if Uinta Basin oil can’t get to Wasatch Front refineries and buyers outside the state.

Dan Bammes

  Utah’s current law prohibits state regulators from imposing any air quality regulations stricter than federal requirements. A bill that would change that will be up for discussion in a legislative committee this week.

On Wednesday, the legislature’s  Natural Resources, Agriculture and Environment committee will gather for an interim meeting. Lawmakers will look at a proposal that would allow the state of Utah to impose stricter air quality standards than the federal government.

Aberdeen National Laboratory

  An environmental group says developing oil shale in the West would require enormous amounts of water – and it’s pointing to a recent court case to back up its argument.

A court settlement last week between Western Resource Advocates and Chevron resulted in the disclosure that Chevron’s plan for developing oil shale in Colorado would require up to 120-thousand acre-feet of water annually.  That’s more water than Salt Lake City uses in a year.

Brian Grimmett

Salt Lake County is teaming up with HawkWatch International to help study and track the smallest falcon in North America known as the kestrel falcon.

Mike Shaw is a volunteer with the organization. Right now he’s reaching up into one of the 150 nest boxes the organization has put out across the Wasatch front and pulling out the baby kestrel falcons.

Utah Division of Wildife Resources

The Utah Division of Wildlife Resources is launching a new campaign to help stop the spreading of invasive mussels in Utah lakes.

In the new campaign the DWR is asking people to “practice safe boating” by cleaning, draining, and drying their boats to prevent the spread of the “STD of the Sea.” Jordan Nielson is the Aquatic Invasive Species Coordinator at the DWR. He says if the mussels spread it could severely damage the state’s infrastructure used to bring water to population centers.

File: NASA

University of Utah atmospheric scientist John Lin is eagerly awaiting a second launch attempt of the Orbiting Carbon Observatory-2, early tomorrow morning. Lin is a member of the NASA team studying carbon dioxide around the world. He plans to see the liftoff in person at Vandenberg Air Force Base in California. This morning’s planned launch of the satellite was scrubbed due to a problem with the Delta-2 rocket.

Chris James / Flickr Creative Commons

    

Communities in the Southwestern part of the state want to develop Utah’s unused share of Colorado River water.  A federal agency is now putting pressure on the state’s water office to hand in its application for that development.

The Federal Energy Regulatory Commission is giving Utah two more years to put together a workable plan for the 139-mile Lake Powell Pipeline. The state’s already had six years to complete its application, and the agency hinted last month it might not extend the deadline again.

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