Energy & Environment | KUER 90.1

Energy & Environment

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.

Salazar to Trigger Controlled Flood at Glen Canyon Dam

Nov 18, 2012
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.

Salt Lake County

Salt Lake County Mayor Peter Corroon endorsed the Regional Park and Trails bond today during an open house at the Northwest Recreation center. If approved, The Regional Park and Trails bond, or Proposition #1, authorizes the county to issue a $47 million dollar bond. The money would be used to help finish the Jordan River Parkway Trail, Parley’s Trail, and build three new regional parks. Salt Lake County Mayor Peter Corroon says the benefits of approving the proposition far outweigh the property tax increase.

Energy Production on Utah's Public Lands

Oct 29, 2012
Dan Bammes

Among the many points of contention during the presidential debates was the status of energy production across the United States.  President Obama argues that more oil and natural gas are being produced today than when he took office.  Governor Romney argues that less of it is being produced on public land.

Salt Lake City residents will now find it easier to recycle their glass waste thanks to a new curbside glass recycling program that begins next month.

The program will at first only serve residents who live between State Street and 2100 east. Bins will be delivered in the next couple of weeks before the first scheduled collection on November 1. Next spring, it will expand to anyone who lives in Salt Lake City.

RMP Executive on the Future of Coal Plants

Oct 17, 2012
Carbon power plant
David Jolley/Wikipedia

Rocky Mountain Power generates most of the electricity to serve its customers in Utah, Wyoming and Idaho by burning coal. But it's planning to shut down the Carbon power plant, a coal-fired generating station just outside Helper, in part because of the cost of complying with new environmental regulations.

Andrea Smardon

A new study shows that efficiency programs could save Utah residents and businesses 1.7 billion dollars by 2020.  A group of energy experts gathered at the state Capitol last week to present their findings to state officials and representatives from the clean energy community. 

Governor Gary Herbert will meet with Cache County officials Wednesday in Logan to talk about air quality.  County officials requested the meeting with the Governor to express their concerns about state plans to expand vehicle emissions testing. 

Cache County Executive Lynn Lemon says the majority of the people in his region do not want emissions testing on vehicles.  That’s why the County Council voted against it.  Lemon says the state should not impose this policy against the will of the county.

Smoke Pushes Air Pollution Levels

Sep 18, 2012
Utah Dept. of Health

Smoke from distant wildfires has pushed air pollution levels well above federal health standards in Utah this week.  Fine particulate pollution (PM 2.5) topped 50 micrograms per cubic meter of air on Tuesday afternoon.  Schools aren't required to keep kids indoors during recess until that level reaches 90.  But Doctor Michell Hofmann, a pediatrician at the University of Utah School of Medicine says school administrators and coaches need to think about how many days kids have been breathing bad air as well as just how bad it might be on a given day.

Salt Lake City Toxic Plume May Get Superfund Status

Sep 14, 2012

A toxic plume that has contaminated the groundwater in a Yalecrest neighborhood for more than 20 years may be cleaned up under the federal Superfund program. The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency submitted a proposal Friday to add the groundwater plume to the National Priorities List of uncontrolled hazardous waste sites.  The Utah Department of Environmental Quality, Salt Lake Valley Health Department, and city of Salt Lake all support the EPA Superfund proposal. 

A 10th circuit court of appeals today upheld the felony convictions of Utah climate change activist Tim DeChristopher who placed phony bids on oil and gas parcels near Arches and Canyonlands National Parks in 2008. Last year, a federal judge in Salt Lake City sentenced DeChristopher to two years in prison. And this week in a two to one decision, the court of appeals upheld that decision. Defense Attorney Ron Yengich says he’s disappointed, but not surprised.

petition delivery
Dan Bammes

A petition with more than five thousand signatures demanding an end to Utah's attempt to take control of federal lands was delivered Wednesday to Governor Gary Herbert's office.  The effort was led by the Southern Utah Wilderness Alliance and supported by activists like Dwight Butler of Wasatch Touring.  He says the federal government is taking good care of its land right now.

"The state of Utah, there's a good chance, would develop it, or sell parcels off, or divide it up," he told KUER.  "I think it's the best protection we have right now and we should keep it that way."

U Professor Optimistic about America's Rivers

Sep 10, 2012

The head of the University of Utah's environmental and sustainability studies program says he's optimistic about the future of rivers across America.  In his new book River Republic, Professor Dan McCool argues this is happening because Americans are learning the value of their rivers, not for irrigation or hydropower or transportation, but for their own sake.  He spoke with KUER's Dan Bammes. Information about River Republic on Columbia University Press website.

Salt Lake City officials announced the beginning of idle free awareness Month this morning. Mayor Ralph Becker kicked off the event by talking to elementary school students in Rose Park about the importance of turning off a car when parked for more than a few seconds.

City leaders explained to 4th, 5th and 6th graders at Rose Park Elementary that Idling a vehicle increases dependence on oil, reduces the fuel economy of a car, costs more money and produces harmful pollutants. Mayor Ralph Becker offered tips on how they can help their parents minimize those effects.

Allison Jones
Wild Utah Project

An advisory panel appointed by Governor Gary Herbert is getting ready to recommend a plan for protecting the sage grouse in Utah.  Utah and several other states are hoping to avoid having the grouse listed as an endangered species.  Biologist Allison Jones with the Wild Utah Project has attended all the group's meetings.  She tells KUER's Dan Bammes the plan won't protect every place in the state where the birds are found. Wild Utah Project website  

BLM Addresses Conflict on Movie Shoot

Aug 27, 2012
Professor Valley
Brad Weis, Moab Internet

Utah spends millions of dollars promoting the state as a location for movies and commercials, and offers significant tax breaks to production companies when they come here.  A recent confrontation outside Moab caused some worry about the state's reputation as a prime spot for shooting movies.

Back in July, Jerry Bruckhheimer's production company was in southern Utah, shooting scenes for the upcoming Lone Ranger movie starring Armie Hammer and Johnny Depp.

sage grouse
Dan Bammes

Utah and several other western states are working on plans to protect the sage grouse, with the goal of keeping the birds off the federal endangered species list.  Those plans have to be acceptable to the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, and it's just issued a draft report that could give the states some guidance.  Noreen Walsh, the deputy administrator for the Fish and Wildlife Service's Mountain Prairie Region, says it addresses the different circumstances such as energy development, predators and urban growth that threaten the sage grouse population across its 11-state range.

Moab tailings site
Alicia Geesman

Millions of people across the West depend on the Colorado River for drinking water and irrigation, and that's what's made cleaning up the site of an old uranium mill in southern Utah a high-priority project.  Many other countries have the same concern.  Their representatives got a close-up look last week at how the United States is handling that project. 

New Photo Book Seeks to Protect Wasatch Mountains

Aug 20, 2012
Wasatch Mountain photo by Howie Garber
Howie Garber

Howie Garber came to Utah to go to medical school and worked as an emergency room physician after he graduated from medical school in 1980.  Through the years, he's taken thousands of photographs of the Wasatch Mountains in Salt Lake County, and this month he's publishing many of them in a new book, Utah's Wasatch Range -- Four Season Refuge.  Though the pictures are stunning, it's more than just a coffee table book.

Assessment of Red Butte Oil Spill Challenged

Aug 13, 2012

Monday, August 13th is the deadline for public comments on the Utah Division of Water Quality's assessments of the crude oil spill in Red Butte Creek.  The spill occurred two years ago when an electrical short-circuit burned a hole in the pipeline carrying crude oil and spilled more than 50,000 gallons into the creek.

Salt Lake County Updating Canyon Plans

Aug 9, 2012
Big Cottonwood Canyon
Dan Bammes

Salt Lake County will be asking for public input on new general plans for Big Cottonwood, Little Cottonwood and Parley's Canyons at an open house scheduled for Thursday afternoon August 9th at the Millcreek Community Center.  The county plans deal primarily with private property in those canyons.  Rolen Yoshinaga, the head of the county's Planning and Development Services Division says the goal is to keep the plans governing those canyons are kept up-to-date.  He spoke with KUER's Dan Bammes.

Utah Governor Gary Herbert has appointed Dan Shrum, a senior vice-president of EnergySolutions, to the state's new Radiation Control Board.  EnergySolutions runs a mile-square landfill in Tooele County for low-level radioactive waste.  The law authorizing the board requires an industry representative to be on it.  Company spokesperson Mark Walker says Shrum is the right guy.

"He's a very fair and balanced man, has been involved in environmental issues his entire career, not only in Utah but around the country" Walker tells KUER.  "And there's absolutely no conflict of interest."

Snake Valley
Dan Bammes

The director of the Southern Nevada Water Authority, Pat Mulroy, is threatening to take the state of Utah to the U.S. Supreme Court over an agreement to allocate groundwater in the Snake Valley on the Utah-Nevada state line.  The statement was made in an e-mail to members of SNWA's board of directors.  The agreement was required by federal law before a pipeline could be built carrying water from the Great Basin to Las Vegas.  

prairie dog tunnel next to runway light
Alicia Geesman

The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service will allow the city of Parowan to kill the prairie dogs that have been digging tunnels under the runway and causing other damage at its airport.  Utah prairie dogs are protected under the Endangered Species Act, but the agency issued a new rule yesterday that allows killing the animals where they pose a safety risk.  Parowan City Manager Shayne Scott thinks the new rule will help bring business back to the airport.

The ever-expanding Jordan River Parkway Trail just got a little more accessible and educational. A printed map complete with information about the trail is now available to the public.

It’s not just a map, it’s an educational experience. It highlights restoration areas, dog parks, urban fisheries, as well as native plants and animals. Laura Hanson is Executive Director of the Jordan River Commission. She says the new map will show people where to go, and what they’ll find along the way.

Mitch Power
University of Utah

A geologist from the Natural History Museum of Utah has been studying the charcoal found in lakebed sediments around the world.  Mitchell Power has discovered that the number of wildfires dropped significantly from about 1400 AD until about 1800.  That corresponds with the so-called "Little Ice Age," when tree rings and other evidence shows global temperatures were considerably cooler than they are today.

Ron Stewart

The Utah Division of Wildlife Resources is ready for the Colorado River Cutthroat Trout Restoration Project in the high Uinta Mountains. The project is scheduled for a couple of weeks after Labor Day along a stretch of the Sheep Creek drainage above the ten thousand foot level. The Utah DWR will be using rotenone to kill all of the non-native fish on the eight and half mile stretch of the streams and lakes, including brook, rainbow and Yellowstone cutthroat trout. Regional aquatics manager for the division Trina Hedrick says they’ve been waiting a long time for the right conditions.

As temperatures in Utah continue to approach and exceed 100 degrees, cities across the state are trying to meet high energy demands. In southern Utah, St. George’s population growth has made them less dependent on outside companies for energy and spurred a growth in their own energy infrastructure.

BLM Delays Decision On Alton Coal Mine

Jul 10, 2012
Coal Hollow strip mine near Alton, UT
Alicia Geesman

The Bureau of Land Management was expected to issue a decision this fall on whether to allow Alton  Coal Development LLC to expand its strip mine in Kane County.  But it's now decided to issue a Supplemental Draft Environmental Impact Statement on the project.  That won't come out until early next year, and it will be followed by another six-week period for public comment.  Keith Rigtrup, who has supervised the process for the BLM since it was first proposed in 2006, says they got a lot of feedback on the draft EIS.