Energy & Environment

Environment & Public Lands
2:27 pm
Wed February 26, 2014

Invasive Mussels Exposed at Lake Powell

Quagga mussels (Dreissena rostriformis bugensis) at Lake Mead
Natalie Muth, Utah Division of Wildlife Resources

  Low water levels in Lake Powell have revealed a much bigger problem with quagga mussels than was previously believed.

The invasive mussels have been spreading through waterways across North America.  They can damage dams and power plants as well as fisheries.  Mark Hadley with the Utah Division of Wildlife Resources says the water level in Lake Powell has dropped by about eight feet over the past year, and that’s revealed some huge numbers of the tiny shellfish clinging to exposed rocks.

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Environment & Public Lands
3:47 pm
Mon February 24, 2014

Utah Bill Lets State Get Tougher on Air Pollution Laws

Utah House lawmakers are considering a bill that would allow state-specific solutions to air pollution.

Republican Rep. Becky Edwards, R- North Salt Lake, has a bill to loosen a law that prevents state environmental rules from being stricter than federal ones. She says Utah knows how to clean up its air better than the federal government does.

“HB121 allows for local control to address our local needs,” says Edwards. “This is another example of how states are more effective and do things better than the federal one-size-fits all solutions.”

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Environment & Public Lands
3:50 pm
Fri February 21, 2014

Bill to Restrict the Permitting of Medical Waste Incinerators Clears Committee

Children play in backyards that are less than a football field a way from Stericycle
Brian Grimmett

A bill that would prohibit the permitting of new medical waste incinerators within two miles of a residential community passed a legislative committee Friday, and now heads to the state Senate for consideration. A Republican lawmaker’s bill has succeeded where a Democrat’s bill failed.

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Environment & Public Lands
1:43 pm
Tue February 18, 2014

Summit Studies Future of Sage Grouse

Male sage grouse strut on a lek, or nesting ground, near Morgan, Utah
Dan Bammes

Biologists, environmentalists and government agencies are meeting this week to work on plans to protect the sage grouse.  They all agree on one goal – preventing the bird from being listed as an endangered species.

The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service must make a decision on an endangered species listing by the end of September next year.  That decision could depend on whether it judges an environmental impact statement from the Bureau of Land Management and the U.S. Forest Service to be adequate.

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Environment & Public Lands
5:10 pm
Fri February 14, 2014

Legislative Committee Defeats Bill to Keep Medical Incinerators Away From Homes

The Stericycle medical waste incinerator sits next to homes in the Foxboro neighborhood of North Salt Lake.
Andrea Smardon

  A Utah Senate committee voted down a bill Friday that would have kept medical incinerators at least five miles away from homes. 

Senate Bill 64 would have increased fines for air quality violations by medical waste incinerators, increased the length of time allowed for investigating violations and  imposed a five-mile buffer between homes and any medical waste incinerator in the state.

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Environment & Public Lands
4:25 pm
Thu February 13, 2014

Protestors not Satisfied with State Action on Stericycle

Dr. Brian Moench of Utah Physicians for a Healthy Environment with protestors at the state capitol. (Feb. 13, 2014)
Andrea Smardon KUER News

Environmental activists and concerned residents rallied in front of Governor Gary Herbert’s office Thursday to let him know that they would not be satisfied until Stericycle’s medical waste incinerator in North Salt Lake is shut down.  A recent health report by the state, and news that the company may move its incinerator to Tooele County have not changed protestors' minds.

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Environment & Public Lands
1:14 pm
Thu February 13, 2014

New Recommendations from Clean Air Action Team

Polluted air trapped by a weather inversion over Salt Lake City, January 2014
Dan Bammes

  The Utah Clean Air Action Team – the group appointed by Governor Gary Herbert to look at strategies for improving air quality – wants to see a bigger budget for the Division of Air Quality.  That’s one of three new recommendations this week.  The others are expanding public transit and other alternative transportation and continuing public education campaigns on air quality.

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Environment & Public Lands
5:48 pm
Wed February 12, 2014

Bill Expanding Tax Credits for Electric Vehicles Moves Ahead

HB 74 provides a $2500 tax credit to purchasers of electric vehicles such as the Nissan Leaf
Nissan USA

  A bill that would provide a 25-hundred dollar tax credit to buyers of electric vehicles won approval in a Utah House committee yesterday.  House Bill 74 makes the credit available for all-electric vehicles like the Nissan Leaf and plug-in hybrids like the Chevy Volt.  Brooke Scott was one of a handful of citizens who testified in favor of the bill.

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Environment & Public Lands
8:21 pm
Tue February 11, 2014

Study Finds No Extra Environmental Cancer Risk Near Incinerator

The Foxboro neighborhood of North Salt Lake is adjacent to Stericycle's medical waste incinerator.
Andrea Smardon

The Utah Department of Health has completed an analysis of 35 years of cancer data in the area surrounding Stericycle’s North Salt Lake medical waste incinerator. The study shows no increased environmental cancer risk for residents in South Davis County.

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Environment & Public Lands
6:06 pm
Mon February 10, 2014

Weekend Storm Gives Welcomed Boost to Utah Snowpack

Skiers enjoyed vistas of fresh snow at Patsy Marley, near the Alta Resort, after the four-day storm. Avalanche danger was high in much of the backcountry after nearly 3 feet of snow fell at nearby Alta Resort.
Credit Don Sharaf / American Avalanche Institute

Rain and snow drenched northern Utah this weekend, bringing moisture that will make a big difference in spring and summer. 

Randy Julander works for the federal Natural Resources Conservation Service. He monitors Utah’s snowpack. He also watches water levels in Utah’s streams and reservoirs with an eye on what that means for irrigation and drinking water. Last week his office reported that snowpack was just 75 percent of normal statewide. Julander says key reservoirs were less than half full.

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Environment & Public Lands
1:18 pm
Mon February 10, 2014

Bill Would Increase Fees on Clean Vehicles

  Electric cars, hybrid cars and vehicles powered by natural gas would pay dramatically higher registration fees under a bill in the Utah State Senate.  Republican Senator Wayne Harper of West Jordan says vehicles that don’t use gasoline or diesel fuel need to pay their fair share to maintain Utah’s roads.

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Environment & Public Lands
3:38 pm
Wed February 5, 2014

Bill Requiring Cleaner State Fleet Moves Ahead

Compressed natural gas fueling station in Myton, Utah
Utah Clean Cities

  A bill that requires the state to use high-efficiency, low-polluting vehicles in its own fleet got strong support in the Utah State Senate this morning.

Senate Bill 99 originally required the state to use compressed natural gas vehicles for half its fleet by 2018.  But Republican Senator Scott Jenkins changed it to allow vehicles that use low-sulfur Tier 3 gasoline.  Jenkins says the people who run the state motor pool say it would accomplish the same goal for a lot less money.

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Environment & Public Lands
6:17 pm
Tue February 4, 2014

Willard Bay Spill Settlement Finalized with Call for Expanded Mitigation Projects

Oil booms on Willard Bay in the weeks following the leaking of nearly 21,000 gallons of diesel fuel on the marshy area of the bay.
Credit Dan Bammes

A settlement in the Chevron Pipeline diesel fuel spill at Willard Bay State Park has been finalized between the company, Utah State Parks and Recreation, and the Utah Department of Environmental Quality. Nearly 21,000 gallons of fuel spilled following a Chevron Pipeline Company pipe failure on March 18th, 2013. The DEQ announced Tuesday that with the Utah Water Quality Board approval, the 5-point 3 million dollar settlement becomes official.

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Environment & Public Lands
5:28 pm
Tue February 4, 2014

Students Lobby for a New State Tree

Nine 4th graders from Angie Blomquist's class at Monroe Elementary in Sevier County traveled to the Capitol to testify on behalf of their bill to change the state tree to the quaking aspen. They posed with State Forester Brian Cottam, who also spoke in favor of the bill.
Credit Judy Fahys

A group of concerned school kids made their way to the Utah State Capitol Tuesday to ask lawmakers to change one of the state’s symbols. 

Fourth-grade lobbyists say Utah needs a new state tree.  Members of Mrs. Blomquist’s class from Monroe Elementary in Sevier County pressed their case at the Capitol. Nine of the students told senators why the Colorado blue spruce should make way for the quaking aspen.

“The quaking aspen is self-pruning,” said Neomi Avery, “They take care of themselves just like Utah citizens.”

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Environment & Public Lands
5:24 pm
Mon February 3, 2014

Goodbye to Winter Smog? Forecast Says the Season's Last Inversion Starts next Week

This snapshot of the Climate Center's inversion forecast shows a likelihood of a weeklong inversion -- and the smog building -- beginning in about a week. You can see the page online at: http://climate.usurf.usu.edu/inversion.php
Credit Utah Climate Center

    

Skies have been smog-free in northern Utah for the past few days. Now the Utah Climate Center says we can breathe easy for at least another week.

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Environment & Public Lands
5:42 pm
Thu January 30, 2014

Urban, Rural Lawmakers Spar over Lands

The wildlands near Goblin Valley State Park are part of the rural road controversy.
Credit Ken Lund

  

A state lawmaker says wilderness advocates are waging a war of attrition in the wildlands fight.

Kathleen Clarke leads Utah’s public lands policy office. Her job includes guiding the state’s legal battle over 12,000 roads in rural Utah. The state is fighting the federal government to prevent federal wilderness designation on the land those roads cross. She told legislative budget-makers Thursday some of her agency’s budget will help pay for 200 crucial interviews that need to be done in the next two years.

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Environment & Public Lands
6:14 pm
Sat January 25, 2014

Capitol Protestors Demand Air-Pollution Action

Carl Ingwell (left) and Brian Moench (right) were the leading organizers of Saturday's rally on the Utah Capitol's south steps. Rep. Angela Romero (middle) was one of the half-dozen lawmakers who attended.
Credit Judy Fahys

    

A sea of people swarmed Utah’s Capitol steps and south lawn Saturday. Thousands gathered for the Clean Air, No Excuses rally just above winter smog blanketing the valley. Brian Moench, a co-founder of Utah Physicians for a Healthy Environment, told the demonstrators they have a right to clean air.

“This is your state,” said Moench. “What goes on in the building behind us is your government. The air you breathe is largely what you make of it, either by ignoring it, making it worse by neglect or by fighting to make it better.”

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Environment & Public Lands
6:05 pm
Fri January 24, 2014

Thousands Expected at Clean Air Rally Saturday

Thousands of Utahns say they plan to join a rally at the State Capitol Saturday. They want Governor Gary Herbert and the Legislature to do something immediately about poor air quality.

Salt Lake City folk singer Tom Bennett wrote his song, Governor We Cannot Breathe, to be performed at tomorrow’s Clean Air, No Excuses Rally.

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Environment & Public Lands
5:29 pm
Thu January 23, 2014

Utah Foundation Releases Report on Air Quality

A new report tries to cut through some of the confusion surrounding Utah’s air-pollution problems. Shawn Teigen says he stepped back to take an impartial look at one of Utah’s most important issues. He’s a research analyst for the non-partisan Utah Foundation. His report released Thursday notes pollution has not trended up -- or down -- over the past 15 years. He’s found that smoke from solid-fuels like wood and coal is an unexpectedly big problem. He’s also learned that federal clean-vehicle, clean-fuel standards called Tier 3 will go a long way to clean up the air.

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Environment & Public Lands
9:40 pm
Wed January 22, 2014

Lawmakers Unveil Air Quality Bills

Utah lawmakers say their new package of bills will help clear the air, especially on smoggy days like Wednesday.
Judy Fahys

A bipartisan caucus of Utah House members has unveiled a package of air-pollution bills. They say the proposals will Utah’s air easier to breathe. The measures include incentives for consumers to buy cleaner snow-blowers and weed whackers. There is one bill that would ban medical waste incinerators in the state. Another proposal would allow the state to authorize environmental regulations that are more rigorous than federal laws.

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Environment & Public Lands
9:27 pm
Wed January 22, 2014

Interior Secretary Jewell Wants Kids Outdoors

U.S. Interior Secretary Sally Jewell speaks to members of the Outdoor Retailers Association in Salt Lake City
Judy Fahys

U.S. Interior Secretary Sally Jewell wants young Americans to spend more time outdoors. She spoke to members of the Outdoor Industry Association on Thursday about ways to pay for the initiative.

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Environment & Public Lands
1:37 pm
Tue January 21, 2014

State Funding For Catching Carp in Utah Lake?

A commercial fishing crew pulls carp from an ice-covered Utah Lake
Tammy K. Nakamura Utah Department of Natural Resources

  The Utah Lake Commission is asking the legislature for 7-point-5 million dollars to help reduce the number of carp in Utah Lake.  A legislator from Lehi thinks that’s a great idea, and he’s hoping they can find the money during the general session that starts next week.

The Commission has been paying a commercial fishing business to take tons of carp out of the lake, hoping to reverse the environmental damage the fish have caused over the past century.

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Environment & Public Lands
6:17 pm
Mon January 20, 2014

U Hospital System Facing Tough Decisions on Medical Waste Disposal

Bins of trace chemotherapy waste are picked up once a week at the Hunstman Cancer Hospital on the campus of the University of Utah.
Andrea Smardon

Last year, clean air activists called on Utah’s hospitals and clinics to stop sending their waste to Stericycle’s incinerator in North Salt Lake. One of the state’s largest healthcare providers, The University of Utah, is looking at some significant changes to the way it handles medical waste, but there are some types of waste that university officials say they have no other option at this time but to burn.

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Environment & Public Lands
2:19 pm
Mon January 20, 2014

Are Utah's Rules for Emissions Inspections on Old Cars Fair?

Wikimedia Commons

  Newer cars are a lot cleaner than older cars, but a member of the Utah Senate would like to make sure the rules for inspecting those older vehicles are being applied fairly.

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Environment & Public Lands
12:05 am
Mon January 20, 2014

Mayor Becker Meets with White House Advisors on Climate Change

Brian Grimmett/KUER file photo

Salt Lake City Mayor Ralph Becker hosted a brainstorming session last week with members of President Obama's new White House Task Force on Climate Change. The panel’s task is to find strategies to fight the impacts of climate change.

President Obama sent two key aides to participate in the discussion. Mayor Ralph Becker says the event was an opportunity to show how different government entities can work together.

“They look to us at the local level and at the state level to help shape what they should be doing at the federal level," says Becker.

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Environment & Public Lands
4:54 pm
Fri January 17, 2014

U of U Students Develop Video Game App to Combat Air Pollution

Flickr Creative Commons

University of Utah graduate students are developing a video game app to help Utahns better understand the connection between their actions and the dirty air. 

Kerry Kelly is Associate Director of the University of Utah’s program for Air Quality, Health and Society. She says her role is to make sure this game is backed up by scientific evidence. But here’s one of the ideas they’re considering:

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Environment & Public Lands
2:10 pm
Fri January 17, 2014

Utah DEQ Releases 2013 Annual Report

Erik Crossman - University of Utah

The Utah Department of Environmental Quality released its 2013 annual report today. The report highlights some of the DEQ’s main accomplishments and success stories from the past year.  DEQ Communication Director Donna Spangler says one of the most important was finalizing the state’s air quality plan.

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Environment & Public Lands
6:36 pm
Mon January 13, 2014

New Study Looks at Air Pollution at Different Elevations

Advocacy group Breath Utah is partnering with the Utah Division of Air Quality to monitor air quality in different parts of the valley and along the benches. They say the study will help the state better focus efforts to combat pollution. 

Kevin Hart is an environmental scientist for the Division of Air Quality.  He’s installing a pm2.5 monitor outside Fort Herriman Middle School in Riverton. He says the more of these devices that can be set up the better the state will understand how to approach air pollution. 

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Environment & Public Lands
1:39 pm
Thu January 9, 2014

Small Monthly Fee Possible for Net Metering Customers of Rocky Mountain Power

Use of Photovoltaic (Solar) Cells to cut power bills is on the rise in Utah.
Credit File: Utah Solar Energy Association

Part of Rocky Mountain Power’s 76.3-million dollar rate increase request includes a $4.25 monthly increase for Utah customers who generate their own power through windmills or solar panels. The utility classifies them as net metering customers. Rocky Mountain Power’s Dave Eskelsen says the request protects traditional customers and is a very small part of the rate increase request. He says it's also intended to help ready the system for technology for which it was not designed.

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Environment & Public Lands
9:27 am
Thu January 9, 2014

Air Quality Board Adds Industrial Regulations

The Utah Air Quality Board hears public comment on a supplement to the state implementation plan for controlling industrial air pollution.
Dan Bammes

  The Utah Air Quality Board voted yesterday to add a supplement to the plan for controlling pollution from industrial sources.  Bryce Bird, the director of the Division of Air Quality, says it will help industry get going to comply with new state requirements.

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