Energy & Environment

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.

Whittney Evans

Salt Lake City officials flipped the “on” switch Wednesday celebrating the completion of three large solar projects to power city buildings.  1.7 million kilowatts of electricity annually will come from the solar farm connected to the Public Safety Building, and the city’s operation center at Plaza 349. Salt Lake Mayor Ralph Becker says Utah’s energy codes are 30 percent less efficient than federal standards and he says leaders at the state level need raise those standards.  

Courtesy: / U.S. Oil Sands

  

The nation’s first tar sands mine has been planned for the wild Book Cliffs in eastern Utah. But was stuck in legal limbo until a ruling Tuesday from the Utah Supreme Court.

The justices opted against allowing an environmental group to challenge a state water pollution permit for the project.

“We’ve made plans this year to commence with construction out at the site,” said Barclay Cuthbert, vice president for operations at U.S. Oil Sands Inc.

Don Sharaf / American Avalanche Institute

    

Decision makers are hearing a lot about global warming this week.

The nation’s mayors backed a climate change resolution on Sunday. And, on Monday, the U.S. Supreme Court issued a ruling on the government’s power to regulate greenhouse gases, as citizen activists prepared to press Congress to deal with climate change.

Utah School and Institutional Trust Lands Administration

    

New, bipartisan legislation in Congress would advance public education and conserve important landscapes by making it easier to transfer lands between government agencies.

File: First Wind

Renewable energy company First Wind has finalized four more 20-year power purchase agreements, or PPA’s, with Rock Mountain Power. The latest PPA announced Thursday is for power generated from the company’s planned 320 megawatt “Four Brothers” solar development in Beaver and Iron Counties. Cody Stewart is Governor Gary Herbert’s Energy Advisor. He says the agreement has been in the works for a long time.

    

There’s been debate all over the West for years about who’s best to police federal lands. On Wednesday, leaders from local, state and federal government agreed the best way to resolve the disputes is to keep talking.

U.S Bureau of Land Management

    

Utah’s cold, wet spell is expected to continue through Wednesday, and that could cause a welcomed pause in the fire danger.

The long-term forecast projects a 70 to 80 percent likelihood of El Nino weather conditions for the rest of the year. And that could ease the drought in Utah.

Utah Native Plant Society

The annual native plant sale takes place Saturday morning at Recycle Utah in Park City. Organizers say replacing that Kentucky bluegrass with Wasatch penstemon will help conserve water - an increasingly valuable resource in Utah.

Utah is the second largest consumer of water per person in the nation, and Utahns use about two-thirds of that water on lawns and landscapes.  Executive Director of Park City Conservation Association Insa Riepen says that’s an irresponsible and unnecessary use of a valuable resource.

Judy Fahys / KUER News

Dozens of all-terrain-vehicle riders drove into San Juan County’s Recapture Canyon a month ago. Federal authorities say that ride into off-limits territory was illegal, but they haven’t filed any charges yet.

Now, the San Juan County Commission is asserting authority over the scenic trail in a non-binding resolution. Recapture is filled with ancient burial sites and antiquities, and county leaders say the U.S. Bureau of Land Management is taking too long to decide how to safeguard them.

Wolfgang Staudt / Flickr Creative Commons

 

The runoff will start tapering to an end soon in northern Utah after near normal flows. But southern parts of the state are still starved for moisture.

Brian McInerney, a hydrologist with the National Weather Service in Salt Lake City, says many of the reservoirs in northern Utah are doing alright even though it’s been a pretty dry spring. Meanwhile, big storms have been drenching Colorado and making the Green and Colorado Rivers roar.

Flickr Creative Commons

    

The energy boom in eastern Utah has brought with it a big pollution problem.

The Utah Division of Air Quality has been studying it, and its now implementing new regulations to cut emissions.

The agency didn’t even know there was a pollution problem in the Uinta Basin until a few years ago. After millions of dollars of studies, the agency is now putting new rules in place to rein in emissions produced by oil and gas development.

Flickr Creative Commons

    

Utah's energy community met Wednesday at Gov. Gary Herbert’s 3rd annual Energy Development Summit to talk about the state's all-of-the-above approach to powering everyday life.

The Republican governor reminded his audience that energy is one of his administration’s top four priorities. He said energy pumps around $5 billion into Utah’s economy each year.

But Herbert said good jobs and a high standard of living have to be balanced with conserving the environment.

Courtesy of the BLM, Utah office.

This week, the Bureau of Land Management released a final report on an oil spill that occurred near Grand Staircase Escalante National Monument. 

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