Energy & Environment

Judy Fahys / KUER News

    

The fight over federal control of public lands shifted from the West’s deserts to an urban library Wednesday in a law-school style debate that took place in downtown Salt Lake City.

Arguing for state control of federal lands were Utah House Speaker Becky Lockhart and State Representative Ken Ivory.

Former Bureau of Land Management Director Pat Shea and University of Utah Professor Dan McCool to made the case that the federal government is the better manager for six hundred million acres.

WGBH Boston

The West lost a legendary figure over the weekend, when Cecil Garland died.

Garland was a Callao rancher known for his passion to conserve the land he loved and for being plainspoken and eloquent at the same time. In Montana, he led the fight for the nation’s first citizen’s wilderness area, the Scapegoat Wilderness.

Brian Grimmett

Climate scientist Dr. Michael Mann was in Utah Wednesday calling attention to the recently released U.S. National Climate Assessment, that predicts dire consequences for Utah if action isn’t taken soon.

Judy Fahys / KUER News

Federal investigators are continuing their probe into a protest ride Saturday through Recapture Canyon. And that includes sizing up the impact that the all-terrain vehicles might have had on the canyon's archaeological sites.

Some people regard Recapture Canyon as a mini-Mesa Verde National Park. Both contain prehistoric ruins, religious kivas and ancient burial grounds that make them world famous. But over the weekend more than 60 protestors drove ATVs into those sensitive areas.

Judy Fahys / KUER News

A protest in Utah’s San Juan County ended without violence on Saturday. But the conflict between a federal government agency and its critics is expected to continue.

San Juan County Commissioner Phil Lyman organized the ride into Recapture Canyon, where the U.S. Bureau of Land Management banned motorized vehicles 7 years ago. Lyman urged protesters at a morning rally on Saturday to steer clear of the closed areas because of the risk to the archaeology and to their reputations.

Judy Fahys/KUER

A local public official in southeastern Utah led a protest on federal land today against the Bureau of Land Management. 

The group rode all-terrain-vehicles into Recapture Canyon located in Utah’s four corners region. The BLM closed off access to the canyon about seven years ago to protect Native American burial sites.  San Juan County Commissioner Phil Lyman led the group into the canyon.  He says protesters don’t recognize the authority of the federal government.

Utah, BLM Sign Land Swap Deal

May 8, 2014
Utah Institutional Trust Lands Administration

  Utah’s governor and the state director of the Bureau of Land Management have formalized a land exchange involving 60-thousand acres in southern and eastern Utah.

The land exchange has been in the works since 2009, when then-Senator Bob Bennett and Congressman Jim Matheson worked to pass a bill authorizing the deal.  But it’s taken years to finalize the details. 

Andrea Smardon / KUER News

For years, Utah’s air pollution problem was virtually ignored by policy makers -- even when the air was foul for weeks at a time. But a growing activist movement has made the issue a top priority for a majority of Utahns, thanks in large part to Moench.

He stood on the State Capitol steps last January in front of thousands of people. Winter smog surrounded them.

Moench, the leader and founder of Utah Physicians for a Healthy Environment, called on the crowd to continue prodding Utah lawmakers to clear the skies.

Utah is the second largest consumer of water per person in the nation, but Utah State University Extension is offering a program to help people cut down on wasted water by getting a free sprinkler check.

According to USU, about two-thirds of water in private homes is used on lawns and landscapes. 40 percent of that water is wasted, says Molly Waters, the university’s water check program manager.

“Water is wasted in the landscape through things as simple as watering too long, or too frequently, to having major breaks that you don’t know about,” Waters says.

winter air inversion
Erik Crossman - University of Utah

The Utah Air Quality board will discuss and develop strategies for controlling wood smoke during winter at their monthly meeting Wednesday. 

Solar Panels Power Worship in Park City

May 5, 2014
Shepherd of the Mountains Lutheran Church / Rocky Mountain Power

  Three houses of worship in the Park City area are among 22 facilities with new solar power installations funded by Rocky Mountain Power’s Blue Sky program.

The Blue Sky program allows customers to pay extra on their power bills to support the development of renewable energy projects.

From that money, Rocky Mountain Power provided 35-thousand dollar grants to St. Luke’s Episcopal Church, Shepherd of the Mountains Lutheran Church and Reform synagogue Temple Har Shalom.

Creative Commons photo by Tim Brown, Infinite World

The American Lung Association released its annual report this week on the State of the Air across the country. The results for Utah are mixed.

Utah Department of Transportation

Utah’s smog season is underway. Some call it Utah’s overlooked pollution problem.

Michelle Hofmann, a pediatrician and founder of the health advocacy group Breathe Utah, is used to hearing people complain about sooty pollution in the winter. But she says it’s harder for patients to grasp the impacts of ground-level ozone pollution, since it’s odorless and colorless.

Conflict Over Mustangs in Southern Utah

May 1, 2014
Jaime Jackson / Wikimedia Commons

  Governor Gary Herbert says the state might be able to do a better job of managing wild horses on Utah’s public rangeland than federal authorities do.  And both wild horse advocates and local officials in southern Utah say the Bureau of Land Management needs to be doing more.

There are differing estimates of the number of mustangs living on public rangeland in southwestern Utah.  Local officials say there might be as many as 2000 in an area that can only sustain only about half that.

Judy Fahys / KUER News

Spring means spurge in Utah. And Salt Lake County is recruiting people to help purge the pretty -- but invasive -- weed.

Judy Fahys / KUER News

The West’s Republican are having a strategy session in Utah, calling on the federal government to cut regulation and surrender lands in their states.

Montana State Sen. Jennifer Fielder came to Utah to swap ideas at the Western Republican Leadership Conference. Fielder says Western states need to take control of federal lands because states do a better job managing wildlife, forests and range.

Don Cook / Flickr Creative Commons

The National Weather Service’s weekend forecast calls for temperatures to drift closer to normal for this time of year. But, earlier in the year, temperatures nationwide were nothing like normal.

Jennilyn Merten

  The standoff between a Nevada rancher and the federal government has put public lands issues in the national spotlight.  But Utah’s governor says it’s not the kind of attention that helps to solve problems. 

Federal officers stopped their roundup of Clive Bundy’s cattle earlier this month to prevent a violent confrontation with Bundy’s armed supporters.

Whiteout Press / Flickr Creative Commons

An armed standoff between federal land rangers and supporters of a Nevada rancher ended more than a week ago without violence. But observers on both sides say the land-rights controversy will continue.

Michael Jolley / Flickr Creative Commons

      

A Utah lawmaker’s campaign to take back federal lands is getting new, national traction thanks to a Nevada rancher’s standoff with the U.S. Bureau of Land Management.

Ken Ivory, R-West Jordan, is head of a political nonprofit called the American Lands Council. Its goal is to get the federal government to relinquish control of most federal lands to the states.

U.S. Forest Service

Utah is proceeding with its controversial strategy to protect the greater sage grouse, as state officials solicit bids from lobbyists to keep the bird off the endangered species list.

Jeff Hartley, an energy industry lobbyist, says the state needs more time to show sage grouse numbers are growing because of its approach.

“People need to know the states are making this effort and doing good work,” he said. “A listing would be bad for the state of Utah. And so to educate Congress, and thereby prevent a listing, is in the state’s interest.”

Center for Effective Government

    

Millions of American students go to schools near businesses that handle large volumes of dangerous or explosive chemicals.

The Center for Effective Government has mapped companies with operations that could potentially put the students and other neighbors at risk.

The center estimates nearly 79,000 Utah students ranging from kindergarten through twelfth grade attend 131 schools that are in proximity to these sites. Sean Moulton is the center's director for open-government policy.

Joel Addams / Flickr Creative Commons

Utah is about to become a hub for wind energy information in the Four Corners states, with financial assistance from the U.S. Energy Department and the National Renewable Energy Laboratory.

Sarah Wright is director of Utah Clean Energy, the nonprofit that will head up the information clearinghouse for wind energy, the Four Corners Wind Resource Center.

Thomas Sallai / Flickr Creative Commons

An environmental group says it’s a bad idea to hike the cost of clean-energy investments that are good for the community. That’s why the group HEAL Utah is rallying against Rocky Mountain Power’s request to charge solar-panel owners a new fee. HEAL’s Matt Pacenza calls the $4.25-a-month charge a “solar penalty.”

Courtesy Photo / University of Southern California

   

Researchers, regulators and clean-air advocates gathered Monday to talk about Utah’s air pollution woes.

Jonathan Samet, chairman of Preventative Medicine at the University of Southern California’s Keck School of Medicine, focused his keynote speech on what else decision-makers need to know to build on America’s progress in tackling pollution.

“Research is important,” Samet said after his talk, “and we need it to guide the policymakers, so we can focus in on those sources that may be most critical.”

Petition Calls on BLM to Stop Nevada Roundup

Apr 11, 2014
Jodi Thornley

  A supporter of a Nevada ranching family is hoping her online petition will help to calm down a confrontation over cattle grazing on public land.

The Bureau of Land Management has been rounding up cattle belonging to the Bundy family on rangeland north of Las Vegas.  Agency officials say the cattle are trespassing – the Bundys haven’t paid grazing fees for years.  The family argues they’ve been using the land for generations, but they’ve lost two court decisions challenging federal jurisdiction.

U.S. Bureau of Land Management

    

Managers of the Grand Staircase-Escalante National Monument are updating their rules for an oil-well operator. The policy change comes after recent reports of two spills at an oil field near the remote Little Valley Wash.

Utah Officials Work to Limit Grazing Dispute

Apr 9, 2014
Spencer Cox

 Utah’s lieutenant governor and attorney general have brokered an agreement with the Bureau of Land Management not to bring cattle taken from public land in Nevada to a livestock auction in Utah.

This week, BLM officials started rounding up cattle belonging to the Bundy family from land the family has used for generations.  Federal courts have determined the cattle are trespassing, and the family owes more than a million dollars in grazing fees.

Utah Department of Environmental Quality

    

Utah’s Department of Environmental Quality is launching a blog this week. It’s first posts focus on what they call the 12 days of Earth Day, leading into April 22. Amanda Smith is director of DEQ, and she’s kicking off the campaign.

Ryan Houston / Flickr Creative Commons

A new study from the University of Utah suggests yet another link between pollution and health hazards: a correlation between dirty air and suicide that’s spurring even more questions.

Amanda Bakian, an assistant professor of psychiatry, says preliminary findings show more people commit suicide when nitrogen dioxide is elevated. And when is fine-particle pollution is elevated. But she notes the correlation is puzzling because the suicide-pollution link is strongest in the seasons when pollution is generally not that high, spring and fall.

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