Energy & Environment

NASA - International Space Station

  The Union Pacific Railroad is planning to start repair work on its causeway across the Great Salt Lake.  But it means closing off the culverts that allow water to pass between the north and south arms of the lake. 

The causeway was built in the 1950’s, cutting off much of the natural flow between the two arms of the lake.  As a result, the north arm is much saltier and about a foot lower in elevation than the south arm.

The Business Case for Clean Air

Dec 5, 2013
Utah Office of Tourism

  Bad air is bad for business – that’s the message from a roundtable discussion at the Salt Lake Chamber of Commerce on Thursday.

Air quality on the Wasatch Front can be a problem for agencies trying to persuade businesses to come here.  That was among the the points discussed at Thursday’s meeting.  Mike O’Malley with the Governor’s Office of Economic Development says companies looking to relocate take air quality into consideration.

Air Quality Board Finalizing Pollution Plan

Dec 4, 2013

  The state of Utah missed a deadline a year ago to submit a plan to the Environmental Protection Agency for meeting new standards for the smallest particles in the air – the so-called PM 2.5 pollutants.  This plan includes new rules on industrial polluters and on wood burning in urban counties.  It also depends heavily on improvements in auto emissions as cleaner cars replace those now on the road.

Kathy Van Dame, who’s a leader of the group Breathe Utah and a member of the Air Quality Board, likes this plan much better than the one they rejected a year ago.

Tony Frates/Flickr

  Last week, a judge in Price ruled that Utah’s state engineer acted properly in allowing a development company to lease water rights in the Green River for a proposed nuclear power plant.  Blue Castle Holdings is now planning to move ahead with the next step -- applications to federal regulators  for the plant itself. 

Blue Castle has agreed to lease rights to more than 53,000 acre-feet of water to operate a 3,000 megawatt power plant near Green River.  Environmental groups had challenged the agreement, and they may yet appeal the court’s ruling. 

Abandoned mines are at the center of a quiet controversy between independent explorers and land management agencies. State and federal officials see them as a safety hazard, so government agencies close hundreds of abandoned mines in Utah every year. But one group wants to keep them open.

About seventy-five people are crowded into a room at the West Jordan Library. Stuart Burgess is at the front, giving a presentation on ghost towns and abandoned mines in Utah.

Least Chub Gets New Home

Nov 20, 2013
Utah Division of Wildlife Resources

  The least chub is a little minnow, only about two inches long.  The six remaining wild populations are found only in springs and creeks in western Utah, and about 15-thousand of them have found a new home.  The Utah Division of Wildlife Resources stocked a spring system on a private ranch in Fairfield, west of Utah Lake.  Mark Grover, a biologist with the Division, says the fish were raised in a state hatchery, but they come from a dwindling population at Mona Springs in Juab County.

Reduced BLM Auction Brings In $3.3 Million

Nov 19, 2013
Bureau of Land Management

  The Bureau of Land Management sold most of the parcels it offered in today’s auction of oil and gas drilling leases in eastern Utah, but there was a lot of land taken off the table before it began.

Permit Issued for HollyFrontier Expansion

Nov 19, 2013
Dan Bammes

  The HollyFrontier oil refinery in Woods Cross has been given a green light from the Utah Division of Air Quality to triple its refining capacity – even as it’s promised to reduce pollution.  

The expansion will mean hundreds of millions of dollars of new investment in the refinery as well as at least sixty new jobs.  But HollyFrontier spokesperson Mike Astin says there are still challenges to deal with from groups opposed to it.

Bureau of Land Management / Congressman Rob Bishop

  The decision to withdraw almost 100-thousand acres of public land from tomorrow’s auction of oil and gas drilling leases is being criticized by industry groups and members of Utah’s Congressional delegation as caving in to pressure from environmental groups. 

<I>Dan Bammes</I>

Officials with the Bureau of Land Management announced today (Friday) that parcels of land in and around the San Rafael Swell will not be offered at an upcoming oil and gas lease auction.  

IACX Energy

  A company producing helium in Utah wanted to avoid a fight with environmentalists over its plan to drill new wells in Emery County.  So executives worked out a deal in advance.

Website Offers Personal Air Quality Advice

Nov 8, 2013
Tim Brown / Creative Commons

Should you still go out for that run on days when Utah’s air quality is questionable?  A new website may be able to answer that question, based on your own health and exercise needs. 

The developers of the MyAir website made a presentation to the Utah Air Quality Board this week, explaining their system for evaluating the individual risk of exposure to air pollution.  It’s based on the user’s health and fitness level as well as on the air quality on any given day.

ORV Group Reacts to Court Decision

Nov 6, 2013
Bureau of Land Management

  A group representing off-road vehicle users doesn’t think a court decision against a BLM Resource Management Plan means all the others are in trouble. 

The Bureau of Land Management issued six Resource Management Plans for its offices in southern and eastern Utah in the closing weeks of the Bush administration.  This week, a federal judge ruled the off road vehicle routes in the Richfield plan are invalid and ordered BLM to take another look.

Federal Court Rules Against BLM Management Plan

Nov 5, 2013
SUWA

  A federal court in Salt Lake City ruled against the Bureau of Land Management yesterday in a key case involving off-road vehicle use.

Brian Grimmett

Utahns concerned about air quality can now get real-time updates right on their smartphone with a new app called “Utah Air.” The app is a joint project between the Utah Division of Air Quality and students at Weber State University.

SUWA

Before the Bill Barrett Corporation decided to sell its natural gas operations in the West Tavaputs Plateau of eastern Utah, it had worked out agreements with environmentalists for special protection in some areas. Those groups say the new owner, the EnerVest Corporation of Houston, needs to keep those promises.

Big Game Changes Open for Public Comment

Oct 30, 2013
Brent Stettler, Utah Division of Wildlife Resources

Last week, the Utah Divison of Wildlife released its annual agenda of proposed changes for 2014’s big game hunting season. The changes cover a wide range of hunting issues and also address a possible addition to the organization’s mule deer management plan.

Conservation Central at Utah Water Summit

Oct 30, 2013
Dave Webb Red Rock Adventures

Governor Gary Herbert has appointed a team of 37 water district managers, environmentalists, legislators and others to create a long-term strategy for water use and conservation in Utah.  The announcement came during a water summit meeting held today at Utah Valley University.

Governor Gary Herbert asked for a report based on a series of public listening sessions conducted around the state. The need for conserving Utah’s water resources came up over and over again in those meetings.

Dan Bammes

Last week, the Bill Barrett Corporation sold its natural gas properties in the West Tavaputs Plateau of eastern Utah for more than 300-million dollars. 

The deal was announced last week, but the buyer wasn’t disclosed.  Filings with the Securities and Exchange Commission, though, identify the buyer  as the EnerVest Corporation, based in Houston.  The transaction is valued at 371-million dollars.  EnerVest has drilling operations in Colorado and New Mexico as well as several other states in the South and Midwest.

Utah Governor Gary Herbert says he expects the federal government will reimburse the state for the money spent to keep its five National Parks open in the final days of the shutdown.

Utah Division of Air Quality

  Starting next week, the Utah Division of Air Quality will begin enforcing new rules on wood burning during winter inversions.  It's also changing its website, replacing the old red and yellow air quality alerts with a six-step system that's in use nationwide. Bryce Bird, the director of Utah's Division of Air Quality, sat down with KUER's Dan Bammes to talk about the changes.

U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service

  A bird that spends only a few months in Utah each year could potentially change the way riverbank habitats are managed if it’s listed as a threatened species.  The Western yellow-billed cuckoo lives along river banks in heavy vegetation beneath stands of cottonwood trees.  That riparian habitat is disappearing in the West, and that’s why the U.S.

Governor Announces Clean Air Team

Oct 15, 2013
Utah Governor's Office

Governor Gary Herbert has created a committee with dozens of high-profile people from around the state to look at solutions to Utah’s air quality problems, while critics were blasting a state plan meant to meet stricter federal pollution standards. 

Governor Gary Herbert says everything’s on the table as his new Clean Air Action Team begins its work.  It’s led by Dan Lofgren of Envision Utah and includes 39 members, ranging from the chairman of Intermountain Health Care to Dan McArthur, the mayor of St. George.

File: Utah Division of Water Resources

Even with a decent start to the new water year last week, Todd Adams from the Utah Division of Water Resources says it’s time for Northern Utah residents to conserve by shutting down their automatic sprinkler systems now. But, he says, last month’s moisture was very helpful.

“It’s kind of strange because we ended up about somewhere between 70 and 90 percent of normal statewide based on our precipitation. A lot of that came in the last part of September which has helped us going into next year,” says Adams.

Groups Ask DAQ to Support Wood Burning Ban

Oct 1, 2013
Wikimedia Commons

Activist groups are planning to ask Utah’s state Air Quality Board to support a complete ban on wood burning for Utah's urban counties.

Andrea Smardon

As activists and community members step up the pressure to shut down a North Salt Lake medical waste incinerator, Stericycle officials are denying the company violated emissions limits or rigged stack test results. They are challenging a list of citations filed by Utah regulators against the company's incinerator. That means the beginning of a legal process that could take months.

Dan Bammes

As the clock ticks down on a possible shutdown of the federal government, Utah’s tourist industry is already hearing from worried visitors.  

Visitors to Utah’s five national parks could encounter locked gates if the government shuts down because Congress can’t agree on a funding bill.  Marian DeLay, the head of the Moab Travel Council, says foreign tourists in particular are telling Moab businesses they don’t want to get to Utah and find the parks closed.

Andrea Smardon

Environmental activist Erin Brockovich was in North Salt Lake City over the weekend to join the fight against Stericycle’s medical waste incinerator. Brockovich is lending her celebrity status and investigatory resources to community members who want the incinerator out of their neighborhood. Brockovich says she came to North Salt Lake because concerned mothers asked her to.

Should Utah Lease Its Share of the Colorado?

Sep 26, 2013
Dan Bammes

  Pat Mulroy, the long-time head of the Southern Nevada Water Authority, announced her plans to retire this week.  She’s been a strong proponent of the plan to pump groundwater from the Great Basin to Las Vegas.  But she also suggested in an interview with the Las Vegas Sun that the project wouldn’t be necessary if Nevada could work out a deal with states such as Utah that hold water rights on the Colorado River.

Clean Air Groups Challenge Kennecott Expansion

Sep 24, 2013
Kennecott Utah Copper

  A hearing is underway this afternoon in federal court on a challenge to Kennecott’s plan to expand the Bingham Canyon copper mine.  Representatives from Utah Moms for Clean Air, Wild Earth Guardians, the Sierra Club and Utah Physicians for a Healthy Environment all say Kennecott can’t move ahead with its expansion without approval from the Environmental Protection Agency.  Doctor Brian Moench says that’s needed even though the Utah Division of Air Quality has already signed off on it.

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