Energy & Environment

Utah Lake Commission

The Utah Lake Commission thinks it can finish the job of reducing the carp in the lake if it can get some help from the Utah legislature. 

  For years, the Utah Lake Commission has been paying a commercial fisherman to remove thousands of tons of carp from Utah Lake.  But it’s asking for $7.5 million from the state to help reach its goal of reducing the carp population by 75%.

Notwist via Wikimedia Commons

The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency is proposing more stringent air quality standards for new wood stoves and other residential wood heaters. EPA officials say the new standards would make the appliances 80 percent cleaner and more efficient.

The proposal would phase in tighter standards on new manufactured wood stoves, pellet stoves, hydronic heaters and forced air furnaces over the next five years.

The standards would not apply to existing stoves and heaters—nor would they apply to fireplaces, fire pits or backyard barbecues.  

Andrea Smardon

Utah’s air quality issues became evident early this winter, and state lawmakers are working on a number of bills to address the problem. Most of them are focused on getting Utah citizens to change their behavior.

Air pollution was reportedly a hot topic at the most recent Utah Republican House caucus. But Republican Representative Jim Nielson of Bountiful says it’s not a partisan issue, and lawmakers have been working together to address it.

Phil Douglass, Utah Division of Wildlife Resources

The Utah Division of Wildlife Resources has confirmed that the deaths of several bald eagles in the state were caused by West Nile Virus. 

Geothermal Energy Becoming a Low Cost Option in Utah

Dec 31, 2013
Courtesy of John Loveless

With the recent cold snap, December’s natural gas bill will be higher for most residents, but there is form of underground energy that is keeping one Utah family warm for almost nothing.

About a year ago, John Loveless had a decision to make. Should he buy into a geothermal technology that uses the earth’s stable ground temperature to heat his home or stay with natural gas?  He could eliminate his natural gas bill, but he would have to pay $19,000 in installation costs for a geothermal system to do so.

Utah State University/Utah Division of Air Quality

 When the air quality gets really bad in Utah’s valleys, residents are told to stay indoors.  But is our indoor air really any better?  A new study from Utah State University is helping to answer that question.

Environmental engineering professor Randy Martin says our indoor air is much cleaner than outdoors on cold inversion days.  He says a lot of the hazardous PM 2.5 particles tend to evaporate in the warmer indoor environment.  But he says we can also cause problems for ourselves inside.

ESRI Map Service / Utah Division of Water Quality

  The railroad causeway across the Great Salt Lake was built in 1959, and since then it’s permanently altered the lake’s natural water flow.  Making changes to it could have unanticipated consequences for the lake environment.  But Union Pacific Railroad officials say they have to do something now or it won’t be safe to run trains across the lake.

Groups Appeal Holly-Frontier Refinery Expansion

Dec 19, 2013
Dan Bammes

  Activist groups are challenging the permit allowing the Holly-Frontier oil refinery in Woods Cross to expand its capacity.  

The Utah Division of Air Quality issued a permit last month allowing Holly-Frontier to more than double its refining capacity.  Work is already underway as the company prepares to install new equipment.

Envision Utah

  A new study by Envision Utah says 99-percent of Utahns are willing to do something personally to help improve air quality.  Envision CEO Robert Grow says respondents were willing to avoid idling, combine trips and even trade in older cars to make a contribution.  Grow says there’s enough civic commitment in Utah to have a real impact.

Dan Bammes

Chevron Pipeline Company has agreed to pay the state of Utah $5.35 million in the form of civil penalties, mitigation and lost use damages at the Willard Bay State Park following the oil giant’s pipeline failure last spring. 

Following months of negotiations with the Utah Division of Water Quality and the Division of Utah State Parks and Recreation, a draft settlement has been reached.

John Whitehead, Assistant Director of the Division of Water Quality says Chevron has already spent $21.5 million on clean up and mitigation efforts.

Court Rules Against Las Vegas Water Project

Dec 12, 2013
Dan Bammes

A judge in Nevada dealt a major blow Wednesday to the plan to pump groundwater from valleys in the Great Basin to Las Vegas.

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.

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