Energy & Environment

School Board Backs Book Cliffs Leasing

Sep 6, 2013
Dan Bammes

  The State Board of Education has endorsed the decision by Utah’s state trust lands agency to move ahead with a drilling lease in the Book Cliffs, even though a member of Congress and the governor’s office was asking them to hold off. 

Book Cliffs Compromise in the Works

Sep 4, 2013
Wikimedia Commons

  Governor Gary Herbert’s office is trying to work out a deal with Utah’s state lands agency on a drilling lease in the Book Cliffs.  

Last week, Governor Herbert asked the State Institutional Trust Lands Administration, or SITLA, to hold off on a drilling lease in an area of the Book Cliffs in Grand County.  Sportsmen’s groups and environmentalists say the area is pristine wildlife habitat and ought to be preserved.

Andrea Smardon

Erin Brockovich and her team of environmental activists have made their presence known to North Salt Lake officials.  An investigator who works with Brockovich spoke to city councilors and the mayor Tuesday night, asking them to exert some local control and help protect citizens from the air pollution emitted by Stericycle’s medical waste incinerator.

Group Criticizes State Management of Book Cliffs

Sep 3, 2013
Bureau of Land Managment

  An environmental group says the decision to lease a large area of the Book Cliffs for oil and gas exploration shows Utah can’t manage its own public lands.

Gov. Herbert Resists Oil Leasing in Book Cliffs

Aug 27, 2013
Wikimedia Commons

  Utah Governor Gary Herbert is asking Utah’s state lands agency not to lease about 20-thousand acres in the Book Cliffs for oil and gas drilling.  Sportsmen and environmental groups have said the area near Bogart Canyon needs to be protected as wildlife habitat. 

The governor told reporters at the state capitol Thursday afternoon the State Institutional Trust Lands Administration, or SITLA, has done a good job getting money out of Utah’s state lands, but in this case, it needs to look at a long-term strategy that could bring in even more in the long run.

DAQ to Release Draft Air Plan September 11th

Aug 27, 2013
winter air inversion
Erik Crossman - University of Utah

  The state of Utah missed a deadline last December for submitting a plan to federal authorities to reduce air pollution on the Wasatch Front.  But the public will get a look at a new draft plan in a couple of weeks.

BLM Puts San Rafael Swell Areas Up For Auction

Aug 22, 2013

The federal Bureau of Land Management intends to lease nearly one hundred forty thousand acres in and around the San Rafael Swell in eastern Utah for oil and gas drilling. Many conservationist groups are angry about the lease auction, which is set to take place in November. 

The BLM itself has deemed much of the land to have wilderness and recreational value, but BLM Spokesperson Megan Crandall says that they decide whether to manage lands for wilderness uses or for other uses, like development.

<i>Southern Utah Wilderness Alliance</i>

The federal government has agreed to open up public access to three disputed roads in Juab County’s Deep Creek Mountains. With a judge’s approval, the state of Utah and Juab County can now claim ownership of Trout Creek, Deep Creek and Granite Canyon Roads, which had for years been off limits to motorists because they crossed federally protected lands. 

Google images

As fire crews deal with the aftermath of the Rockport wildfire, $500,000 dollars in federal Emergency Watershed Protection has been approved and is available. Mudslides are a common problem following this kind of wildfire devastation. The Summit County Public Works Director, Kevin Callahan, is also the County’s Emergency Manager. He says he talked last week with officials from U.S. Department of Agriculture.

Environmental activist Erin Brockovich is turning her attention to North Salt Lake City. At the request of residents, Brockovich and her team have decided to conduct an independent investigation into air pollution violations by Stericycle and the company’s medical waste incinerator. Angry residents and activists are protesting in front of Stericycle Thursday evening demanding that Governor Gary Herbert shut it down.

Utah Clean Energy

Utah’s Public Service Commission is meeting at the Capitol this week to discuss options for improving air quality along the Wasatch Front through the use of alternative-energy vehicles.

Earlier this year, the state Legislature tasked the Public Service Commission to investigate how alternative-energy vehicles can improve air quality along the Wasatch Front. Kevin Emerson of Utah Clean Energy was at the first of this week’s hearings. He says electric vehicles are the best way to reduce emissions.

Andrea Smardon

Activist groups and North Salt Lake residents are planning another protest of Stericycle, a medical waste incinerator accused of violating pollution limits and falsifying emissions tests.  The event on August 15th is being planned after state regulators gave the company a second extension to decide if it will challenge the allegations against them.

Wildflowers Proposed for Endangered Species List

Aug 6, 2013
US Fish and Wildlife Service

  The federal government is planning to protect two kinds of wildflower that grow only in eastern Utah and western Colorado – and only in areas where there are oil shale or tar sands.

Dan Bammes

  The world market for potash took a hit last week when a Russian marketing consortium fell apart.  That could cause some difficulty for companies doing business in Utah.

Potash is used for fertilizer, and it was selling in the range of $400 a ton last week when a big producer in Russia said it would quit working with its marketing group and increase its output.  That led some traders to predict the price could drop below $300 a ton.

arbyreed / Creative Commons

The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency has announced a settlement with Chevron. The company has agreed to pay a $384,000 penalty for alleged violations of the Clean Air Act at its refinery in Salt Lake City.

Interior Facing Cuts in GOP Budget

Jul 29, 2013
Dan Bammes

  The Secretary of the Interior is trying to persuade Republicans in Congress not to eliminate funding for a land conservation program by linking it to another they typically support.  

Secretary Sally Jewell held a conference call with reporters to point out the economic activity linked to tourism, energy production and other activities on public land.  She put it at more than 13-billion dollars, well above the total budget of 11-point-9 billion for the whole department.

Fish Deaths in Provo River a Mystery

Jul 24, 2013

More than 300 dead fish were found yesterday in a stretch of the Provo River near Paul Ream Wilderness Park in northwest Provo.  Most were brown trout, but there were a few whitefish and other species.  Biologist Chris Crockett with the Division of Wildlife Resources says they don’t know what killed them.  It’s possible the hot weather depleted oxygen in the water, but they’re also trying to find out if there was some kind of toxic spill.

Tesoro Corporation

Environmental groups are suing the Utah Division of Air Quality hoping to stop an oil and gas refinery expansion the regulator approved in Salt Lake City.  The Utah Chapter of the Sierra Club and Utah Physicians for a Healthy Environment say the expansion would move the state further out of compliance with federal air quality standards.

Land Deal Creates Critter Credits

Jul 23, 2013
Alicia Geesman

  Utah’s state lands agency has a thousand prairie dog credits to sell.  They’re the result of a land deal that helps to keep the critters away from airport runways in southern Utah. 

David Rankin

This week parts of Southern Utah have been hit hard with heavy rains and flash flooding. The National Weather Service has issued a flood watch today for most of Southern Utah around Dixie and Zion National Parks. These storms can be extremely dangerous, especially around slot canyons and dry washes where a flood can hit hours after rain fell miles away.

More Wild Horses Will Stay on the Range

Jul 22, 2013
Bureau of Land Management

  More wild horses will be left on the range as the government runs out of places to put them.  Here in Utah, there are no plans to remove horses from public land this year.  

It’s not unusual for Utah to go several years without removing wild horses from public rangeland, though it’s not uncommon to see mustangs from Nevada and other states brought here for adoption.  Lisa Reid with the Bureau of Land Management says there are actually more mustangs in government holding facilities than there left on the range.

Dan Bammes

After being closed for months following a fuel spill, the north marina at Willard Bay State Park is reopening to the public.    

Repeal of HB 155 on Special Session Agenda

Jul 16, 2013
Dan Bammes

  One of the items on the agenda of Wednesday’s special legislative session is the possible repeal of a controversial bill restricting the authority of federal law enforcement officers.  KUER’s Dan Bammes has more.

House Bill 155 limits the authority of Bureau of Land Management or Forest Service personnel to enforce state laws on public land, and threatens them with prosecution if they try it.  A federal court has issued an injunction preventing the state from implementing the law.

Interest Fading in SkiLink Project

Jul 15, 2013
Dan Bammes

  Support for the SkiLink – a tram that would connect Park City with Big Cottonwood Canyon – appears to be fading away.  

The Salt Lake Tribune reports members of Utah’s Congressional delegation have backed off their support for a bill to sell 30 acres of Forest Service land on the crest of the Wasatch Range for the SkiLink project . . . and a new management deal signed by the owners of the Canyons ski resort could also mean diminished interest in pursuing the idea.

Funding Approved for Nine Mile Canyon Road

Jul 12, 2013
Wikimedia Commons

  Nine-Mile Canyon is home to priceless rock art – thousands of Native American petroglyphs on the canyon walls.  But it’s also a major transportation route for oil and gas development in eastern Utah.  

The Utah Division of Air Quality regulates airborne dust and other pollution from sand and gravel operations – and a new legislative audit says it could be doing a better job.  

The Legislative Auditor General’s office cites lost paperwork, long delays and enforcement of permits that haven’t been issued yet as problems in the way the division regulates sand and gravel operations.

Bryce Bird, the director of the Division of Air Quality, says it’s clear there’s room for improvement.

Utah regulators are trying to educate people on the dangers of ozone, an invisible gas produced by smog that doctors say taxes the lungs of even healthy people.

The press conference took place under clear blue skies at a park in Woods Cross, with children playing nearby. It seemed like a nice day, but Director of the state’s Division of Air Quality Bryce Bird says ozone often goes overlooked because people can't see it.

Wikimedia Commons

  The new study in the Journal of the American Water Resources Association estimates about 380,000 acre-feet of water a year is lost when it soaks into the lake's sandstone banks each year.  That’s more than the state of Nevada is entitled to take from the river under a 1922 interstate compact.

The state’s Director of the Division of Air Quality (DAQ) says there is a possibility the agency will revoke the permit of Stericycle’s medical waste incinerator in North Salt Lake.  DAQ Director Bryce Bird met with concerned members of the community, and health and environmental advocates today (WED). They called on the agency to shut down the incinerator, which they say is an urgent public health threat.

North Salt Lake resident Natasha Hincks Henderson

North Salt Lake residents are stepping up pressure to close a medical waste incinerator in their neighborhood. Environmental and health advocates are joining them in a protest outside Stericycle’s incinerator Tuesday evening, and representatives from the group will be meeting with the Director of the state’s Division of Air Quality to voice their concerns Wednesday morning. Among the protestors concerns is the use of a bypass stack which allows the company to release unfiltered, toxic pollutants like dioxin and mercury directly into the air.

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