environment

Lower Gas Prices Impacts Environment

Dec 19, 2014
California Environmental Protection Agency

Low gas prices may be helping the economy by giving Americans some extra money in their pockets, but not without some negative side effect. More driving means worse air quality in Utah, and across the nation, according to Dr. Brian Moench, president of the Utah Physicians for a Healthy Environment. He said more driving means more cars producing greenhouse gases, the primary contributors to climate change.

“We would hope that lower gas prices don’t acclimate people to using their cars more than they might have otherwise," Moench said. "We hope that they would still be understanding that public transportation really is a critical part of a future that is less dependent on fossil fuels.”

Some parts of Utah are already known for their unhealthy winter air quality. Moench said low gas prices can also impact the economy long-term because the demand for electric vehicles and other forms of cleaner energy goes down. That means if gas prices go back up, as they have in the past, environmentally friendly resources can remain underdeveloped and less affordable.


Pennsylvania's fracking boom has led to record-breaking natural gas production, but its neighbor, New York, announced Wednesday it was banning the practice. Industry and environmental groups say New York's decision could be good for Pennsylvania.

New York's ban comes six years after the state placed a temporary moratorium on fracking to study the gas drilling technique. Now, officials question fracking's economic benefits and cite environmental risks.

Mike Christensen / DWR

As the sun peaked over the mountain tops on Dec. 16, the sound of helicopter blades pounded across the sage flats south of Loa and Bicknell in south-central Utah. The sound of the choppers was a sure sign that biologists with the Division of Wildlife Resources were conducting a pronghorn capture in Wayne County.

“The Parker Mountain area produces a lot of pronghorn,” said Teresa Griffin, regional wildlife manager for the DWR. “Over the years, we’ve captured thousands of pronghorn here. After capturing them, we moved them to various locations across Utah. We’ve also given some to other states.”

Capturing pronghorn requires helicopters and a lot of helping hands.

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Transcript

MELISSA BLOCK, HOST:

Keystone XL - for years now, the pipeline has been tied up in polarizing argument about energy, jobs and the environment. Keystone's been argued in the U.S. Congress, in state court, at protests around the country and on late-night television.

One of six northern white rhinos left in the world died at the San Diego Zoo on Sunday.

Angalifu was thought to be 44 years old. He came to the park from Sudan in 1990 and had been treated for a range of age-related ailments.

U-T San Diego reports:

On the roof of the Monterey Bay Aquarium in Monterey, Calif., in a large plastic tank, a sea otter mother named Abby floats with her adopted pup, known as 671.

For up to nine months, Abby will raise her little adoptee, and when 671 is ready, she will be released into a protected inland salt marsh called Elkhorn Slough, just off Monterey Bay.

That's where 671 will set to work to preserve the estuary, says Tim Tinker, who tracks otters for the U.S. Geological Survey.

Speakers at White Mesa Mill, uranium
Jon Kovash / Utah Public Radio

The last remaining uranium mill in the U.S. is located near Blanding. During the last two years monitoring has revealed that the mill’s waste pools are emitting dangerous amounts of radon gas. But despite those readings, regulators want to eliminate requirements for radon monitoring.

The White Mesa uranium mill is only three miles from the Ute Mountain Ute village of White Mesa. Recently tribal air quality experts reported what they call “alarming” findings concerning efforts to reduce radon emissions by covering toxic sludge ponds with radioactive water. The tribe has allied with several environmental groups to oppose the EPA’s intention to discontinue radon monitoring.

U.N. talks on global warming are wrapping up in Peru, but a divide between rich and poor countries and how to divvy up targets to reduce greenhouse gases is a key sticking point that has remained unresolved.

U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry has acknowledged that the issue is "hard fought and ... complex," but he says it is crucial that the targets be agreed on before next year's summit in Paris. The talks in Peru end today.

Dinosaur National Monument

Three months after a dinosaur fossil was found vandalized in Dinosaur National Monument, the mineralized bone has been excavated and taken to Brigham Young University for repair. On Tuesday, BYU paleontologist Brooks Britt traveled to the monument outside of Vernal to remove the damaged humerus from the rocks along the Fossil Discovery Trail.

Dan Johnson, chief of interpretation and visitor services at the monument, said the damaged juvenile sauropod bone was among the most prominent fossils on the trail.

winter deer
Utah Division of Wildlife Resources

Every year well-meaning individuals leave food out for wild animals, particularly deer, attempting to supplement their winter diet. But the Utah Department of Wildlife Resources says the seeming kindness can do much more harm than good.

The diet of deer is fragile and can be harmed by slight changes said Chris Schulze, conservation officer with the DWR.

“The wrong food at the wrong time of year can be hazardous and even kill deer; it wreaks havoc on their digestive systems,” Schulze said.

Money is flowing now to Gulf Coast states to remedy damage from the 2010 Deepwater Horizon oil rig explosion and subsequent spill. All kinds of projects are underway, from building boat ramps to shoring-up marshland.

They're being paid for with a $1 billion down payment BP made toward its ultimate responsibility to make the Gulf Coast whole, a figure estimated to be up to $18 billion.

Sprinklers
www.pinecrest-fl.gov

Every five years, the U.S. Geological Survey publishes a water usage report showing how the nation fares in water consumption. The 2010 report was published earlier this month.  

In conjunction with the release of the report, media have touted that Utah is the worst in the nation for water consumption, but Molly Maupin, a hydrologist with the USGS, said it depends on the category and how the data is being compared.    


Update at 7:35 p.m. ET: The Senate voted against completing the Keystone pipeline.

The remaining portion of the Keystone pipeline project, if completed, will be fewer than 1,200 miles long — just a fraction of the existing 2.6 million miles of oil and gas pipelines running beneath our feet in the United States.

Governor Herbert in front of Utah, US flags
Governor's Office

Just after receiving recommendations on reforms to Utah’s criminal justice system on Tuesday, Governor Gary Herbert addressed the looming problem of poor air quality, water consumption and federal protection of the sage grouse in his monthly media conference.

Herbert said Utah’s air quality problem has effects that extend beyond negative consequences for health.

“It’s not just a health issue; it is also an economic development issue, and if we don’t get a handle on our air quality, we will in fact slow economic expansion,” he said.

Pipeline
suwa.org

Two environmental protection groups are calling out the Bureau of Land Management for alleged misconduct in building a natural gas pipeline near Moab.

Landon Newell with the Southern Utah Wilderness Alliance said Fidelity Exploration & Production divided the project into smaller venture proposals to break up the health and environmental analysis of the pipeline.


More than 200 protestors gathered on Saturday to denounce Utah’s so-called “Ag-Gag” law. The law, which was signed by Governor Herbert in 2012, prohibits unauthorized filming or photography at agricultural facilities. This weekend’s protest was organized after charges were filed – and then dropped –  against a woman who filmed activities at a slaughterhouse in Draper.

Court-ordered review of Ruby Pipeline underway

May 6, 2013
Matt Jensen / Utah Public Radio

A new environmental review is underway to assess the long-term impacts of the Ruby Pipeline. Last year, a federal appeals court ruled the government’s original environmental appraisal of the project was inadequate. UPR’s Matt Jensen has the story.

You spoke and UPR listened. Tuesday on Access Utah Jennifer Pemberton will be here to present some of your questions and comments on how air pollution has affected your health. If you haven’t told us your story, phone lines will be open for you. You can also share your story with us at our online form. In the second half: after a particularly bad winter, we’ll ask: what’s next in our search for solutions?  


  The environmental impact of energy development across the west was the theme at the Restoring the West conference at Utah State University this week. Today on the program, Sheri Quinn talks to a conservation ecologist about the effects of the largest gas field in the U.S. on the endemic pronghorn population that winters on these gas fields in western Wyoming.  Science Questions features tonight's Science Unwrapped guest, astrophysicist Pablo Laguna. Dr. Laguna is also a numerical relativist. He uses super computers to model black holes and gravitational waves.