environment

commons.wikimedia.org

On Friday, the Obama administration announced it would spend more than $110 million to help combat wildfires and to help people who have suffered from the drought. This is in addition to more than $190 million that the federal government has invested this year.

“A number of our programs will provide direct benefits to producers who are either confronting drought or who have had significant losses due to drought,” said Robert Bonnie, the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s undersecretary for natural resources and environment.

groundswell.org

Rocky Mountain Power representatives met on Tuesday with the Utah Public Service Commission to discuss the costs of alternative energy generation. The power company offers a program called net metering, which allows customers to offset electricity charges when they use their own solar panels or wind generators.

Whit Richardson

Last weekend hundreds of mountain bike connoisseurs converged on Moab to try out the latest and greatest gear.

The event is called Outerbike, and the idea came from Ashley Korenblat, proprietor of the Western Spirit bike shop in Moab.

Dry Winter Will Bring Wildfires, Officials Say

Mar 10, 2015
texasagriculture.gov

Meteorologists are calling this winter the warmest on record. While this might be good news to picnickers and hikers, officials are saying the pleasant weather could have some unpleasant effects on the environment.

Jason Curry from the Utah Division of Forestry, Fire and State Lands says the dry weather will likely bring an increase in wildfires.

Costs Of Oil: Will Alternative Fuels Take A Hit?

Feb 19, 2015
energy.utah.gov

What I assumed to be an pretty straightforward question—how does A affect B, how does the cost of one thing affect the allure of another— turned out to not have a straightforward answer in terms of the price of oil and the alternative fuel market. 

 

In search of answers, I spoke with energy market analysts, trade association representatives, lobbyists, people within government organizations and basically anyone else paid to know about oil prices and their effect on alternative fuel. 

kuer.org

Oil revenues form a big part of the Utah government’s budget. The state receives funding from not only the state’s gas tax, but also from public trust lands. These funds pay for a variety of things such as road maintenance, public schools, and hospitals. However, a drop in gas prices could hamper that funding.

Tammy Lucero, the Uintah County Economic Development Executive Director, said that oil from Uintah County alone forms an important part of the state’s revenues.

Out on Oklahoma's flat prairie, Medford, population about 900, is the kind of place where people give directions from the four-way stop in the middle of town.

It seems pretty sedate, but it's not. "We are shaking all the time," says Dea Mandevill, the city manager. "All the time."

The afternoon I stopped by, Mandevill says two quakes had already rumbled through Medford.

"Light day," she laughs. But, she adds, "the day's not over yet; we still have several more hours."

Mandevill may be laughing it off, but Austin Holland, the state seismologist, isn't.

blm.gov

After sinking to their lowest in years, the nation’s gas prices are slowly making their way back up. Utah is still enjoying low prices at the pump. According to the auto club AAA, Utah has the nation’s second lowest average price of gas. It’s $1.92 per gallon. However, prices in Utah’s oil country are much higher.

In January, Uintah and Duchesne county commissioners asked Gov. Gary Herbert for an investigation. According to Uintah County Commissioner Mike McKee, the difference in prices defies the evidence.

Utah's push to wrest control of 31 million acres of federally controlled land would lead to less public access, less public involvement in land-use decisions and more drilling and strip mining, according to a report by a group of legal scholars.

The report, by the Univeristy of Utah Law School's Wallace Stegner Center for Land, Resources and the Environment, also concludes the move could lead to less chance of imperiled plants and wildlife winning protection under the endangered species act.

Lower prices at the pump
Elaine Taylor

Dirt roads zigzig through the Uintah Basin, connecting thousands of oil and gas wells. The area is rich in natural resources, and many of the towns that have sprouted up in this rangeland are built around the drilling and extraction of these resources.

The future of these wells—and the people who make a living from them—is uncertain, as oil prices remain at some of the lowest levels seen in years.

“In the month of December, oil prices have decreased between 35 to 40 percent,” said Benjamin Blau, a professor of economics at Utah State University.

Blau said these low prices stem from a slower global demand for oil while production is increasing.

“Currently, Utah is ranked 11th in the nation in oil production, and so whenever oil prices decrease, you can expect to see slower production,” Blau said.

desert bluffs
publiclands.utah.gov

On Thursday we brought you the story of Jim Dabakis’ public lands bill SB 105. The bill aims to set a deadline for Utah’s public lands debate. If passed, it would require the Attorney General’s Office to file a lawsuit for the federal lands it claims rightfully belong to Utah by June of 2016. Dabakis’ goal: have the Supreme Court end the debate over the lands once and for all.

Assistant Attorney General Tony Rampton said Dabakis has it all wrong.

prof
Jon Kovash / Utah Public Radio

On the Logan main campus, work is underway on a permaculture teaching garden, which will demonstrate alternatives for dealing with storm water in the city. A USU Professor is now doing the same thing in Moab.

Like many Utah towns, Moab struggles to conserve water. There’s still a lot of Kentucky bluegrass, with the sprinkler runoff flowing down the gutters, heavy irrigation for hobby alfalfa farms, aggressive storm drainage, and the city still sells tap water to oil and gas drillers. Enter Dr. Roslynn Brain, USU professor in Sustainable Communities. During the last year Brain has helped launch an effort to build “rain gardens” all over Moab. She says she was inspired by local bee keeper Jerry Shue.

"He had an idea to put in pollinator gardens throughout the town. Then we found out that people with the USDA Natural Resources Conservation Service, the BLM, there are individuals throughout the community of Moab who are interested in these concepts. And so we all met together and came up with the idea of collaborating on an initiative to put in bee-inspired gardens. There’s already a strong movement in Moab of gardeners and of sustainability. People seem to understand these concepts," Brain said.

It's official: 2014 was the hottest year on record.

The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration's National Climatic Data Center crunched the numbers and came to this conclusion:

Updated at 1:08 p.m. ET.

The GOP-controlled House of Representatives has voted 266-153 to approve the Keystone XL pipeline despite a presidential veto threat, just hours after Nebraska's Supreme Court, in a split decision, cleared the way for the controversial project.

The Senate, which also has a Republican majority, is considering similar legislation.

Logan Mayor Pushes For More Green Energy

Jan 7, 2015

On Tuesday, the Logan City Council met for the first time this year to hear Mayor Craig Petersen deliver his State of the City address. This year’s speech was the first under Petersen, who highlighted various city projects completed during 2014 and shared his aspirations for the coming year. Green energy production featured prominently in those aspirations.

Petersen announced that a deal was struck to use the excess heat from natural gas pipelines to generate electricity. Obtaining electricity this way will put that excess heat to good use, he said.

Christopher Gezon / Zion National Park

In 2013, more than nine million visitors to National Parks in Utah contributed $596 million to the state's economy and supported nearly nine thousand jobs related to tourism. The National Park Service is now recommending recreation fee increases at three of Southern Utah's most popular parks to help cover the cost of maintaining what they say is an important economic resource here.

Park Superintendents from Bryce Canyon, Zion National Parks and Cedar Breaks National Monument say a review of park service fee rates in Utah are part of a national assessment of park entrance fees that have not been updated since 2006.

This is the time of year when it's not uncommon to see big trucks barreling down highways and streets spreading road salt.

Steve Corsi, a hydrologist with the U.S. Geological Survey, says that translates into high levels of chloride concentrations for rivers like the Milwaukee in Wisconsin or 18 other streams near urban areas in Illinois, Ohio, Colorado and several other states.

"At many of the streams, concentrations have now exceeded those that are harmful to aquatic life," he says.

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.

Copyright 2014 NPR. To see more, visit http://www.npr.org/.

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.

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