Monthly Archives: August 2009

Roundup Friday August 28, 2009

1.  Farm to hub to table—Jane Black, The Washington Post 8/26/09

In Charlottesville, Virginia, the nonprofit Local Food Hub has emerged to bring together local farmers’ goods and distribute them as needed to area businesses, organizations and individuals.  The Hub can take vegetables and chicken and quail eggs from the one acre Down Branch Farm and merge it with other farmers’ produce to supply kitchens such as the one at the Jefferson Area Board of Aging, which serves 3,000 meals each week.

The trend has spread across the nation to serve the demand for a link between farmers and consumers.  Grasshoppers Distribution in Louisville distributes produce from 100 state farmers to 75 restaurants and schools.  Burlington, Vermont’s Intervale Center already sells produce from 20 farmers to individuals and will add nearby restaurants, hospitals and universities this winter.  Northern California’s Growers Collaborative estimated 400 tons of produce had been distributed to 19 regional hospitals in the last year.

The Obama Administration is supporting these kinds of networks as well.  “What we’ve got to do is change how we think about, for example, getting local farmers connected to school districts because that would benefit the farmers delivering fresh produce,” Obama said to the Organizing for America health-care forum a week ago.

US Secretary of Agriculture Tom Vilsack said the best opportunity for new producers is a local market.  “It’s enhanced if they can be joined together with other local producers so sufficient quality and quantity can be established for schools, hospitals, jails and other purchasers.”

Local Food Hub’s director Kate Collier, owner of a gourmet food store in Charlottesville that shows its lowest profit margins with produce, presented a prototype plan for food distribution to a panel of local food advocates in 2008.  The plan would support small farmers and increase access to their products.  In response to the issues left to be worked out, the group pounced on the idea.

$305,000 was drawn from local foundations and individuals and Collier started the nonprofit.  A warehouse and refrigerated truck for deliveries was part of the budget, as well as liability insurance required for selling to large institutions.  Five people were hired to market, manage and educate the community on the benefits of local food.

Local farmers like Down Branch Farm’s Dick Proutt were sold on the idea of delivering to a single market rather than sitting all day at a farmer’s market. He added the money was better as well.  Larger farmers too can focus on farming rather than marketing and delivering.  Whole Foods Market requires voluminous paperwork, and one local farmer spent six weeks this summer getting heirloom tomatoes into their stores.  Roundabout Farm’s Megan Weary said that’s “six weeks I could have been selling them tomatoes.”

Weary added the Hub consolidated deliveries as well as the time it took to build relationships with bigger buyers.  In the first six weeks, 30 institutional customers signed up with the Hub. Independent grocers, restaurants and local elementary schools will soon be joined by the University of Virginia’s dining services.  Still, prices of national distributors can’t be beat.  At the peak of the season, zucchini can be bought for as little as 40 cents per pound in volume, while the Hub’s fair price is 94 cents a pound.

Volume providers can afford to wash, chop and bag produce.  Organizations like the Hub provide only the distribution, the buyer preps the produce.  This requires rethinking and reorganization for large institutions that have grown complacent with cheap, ready-to-eat foods.  And regional distributors insist they can’t shun the market price for more local produce.  One advantage for places like the Hub is they know where their food comes from.  With E. coli and other contamination outbreaks more common, this bodes well for small distributors.  Yet the nonprofit model has been the favored option for distributors who cannot compete in economies of scale.

The Obama administration’s Department of Agriculture will be devoting 5% of its business and industry budget to local production.  Vilsack added “What we’re looking at is how can we more effectively use [those funds] to create a whole new way of thinking about the rural economy.”  The Hub’s Collier predicts the organization could profit from $1.5 million in annual revenue in 6-8 years.  Small farmers are using the opportunity for connecting with wider, more stable markets.

2.  Breckenridge ban on street skateboarding returns—AP, The Denver Post 8/27/09

Citing skateboarders didn’t follow through on promises to follow traffic laws and self-regulate, Breckenridge Town Council voted to reinstate the ban suspended a year ago at skateboarders’ request.  Four summonses and five warnings to street skateboarders were noted by police.  Two accidents were also noted, one an alleged hit-and-run by a skateboarder.

3.  Brewery buys commuter bikes for staff—John Darling, Medford Mail Tribune 8/27/09

Already renowned for its commitment to environmental issues, Standing Stone Brewing Co. of Ashland has purchased new bikes for every employee who agrees to ride to work 45 days a year or more.  The brewing company purchased custom-fitted 24-speed Kona bikes emblazoned with the brewery’s head badge, hops vines and the phrase “Standing Stone Commuter” from Ashland Bicycle Works for 17 employees.

The bikes cost around $7,600 and went to employees with over 1,000 hours of work logged with the company, owned by Alex and Danielle Amarotico.  “It’s awesome to work for a company that’s so interested in sustainability,” one waitress and college student said.  “I’m going to use it every day to get to work and college.”  The restaurant’s carbon footprint will shrink, employee health and fitness will be nurtured, and additional parking places will provide Ashland tourists with space for vehicles.

Owner Alex Amarotico said “The employees went crazy over it, a real buzz in the air.  They will come to work more energized.  It’s great for morale.”  He hopes the concept will spread to other businesses.  A 35% state Business Energy Tax Credit combined with a $450 price tag for each bike made the purchase especially attractive.  A 15 minute parking space has been re-designated by the city Traffic Commission for a sizeable bike rack in front of the brewery.

Ashland Bicycle Works owner Tim Schurr called the bike “a good, quick-handling, fast-accelerating commuter bike.”  He added the program “shows real proactivity and is a healthy alternative and green solution to downtown parking.”  He lauded the tax credit which could with saved gasoline pay for the bikes in a few months.  He wants to draw other employers into a similar program.

Employees sign a waiver of responsibility, cannot use the bikes while drinking, and lay down a $150 deposit that is fully refunded when they complete their minimum required biking days.  They were effusive about the program.  A bartender said “It’s one of the coolest things any employer has ever done and it reduces our carbon footprint.  We’re all very excited.”  A city councilman chimed in that the city could shrink over-long spaces and convert yellow zones at either end of downtown blocks to further encourage the shift for businesses.

4.  UO freshmen combine bonding with intro to sustainability—Abby Haight, The Oregonian 8/27/09

Courtesy of the Office of Sustainability at the University of Oregon, 10 freshman students will spend four days getting to know first-hand local agriculture under the office’s “Project Tomato” campaign.  In addition to opportunities to make new friends and become more familiar with the UO’s sustainability programs, the experience will offer a four day retreat that includes a two night stay at local farms.

First participants bike to farms east of Eugene then camp out at Pleasant Hill Orchards/River Bend Farm where they’ll learn about permaculture.  After harvesting 1,000 pounds of tomatoes and exploring Eugene’s urban agriculture scene, they’ll return to make up to a week’s worth of pizza sauce at the UO dining hall kitchen.

5.  Sierra Cool Schools:  The Third Annual List—The Sierra Club, Sierra Club Magazine September/October 2009

The University of Utah was not on the list, nor any other Utah college or university.  A total of 135 colleges were surveyed across the eight categories of efficiency, energy, food, academics, purchasing, transportation, waste, and administration.  The Cool Schools survey rated colleges on their environmentally responsible practices, which a college admissions strategist at said was now a common concern among students researching schools to attend.

A recent survey by testing preparation company Princeton Review showed two-thirds of applicants applying to schools are influenced by a school’s environmental report.  In response to growing demand, Harvard has achieved top honors in energy efficiency, Yale re-vamped food operations, and University of California at Los Angeles renovated its waste management program.

University of Colorado at Boulder topped the list in combined scores followed by University of Washington at Seattle, Middlebury College, University of Vermont, and College of the Atlantic.  Oberlin College ranked 10th, Arizona State University at Tempe ranked 13th, University of Oregon ranked 25th, Oregon State University ranked 40th, University of Montana ranked 50th, University of Idaho ranked 51st, Naropa University ranked 74th, University of Wyoming ranked 104th, and Texas Tech University ranked 135th.

See the full annual list:

Hear Sierra Club’s Avita Binshtock talk about how and why they ranked the schools as they did:

6.  Willamette University earns more praise for green policies—Abby Haight, The Oregonian 8/27/09

Willamette ranked 17th of 20 schools featured in the Sierra Club’s third “Cool Schools” issue for green and sustainable programs.  The National Wildlife Federation placed Willamette at the top for sustainability drives last year.  Joe Bowersox, director of Willamette’s Center for Sustainable Communities said “We are pleased to be included in this short list of the green elite.  Willamette is working hard to create a culture of sustainability across all sectors of the university.”  Of eight categories, Willamette placed high in efficiency, purchasing, food and transportation.  Two new buildings are scheduled for LEED gold certification.

7.  State moves to limit chemical in drinking water—Kelly Zito, San Francisco Chronicle 8/21/09

In what could be a nation-leading trend, California has proposed maximum drinking water levels for cancer-causing chromium 6, featured in the 2000 film Erin Brockovich.  The California Office of Environmental Health Hazard Assessment will recommend a threshold of 0.06 parts per billion, below which the heavy metal’s presence would pose negligible risks.  Chromium 6 has been linked to cancer in humans, including a 2007 federal study that linked the toxin in drinking water to tumors in mice and rats.

Even after review and public comment, the proposal won’t set an enforceable standard, but would set the stage for future regulations that would empower authorities to clean up toxic drinking water sources.  The US and California currently regulate total chromium presence in water, while 52 of California’s 58 counties have tested positive for chromium 6 in drinking water.

Erin Brockovich highlighted cancer occurrences linked to chromium 6 with residents of Hinkley in San Bernardino County.  The residents won a $333 million settlement from Pacific Gas and Electric Co. (PG&E) and Gov. Gray Davis ordered a standard developed by the end of 2003.  A blue-ribbon panel found no risks in 2001, but two panel members were found to be paid PG&E consultants. The 2007 study is considered conclusive.

8.  Oil companies undermining climate partnership—David R. Baker, San Francisco Chronicle 8/24/09

The United States Climate Action Partnership (USCAP) evolved in 2007 from large American corporations like DuPont, Ford Motor Co. and PG&E who see global warming as a serious threat.  Environmental organizations like Environmental Defense Fund and Natural Resources Defense Council lobbied congress and helped facilitate the climate bill that will come before the US Senate this fall.  But some oil companies—namely ConocoPhillips and BP—that have been a part of the partnership have defected in order to participate in an oil industry campaign against the climate change bill.

The American Petroleum Institute with a coalition has been hosting public rallies in cities such as Houston, Texas and Greensboro, North Carolina that appear as grassroots assemblies.  The Institute has been e-mailing oil company executives with campaign details and requests to participate.  One such e-mail was leaked to Greenpeace, who has made it public.

ConocoPhillips encouraged people to attend the rallies on their website, and BP, though not encouraging, shared information with employees about the rallies.  Greenpeace Research Director Kert Davies said “It’s not my intention or desire to see USCAP fracture, because what they represent is important.  It looks like selfishness has returned, that each corporation is going to pursue its own selfish interest.  And that means we will get nowhere.”

Brian Hertzog of PG&E, parent company of Pacific Gas and Electric Co., said, “Everyone’s still committed to the principles in the blueprint, and I think that’s a powerful thing for people in the Senate.”  Sensitive to negotiations over the climate change bill, the partnership praised House passage without endorsing specific components of the bill.

A spokesman for BP noted issues with the bill, though climate-change regulation was a different story.  According to the spokesman, BP informed employees about the rallies but called attendance “a personal decision”.  He added that BP and others believe that the bill does not conform to the blueprint offered by USCAP, and that will be a major concern for them.

9.  Here’s why natural gas prices are so low—AP, SLT 8/27/09

At a seven-year low, 80% lower than last summer, natural gas has “become so cheap that it has become competitive with coal for generating electricity from big power plants,” the AP reported.  With low demand and new technology that has opened up holdings previously considered unfeasible to drill, industry-backed American Clean Skies Foundation claims the US has a 118-year gas supply based on 2007 production levels.  Consumption is expected to drop another 2.6% this year, and stocks for this winter’s heating already sit at record levels.  New climate regulations may further extend natural gas usage and infrastructure for transportation.

10. Town’s troublesome turkeys spared death—AP, SLT 8/27/09

La Conner, Washington’s resident turkey flock will be trimmed from 20 to 7 birds in response to resident complaints that the birds destroy yards, peck houses and shed feathers and droppings.  While killing was considered, adoption offers have curbed the idea in favor of trapping.  The birds are considered a tourist attraction.

11.  Confirmation hearing set next week for new DEQ director—Judy Fahys, SLT 8/27/09

The Senate Natural Resources, Agriculture and Environment Confirmation Committee will meet Sept. 1 to review the nomination of Amanda Smith as director of the Utah Department of Environmental Quality.  Smith was nominated by then-gov. Jon Huntsman Jr. earlier this year, but confirmation stalled when Huntsman was nominated ambassador to China.  The position has been unfilled since former director Rick Sprott retired in December.

12.  Détente in public lands debate?—Jennifer Napier-Pierce, KUER 8/26/09

The annual Land and Water Symposium held at Alta, Ut. featured attorney and former BLM chief Pat Shea squaring off with Utah Rep. Mike Noel.   Shea proclaimed the nation’s founding fathers sought ‘one nation under law’, a policy he says extends to the public lands.

“The United States citizens have sponsored and paid for that land since the beginning of that land being under the United States jurisdiction,” Shea said, “And the idea now in the 21st century they should get that free so that people in the states could handle it is simply contrary to our constitutional history.”

“Imagine what the West would be like if we didn’t have Yellowstone National Park, we didn’t have Grand Teton, we didn’t have Bryce, we didn’t have Zion, we didn’t have Grand Canyon.  Those are areas that have generated enormous amounts of revenue, but they make us whole as a nation because we believe they are ours.  They’re not the citizens’ of Nevada.  They’re not the citizens’ of Arizona.  They’re the citizens’ of the United States.”

Republican Representative Mike Noel countered the federal government had gone too far in managing the public lands.  “What I’m saying is its overkill.  What has happened now is we’ve gone way beyond the pale in these environmental regulations.  We’ve gone way beyond what was ever anticipated by Congress.”

The federal lands own 97% of his legislative district, Kane County, Noel lamented.  “We don’t want the federal government coming down here and directing our lives.  None of you like the Internal Revenue Service.  Why do you want to have federal agencies managing and having total control over two-thirds of our state and the surrounding areas of the state.  That’s what’s created the problem in our mind.”

Noel insists local residents must be included in discussions on local energy development and rural road control.  “Their life matters.  Just like I read about all the issues up here in Albion Basin and the individuals that want to protect this are and what you think about this area.  People in Kane County and Garfield County and Wayne County and Piute County and generations that have lived there:  their life matters.”

Shea believes local control can become too provincial without check.  “Sometimes local interests or even regional interests can be so narrow on either economic development or maintaining a lifestyle that the national interest that has sustained that land is forgotten or not paid attention to,” Shea countered.

“I know it’s been one of the more exciting debates since Lincoln-Douglas,” Governor Herbert added.  “May I harken back to that ‘Thrilla in Manilla’, the ‘Rumble in the Jungle’.  Maybe this is the ‘Conflict in the Canyon’.  Herbert returned to his inaugural speech theme that urged reason and compromise with land, energy and water policy.

“It’s time that we get past the talking past each other, the view that we are right and they are wrong, us versus them, and see if we cannot find some way to work together in what I call good faith,” Herbert spoke.  “Unless we do that, we will not find solutions.  We’ll continue to have this civil war that continues and we’ll never solve the problems.”

13.  Tidy up the Jordan River, mayors say—Jeremiah Stettler, SLT 8/26/09

Convening for a roundtable discussion on watershed issues for the Salt Lake Countywide Watershed Symposium on Wednesday, seven Salt Lake County community mayors agreed more action should be taken to improve and preserve the Jordan River corridor.  Uncertain however were talks aimed at finding a resource for funding for the upgrades, though several ideas were pitched.  The Blueprint Jordan River Implementation Committee, made up of elected officials and community leaders, will continue to brainstorm on the issue and others in hopes of creating an attractive recreational corridor.  Mayor Ralph Becker said, “We all see the Jordan River as a gem that has been underutilized and underappreciated.  It can be a tourism possibility, but it will take us making the investment up and down the river.”

14.  Widening artifact probe snags another defendant—Pamela Manson, SLT 8/26/09

The latest indictment accuses Robert B. Knowlton of Grand Junction, Colorado of selling a Cloud Blower pipe, a Midland Point and a Hell Gap knife and mailing them to Utah.  Knowlton has an internet relic sale site titled Bob’s Flint Shop, and in his sale of merchandise to the FBI-BLM informant known as “The Source”, he said the pipe came from the excavation of the Big Westwater Site in southern Utah.  Other pieces reportedly came from near Moab and Telluride, Colorado.  Knowlton makes the 26th defendant indicted on charges stemming from the Archaeological Resources Protection Act and the Native American Graves Protection and Repatriation Act.

15.  USU research:  Algae may fix Logan’s sewage mess—Brian Maffly, SLT 8/26/09

Logan’s five wastewater lagoons have a longstanding history of high phosphate contamination from detergents and agricultural runoff.  The contaminant threatens sensitive downstream wildlife habitat and has resulted in costly clean-ups.  The city is now collaborating with Utah State University Research Foundation.  Algae grown in the ponds by the foundation will feed on the phosphate and in turn produce a biofuel resource.

Coupled with a $500,000 state grant, the 460-acre pilot project will grow algae on the lagoons that will be harvested and converted to methane for generating electricity.  The phosphorous will be extracted and sold to industries such as fertilizer manufacturers.  Under the current system, Logan has been spending $250,000 per year on aeration to prevent algae blooms and has been considering a $180 million treatment facility to combat phosphorus.

USU’s Energy Dynamics Laboratory (EDL) researchers came up with the idea.  Foundational projects have been affiliated with the Utah Science, Technology and Research (USTAR) initiative, including an algae to biofuel project.  The Logan project will be the first large-scale attempt in field conditions for many of the initiative’s ideas.  USTAR’s biofuels team leader said “Every time you scale up you find new issues.”

One consideration is whether to use indigenous algae species or imported strains.  Fast growing strains with high lipid content have been favored.  Logan’s wastewater system is one of the largest in the country.  The project could serve as a model for other systems.  It discharges 14 million gallons per year into Cutler Reservoir and the Bear River drainage and ultimately the water flows into the Great Salt Lake, home and stopping place for millions of migratory birds.

EDL and other USU divisions work to prove technologies and make them commercially viable.  EDL’s interim director Doug Lemon sees the algae project turning into a profitable enterprise.  “We can take those technologies to the marketplace with a little more agility than if we were a non-profit,” Lemon commented.  “We want to create jobs and it brings revenue back to the foundation.”

16.  Feds offering cash rebates to buy green appliances—AP, SLT 8/25/09

Utah has won funding to participate in the federal stimulus money program for “Energy Star” labeled products.  Details on who will qualify and the start date have not yet been released.

17.  Wyoming officials relocate young grizzly—AP, SLT 8/25/09

The bear was trapped in the Cody region and moved to a Bridger-Teton National Forest grizzly bear conservation area.  The mother was moved on Sunday from near a cattle depredation site to the Blackrock Creek drainage close to Togwotee Pass.

18.  Utah to turn over fabled Range Creek canyon to U. of U. archaeologists—Paul Foy, AP, SLT 8/25/09

The remote canyon, home to a wealth of prehistoric artifacts and structures, will be turned over to the University of Utah for use as a permanent research installation.  University archaeologists will become permanent stewards of the canyon, which was unknown and protected by a local ranching family until 2004, when the state took control of the canyon.

Remains of ancient settlements, eroded pit and cob house remains, standing grain caches, and trapezoidal pictographs with spiked hair styles typify the canyon.  Chief curator Duncan Metcalfe of the Utah Museum of Natural History noted the study of natural history and archaeology in the canyon would continue.  The museum conducts a summer school in the canyon.  A spokesman for the Utah Division of Wildlife Resources (DWR) said public access and wildlife habitat would still be protected.

Freemont people are believed to have inhabited a twelve mile stretch of the canyon intensively for as much as three centuries up to around 1,200 A.D., though indications suggest some human habitation occurred earlier and later.  Disappearance of the significant population is not understood.  The Fremonts knew distinctive basket weaving, animal-claw moccasins and farming as well as hunting.

The university is offering around 4 square miles of deer and elk habitat near Gordon Creek Wildlife Management Area in Carbon County, trust lands granted the university at statehood.  DWR will trade 2.3 square miles of canyon bottom in Range Creek.  Utah School and Institutional Trust Lands Administration (SITLA) is brokering the trade, which it favors.  SITLA will hold title to ranch lands while the university will control the parcels with its own trust land holdings.

Public access is strictly controlled between land covenants and congressional legislation from purchase of the canyon.  Some rules could change to facilitate research and protection of sites.  A university caretaker oversees the canyon which sits mostly behind locked gates and is snowbound in winter.

19.  Hogle won’t release video of elephant birth—Matthew D. LaPlante, SLT 8/25/09

The birthing video is considered useful for scientific review, but proprietary and will not be released to the public.  Controversy over potential backlash should anything have gone wrong, or perceived issues with humane treatment of the animals, may be driving the decision.

20.  Utah’s Hogle Zoo debuts three male tiger cubs—AP, SLT 8/25/09

The Amur, formerly Siberian tiger cubs are the first litter born to the female, who was born at Hogle in 2003.  The Amur has been placed on the list of critically endangered species.

21.  Herbert calls for compromise in public-land feud—Judy Fahys, SLT 8/25/09

Governor Gary Herbert spoke at a land and water symposium held at Alta, urging compromise.  The ski resort is built on public lands.  Representative Mike Noel, a Sagebrush rebel from Kane County, said Alf’s Restaurant couldn’t be built in his district owing to restrictions.  He said a one-mile fence or waterline to an existing well in the Grand Staircase-Escalante National Monument demands overwhelming time, money and paperwork.  Attorney and former BLM boss Pat Shea argued for federal management of the public lands.

Robyn Pearson, deputy director of the Utah Division of Natural Resources said, referring to trees killed by beetles and fire-prone cheatgrass that also is widespread, “Some challenges we face know no boundaries.  For the betterment of our natural resources, we all need to find some common ground.”  Pat She, responding to a prompt from Gov. Herbert, said “I’m willing to kiss Mike Noel today, although it might be misinterpreted in various quarters.  There are very few people I am not interested in sitting down and having a discussion with.”

22.  Japanese beetles in Utah County almost all gone—Dawn House, SLT 8/24/09

But five males could be left in a three-year spraying campaign in Orem to eradicate the insect considered a high threat to agriculture and gardens.  No females have yet been found.

23.  Pretenders singer, PETA grill McDonald’s over chicken slaughter—David Burger, SLT 8/24/09

Pretenders singer Chrissie Hynde, a long-time vegetarian and animal rights supporter with a vice president of People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals launch a nationwide campaign to press McDonald’s to adopt more humane slaughter standards at the 242 S. 700 East franchise.

24.  Settlement talks ongoing in dispute over trust—Pamela Manson, SLT 8/24/09

Navajos in San Juan County are still fighting a decades long lawsuit over alleged mismanagement and unreported accounting of an oil royalties trust that began pumping funds out of the Aneth oil field as early as 1955.

25.  Sizing up sustainable food—Talk of the Nation, NPR 8/21/09

ESR Editor’s note:  This 35 minute radio program features James McWilliams, author of Just Food:  Where Locavores Get It Wrong and How We Can Truly Eat Responsibly and associate professor of history at Texas State University in Austin, Texas; Michael Pollan, author of In Defense of Food:  An Eater’s Manifesto and professor of journalism at University of California Berkeley in Berkeley, California, and Brian Halweil, senior researcher at the World Watch Institute, Sag Harbor, N.Y. Food miles are contrasted to other ways of efficiently going green while shopping for food.


26.  Head in sand—Tribune editorial, SLT 8/25/09

On the recent hearings in the state Legislature’s Interim Public Utilities and Technology Committee over climate change ahead of this fall’s national congressional climate bill debate.


Roundup Tuesday August 25, 2009

1.  Killing bears to save bears—Bill Schneider, 8/19/09

Using “the good of the one is outweighed by the good of the many”, a Spock quote from

Star Trek:  The Wrath of Khan, Schneider describes the management of grizzly bears in Glacier National Park as a necessity.  He describes a recent pursuit of a female named Old Man Bear above Two Medicine Lake and beneath Rising Wolf Mountain’s peak.  Old Man Bear became famous for a decade’s worth of spooking the hikers around Oldman Lake, “getting bolder and bolder, and anybody in the bear management biz knows there’s no such thing as an old bold bear,” Schneider says.

“Rangers even tried aversive conditioning (ie chased her with Karelian bear dogs, shot her with rubber bullets, and other non-lethal stimuli), but that didn’t cure her of her chronic bad behavior.  She came back bolder than ever.”  Schneider says sometimes bears need to be killed for the sake of other bears as well as people.  “You think rangers enjoy shooting a mother bear with cubs?  Every ranger I ever met reveres bears.”

The tough part he says is placing the cubs in captivity.  “I personally would prefer the rangers shoot them, too, to save them from a lifetime of exile in a big city zoo.”  He says most bear incidents are due to conditioning or habituation brought on by human presence, especially handouts and careless camping.  “The Old Man Bear had been walking through occupied campsites, sniffing backpacker’s dinners, following hikers up the trail like a lost dog.  This bear was clearly a time bomb waiting to explode.”

“You could easily speculate that if rangers would have killed those two female bears in July 1967 before they killed and consumed two young women, well, we wouldn’t have had the Night of the Grizzlies, and two women who didn’t need to die might be joyfully playing with their grandchildren today,” Schneider mused.  He goes on to recount a “horrible” incident from September 1976 that left a young woman camping in Glacier in the Swiftcurrent vehicle campground mutilated and dead.  He says that though the 1967 incident changed the way the National Park Service managed bears, many were still reticent to kill bears.

The epitaph to Old Man Bear arrived while he was writing this commentary.  Old Man was killed along with another cub that died during darting and transplanting, though mouth to nose CPR was attempted on the cub.  “Now we have only one grizzly given a life sentence without parole of gawking tourists for entertainment and horse pellets for dinner,” Schneider added.

Quoting park superintendent Chas Cartwright from a national park press release, “Unfortunately this entire family group of grizzly bears had become overly familiar with humans.  Park resource personnel worked to keep this bear and her offspring in the wild for five years, but given her most recent display of over-familiarity in combination with her history of habituation, we determined that the three grizzlies posed an unacceptable threat to human health and safety; and therefore, needed to be removed from the park.”

Schneider pointed out that young grizzlies learn many behaviors from their mother.  He says zoos won’t take adult grizzlies.  His relief and preference for the deaths of the grizzlies is underscored by his attitude.  As for the one headed to the Bronx Zoo, “I say, please forgive us.  Hopefully the essence of wildness is not too deeply imprinted on this little brain.”

He says the only reason grizzlies exist on earth is because we allow them, and our tolerance is due to the limited number of maulings that have occurred, though “thousands of people hike the trails of Glacier every year, and many of them come within the “defensive perimeter” of a grizzly bear, usually without even knowing it”.  Schneider adds “I attribute this…mostly to the incredible intelligence and stealth of the creature that so expertly avoids encounters without giving up its spot on top of the food chain, the king of the mountains, the majestic grizzly bear.”

2.  New poll:  Water pipeline backed in county—Henry Brean, Las Vegas Review-Journal 8/20/09

The poll shows Las Vegas valley residents favor the pipeline that would bring water from eastern Nevada.  The poll conducted by the Review-Journal showed 52% of 400 Nevadans surveyed supported the pipeline, though support outside of Clark County sat at but 13%.  The Southern Nevada Water Authority will vote Thursday whether or not to continue to move ahead with the project.

“I see a vote of no confidence on the pipeline in Las Vegas and overwhelmingly statewide,” Executive Director Bob Fulkerson of the Progressive Leadership Alliance of Nevada replied.   The liberal advocacy group opposes the project.  Water authority General Manager Pat Mulroy said “Anybody who has been out to Lake Mead and seen what it looks like is worried.  It’s a visceral reaction to that very large bathtub ring out there.”

Mulroy and others fear a pending water shortage for Las Vegas.  With 90% of Las Vegas Valley water drawn from Lake Mead and the Colorado, and Mead’s water levels fallen during an existing drought 100 feet over the past decade, severe cuts could be triggered.  Experts say another 19 feet of loss in Mead would trigger severe cuts for Las Vegas.

If the pipeline is built, it would supply enough water for nearly 270,000 homes.  Across the state 26% were undecided about the project, while in Clark County only 19% were undecided, and the rest of Nevada showed 40% were undecided.  Washington DC-based Mason-Dixon Polling and Research Inc. polled Nevada residents who said they regularly vote in state elections.  Results carry a plus or minus 5% margin of error.  Sample sizes pushed margin of error in Clark County to 6% and 9% across the state.

“The fairest thing to say is the state is pretty much split,” pollster Brad Coker said.   “Water has always been a big issue in Nevada and other Western states.  People don’t want to give it up because it is considered a fairly precious resource that is in limited supply.”  A White Pine County commissioner said the more Nevadans find out about costs and the unreliable science used to support the pipeline, the more likely they would be to oppose it.

Fulkerson added that much of Clark County support had been garnished by the water authority’s “public relations effort saying if we don’t do this, we’re all going to die,” and may prove soft when all the figures are finalized.  He wants to see the pipeline go to statewide ballot for approval.  “If they don’t, they can’t keep saying it’s for the good of the state.”

3.  World youth tell leaders to clean up—Reuters 8/20/09

The UN Environment Programme (UNEP) organized an international gathering of young people and children aged 10 to 24 years in Deajeon, South Korea this week to share concerns over climate change in preparation for December’s UN climate conference in Copenhagen.  Around 700 individuals from over two dozen countries participated in the event.

“We young people—3 billion of the world population—are very concerned and frustrated that our governments are not doing enough to combat climate change…we feel that radical and holistic measures are needed urgently from us all,” the youth said.  They called for more action and less talk.  The Copenhagen conference will attempt to replace the Kyoto Protocol, which set limits on greenhouse gas emissions that are considered largely responsible for global warming.

“We are the generation of tomorrow.  The decisions that are made today will define our future and the world we have to live in.  So we young people of the world urge governments to commit to a strong post-Kyoto climate regime.  It is our lives we are talking about,” delegate Anne Walraven said.

The kids call for governments to enforce stern regulations against polluters, create independently-monitored carbon regulation plans and promote green fuels.  “Make engaging environmental education mandatory in schools and universities and promote community environmental awareness—an informed public is a powerful public,” another statement read.

UNEP has planned to sponsor rallies in 100 capitals to pressure leaders to confront climate change.  The campaign has been titled “Seal the Deal!”

4.  Washington forests may be solution to state’s green-energy quest—Sandra Hines, University of Washington News 8/20/09

A recent University of Washington School of Forest Resources report commissioned by the Washington Legislature points to woody biomass as perhaps the state’s best biofuel opportunity, reducing greenhouse gas emissions and foreign oil dependency.  In addition, the report favors biomass fuels for transportation over electricity generation.  Woody biomass is made up of discarded material left from harvest or manufacturing of wood products, including materials from forest thinning and plantation-grown cottonwood tree refuse.

Three distinct advantages are attributed to woody biomass, though the report specifies that any alternative energy source should place well in all three categories to warrant further consideration.  Sustainability is the first key, a continuing renewable resource.  Washington leads the US in woody biomass availability, possessing 1/20th of the nation’s identified inventory.  At 11 million available tons annually, supply is more than abundant.

Energy independence is the second key advantage.  Washington already sports low electricity rates as well as the cleanest electricity in the nation while generating more than enough for export to other states.  All oil on the other hand is imported for use.  Biofuels could be manufactured locally from local resources, lowering dependence on out-of-state resources.

Climate change mitigation is the third key advantage.  Half the state’s CO2 emissions come from the transportation sector, far more than power plants produce in the state.  Biofuels are considered carbon-neutral.  State incentives and regulations that promote woody biomass for electrical generation should be reconsidered, the report advises.

Director of Olympic Natural Resources Center and study co-author John Calhoun said “Woody biomass is the only renewable, clean resource available in Washington that can make a significant contribution toward our energy policy goals.”  With the forest industry, pulp and paper mills already in place, a large capital investment in the resource to biofuels process is already squared away.  New investments would integrate pulp and paper mills with biofuels processing to improve efficiency.  The mills already have transportation, workforce, water supplies and treatment plants to offer.

Find the report:  “Wood to Energy in Washington:  Imperatives, Opportunities and Obstacles to Progress

5.  Oil industry details costs of climate bill—Angel Gonzalez, Wall Street Journal 8/24/09

In an industry-commissioned study intended for use in opposition to the proposed climate bill, findings say the legislation will severely cut domestic fuel production.  By 2030, refining production could fall 17% off of current levels.  Foreign dependency for refined fuel could double to 19.4%.

American Petroleum Institute hired EnSys Energy, a refining sector consulting specialist, to develop the report, considered the first view of the bill’s potential impact on the sector.  Refiners already have suffered due to recession-based fall in demand.  As per-gallon vehicle mileage increases and biofuels are developed, experts say demand will continue to decline.  At least one refinery is expected to be shuttered due to weak demand.

The Waxman-Markey climate bill’s cap and trade fees for greenhouse-gas emissions like CO2, along with additional fees tacked on for exceeding allowed emissions, are considered lethal to the industry.  Refiners would be required to obtain permits for almost half of US CO2 emissions, while only 2.25% of emissions allowances would be available to the industry, Gonzalez reported.  The electricity industry fared better with a larger share of allowances.

API’s president said the industry sought equity.  The study dismissed nuclear and new technology, suggesting doubts over widespread potential.  An international cap and trade program was also neglected in the study, which found that levying a price on carbon emissions would jack up refiner costs while lowering demand.

The study predicts refining would drop to 12 million barrels per day by 2030, down from 14.5 million per day at today’s levels.  Without nuclear power development, carbon emissions reduction technology and a robust international offset program, projections estimate refinery utilization could drop to 63.4%, down from current 83% production levels.

6.  UTA, Salt Lake City launches community share vehicle program—Nineva Dinha, Fox 13 News Salt Lake City 8/23/09,0,584525.story?track=rss

U Car Share opens around the University of Utah and Salt Lake City.  The video includes clips from Mayor Ralph Becker and U Haul/Car Share’s owner.  A membership card is necessary, though the $25 one-time fee will be waved if you apply between now and October 30.

7.  Tracy Aviary renovations move forward—Tony Jones, SLT 8/24/09

The aviary, dating back to 1938, intends to spend $19.6 million authorized by a November ballot on ambitious upgrades within the next 3 years.  Many problems will have to be dealt with to improve the facility’s attractiveness to patrons over winter months.  Drainage at the Liberty Park facility is poor, many buildings are old and weathered, open space for free roaming birds is cramped, and the entrance is considered difficult to find.

New indoor rainforest exhibits featuring the birds and habitat of Mexico and Panama will be added to the aviary.  When the badly dilapidated Wilson Pavilion is fully renovated, it will host winter aviary visitation.  The entry plaza will enjoy renovation and new shows and education facilities are planned.  “We have to get it done because we suffer a steep decline in attendance after Pioneer Day.  In the winter months, there are days when our visitor count is literally in the single digits,” project consultant Paul Svendsen said.

8.  Kirby:  Getting buggy in the desert—Robert Kirby, SLT 8/23/09

Kirby heads into the West Desert with Sonny and finds a trilobite dig site, opening the both up to Cambrian history and fossil hunting.

9.  Little-known agency helps map and build trails in Utah—Mark Havnes, SLT 8/23/09

The Rivers Trails and Conservation Assistance Program (RTCAP) is contributing to trail upgrades in Brian Head located in Iron County, Utah.  A trails master plan is facilitating identification, mapping and marking of the town’s hiking, biking, horse and motorized trail system.  Four other communities are being served by RTCAP, a National Park Service extension service.

When done, the Brian Head system will connect with Dixie National Forest and Cedar Breaks National Monument trails.  Around $15,000 in in-kind services has been offered by RTCAP and the organization will help locate trailheads, kiosks and signs.  Brian Head was one of 5 from a pool of 12 that won organizational support this year.  Selection criteria included the engagement of youth and support by ongoing government agency partnerships, such as ones that promote the health benefits of trail use.  Moab’s Lions Park was another winner.

The executive director of the Moab Trails Alliance said “We’re taking the most underutilized real estate in the county and making it a showcase getaway to the community.” She currently describes the site as looking like “nuclear fallout.”  Trails on the 155-acre plot will eventually connect with the Colorado Riverway Bridge, Arches National Park and along the Colorado River.

10.  Living History:  People have a way of turning bears into, well, animals—Pat Bagley, SLT 8/22/09

As a requiem to the killing of 7 black bears in Utah since July 1, Bagley recounts a brief history of human-bear relationships in Utah since 1848.  That year, he says a “varmint hunt” was organized on Christmas to get rid of “wasters and destroyers”.  The list included bears, wolves, wildcats, catamounts (cougars), pole cats, minks, panthers, eagles, hawks, owls, ravens and magpies.

1888 saw the Utah Territorial Legislature authorized a bounty for “obnoxious animals” such as bears.  The highest bounty year was 1915 at 200 bears.  Bagley says wolves and bears both were eventually extirpated from Utah, including the most famous and last of the Utah grizzlies, Old Ephraim.  Ephraim was killed by a shepherd in Logan Canyon in 1923, but many old bullet wounds suggested the bear’s tenacity.

Bagley says black bears were named a protected species by the Legislature in 1967.  Still, the fish and game department allowed kills without license to residents and non-residents alike up to 1970 save for during the 11-day deer hunting season.  That year, a $1 permit was initiated.  1999 saw the Department of Wildlife Resources develop a black bear management plan for the bear’s protection.  Around 300 permits are offered per year, and 2008’s take was 134 animals.

Current estimates of the bear population hover around 3,000.  The problem is not more bears, but the encouragement bears get from humans to lose their fear of people.  More important, their recognition that with people there’s food.  Campsite food lockers that are not secured and handouts encourage the shift from ranging animal to menace.

11.  McEntee:  Arguments about Snake Valley water turn to dust under local scrutiny—Peg McEntee, SLT 8/22/09

McEntee spends time with cattle rancher Cecil Garland of Callao in the Snake Valley.  After a well endowed lunch the two head off with Trib photographer Rick Egan to get Garland’s picture of current water conditions in the valley and predicted conditions if Las Vegas wins the right to build its pipeline.  Garland, 83, has been ranching in the valley since 1973.

Garland attended Thursday’s public hearing on the Utah-Nevada water deal in Las Vegas, hosted by the Southern Nevada Water Authority.  Speaking of the rush to finalize plans ahead of rising opposition, Garland said “I think they can see the fire coming over the hill on this thing.”  Garland calls the valley “one of the driest valleys in the driest area of the United States.  The springs are drying up or have dried up, the artesian wells have dried up or already have dried up, the water table is falling and the vegetation is already under stress and suffering.”

On the tour of his holdings, Garland pointed out an old swimming hole that has turned into a dried, reed-filled depression.  They looked over a field of greasewood, many dead, which McEntee identifies as a native species and “monitor for the land’s condition.”  Garland tells his life history.  He continues with a brief natural history of Lake Bonneville, with soil of “decayed vegetable matter and bird poop”, peat soil that is highly flammable and can burn continuously for months.

Garland points out the Deep Creek Range, with 12,000 foot peaks and melting snow he calls ‘new water’, as opposed to the old water dating to the Ice Age he says underlies the aquifer.  He adds the pressure the two make together is what makes the springs.  Speaking of the ecological system, he said “The only thing about it is you start tearing one piece of it apart, and it’s like raveling out a sweater, it just keeps coming apart”.  Garland doesn’t believe there is any chance that valley ecology, ranchers and residents will survive a Las Vegas water grab.

12.  ‘Earth Days’ movie opens to acclaim—Gerri Miller, Mother Nature Network 8/24/09

ESR editor’s note—The Mother Nature Network says on its “About” page that it is a “one stop resource and an everyman’s eco-guide offering original programs, articles, blogs, videos and how-to guides along with breaking news stories.”

Earth Days, Robert Stone’s Oscar-nominated documentary inspired by the first Earth Day in 1970, comes from a long-standing interest in the environment, Stone said in an interview with Mother Nature Network (MNN).  “I’m not an environmental activist who has made a film, I’m a filmmaker who has made a film about environmental activism,” Stone said.  His first environmental film was Pollution, made when he was 12.

Stone said he started thinking about Earth Days around the time An Inconvenient Truth was released, a time he characterized by renewed interest in the environment, increased focus on climate change, anticipation for the end of the Bush era and renewed governmental activism for these and other problems.  “It struck me that young people, who knew nothing about how we’d arrived at this point, seemed very confused about where to go from here.”

The root problem, Stone said, is not climate change.  Stone reflected on his own childhood, “when there was this huge interest in the environment and we were starting to address some of the root causes of our problems.  It seemed to be a history that was largely forgotten”.  Stone added that the impetus for his film was that to understand where we should go, we have to understand how we got here.

The personal stories of the people who actually “lived it and made it all happen” were important to Stone.  He says he wanted to “explain the psychology of this generation that went forth into the 1960’s with this strong desire to remake the world that they lived in.”  Rachel Carson and Silent Spring figured prominently.  “My mom read me that book when I was eight years old and it had a profound effect on me.  So did Earth Day and seeing images of Earth from space.”

Commenting on his process with archival footage, Stone said “When I make a film I see absolutely everything related to the subject.  I watch it all at high speed on videotape and when I see something I like I pick it out.  You have to go through so much crap to get those few little gems” for the basis of a good movie.  Responding to a question about how he was reaching a broad audience, Stone said “It’s very much a movie that I hope is visually engaging and stimulating and enjoyable but also has an important message to it that hopefully can help people put the stuff they’re hearing every day into a broader context.”

Stone says our most pressing environmental issues are not so different from “the ones we faced 30 years ago, before we turned our back on the environment.”  Production and use of energy as well as the problems associated with free market problem-solving for sustainable issues figured prominently in his reply.  “GM built an electric Corvair in 1967 that was in many ways better than the Chevy Volt,” Stone lamented.

In response to the question of whether or not he was hopeful about the environmental movement, Stone said “I have to be, because there’s no real alternative to being hopeful.  This is the only planet we have and this is the future for my kids and grandkids.”  Stone said a real epiphany for the environmental movement came when images of the Earth returned from space, when people recognized “we’re all in the same boat together and we all need to care for this planet and we can’t go on raping and pillaging it.  A real change took place.”  Stone called the environmental protection measures of the 1970’s a real bipartisan effort “until it got caught up in the culture wars and incited a backlash with the rise of the conservative movement and Ronald Reagan.”

“The public at large tuned out, thinking the EPA is taking care of it; they can write their checks to the Sierra Club every once in a while and go on with their lives,” Stone reflected.  He hopes environmental activists come away from the movie with the idea that “amazing change can happen when people set their mind to it and put pressure on their leaders…But we can encounter terrible setbacks if it’s not a grassroots, bottom-up movement.”

Commenting on his personal carbon footprint reduction strategy, Stone mentioned the basics:  efficient light bulbs, recycling, composting, buying local food.  He’s made efficiency modifications to the old house he owns in New York.  Speaking to the political nature of such choices, Stone said “a person who will take the time and trouble to buy a more efficient car, insulate their home, and make a few sacrifices is the kind of person who will vote for somebody who’s promoting a carbon tax or gas tax…what we really need are large systemic changes that are going to come about through the political process.”

13.  Conservation groups ask judge to block wolf hunts—AP, SLT 8/21/09

Earthjustice filed a request Thursday for 13 groups to block fall wolf hunts in Idaho and Montana.  An ongoing lawsuit by environmental groups wants federal Endangered Species Act protection returned for the protection of wolves in the Northern Rocky Mountain states.  Idaho Department of Fish and Game Commission OK’d 220 permits for the season beginning in September, while Montana has allowed for 75 permits.

14.  Corps of Engineers extends pipeline comment deadline—AP, SLT 8/21/09

The $3 billion pipeline, proposed by Colorado entrepreneur as a private enterprise, would haul water from the Green River’s Flaming Gorge in Wyoming to Colorado’s Front Range, perhaps as far south as Pueblo, Colo.  One reason for extending the comment period until September 28 was that over 40 requests have been made to US Army Corps of Engineers, the federal body responsible for the environmental study of the project which includes public comment, from agencies and organizations that want to serve as cooperating agencies in the study.

The town of Green River and Sweetwater County are two such organizations seeking cooperative agency status.  The Corps’ spokeswoman said the Corps hoped to consolidate some of these requests to a single point of contact.  The pipeline is expected to transport around 250,000 acre-feet of water per year, already designated as Colorado water shares under the Colorado River compacts.

Entrepreneur Aaron Million of Fort Collins, Colo. says he already has buyers such as municipalities and agricultural users for the water in Colorado and Wyoming.  The Corps has told Million he must release their names and locations within six months.  Strong opposition to the pipeline in Sweetwater County where Flaming Gorge lays hinges on fears the pipeline will adversely impact local businesses as well as fish and wildlife.

US Fish and Wildlife has said the analysis will have to consider impacts on several species.  And Wyoming’s governor opposes the pipeline.  Million, who claims the project is necessary to confront water shortages along the Front Range, has said if the environmental review suggests harm to the river or communities he would drop the project.

15.  Herbert:  Utah’s future is tied to energy development—Robert Gehrke, SLT 8/21/09

Newly appointed Governor Gary Herbert believes all Utah’s energy resources should be developed; coal, oil, renewables and nuclear power.  “I would hope that we could understand the benefits and the appropriate role and place for nuclear power, too, and I think the market would allow that to happen,” Herbert recently said.

Herbert believes Utahns would be more receptive to storing spent nuclear fuel from its own plants in Utah.  “If we produced our own energy, if it was an economic benefit to the people, if we had our own nuclear power plant,” Herbert expounded, “I don’t think people would be nearly as concerned if we were producing energy here and storing our own nuclear spent rods, as opposed to bringing them in from outside the state and storing them.”  Years and millions of dollars have been spent fighting the importation of nuclear waste from power plants to the Skull Valley storage facility.

Energy Secretary Steven Chu believes the US has thrown away 31 years without pursuing nuclear power, according to Herbert.  Still, Herbert believes the market will make the final determination of whether there will be nuclear power in Utah.  Former legislator and CEO of Transition Power Development Aaron Tilton, seeking to license reactors in Emery County, believes nuclear is a good market bet due to its long-term stable supply and lower likelihood of price fluctuations.

Herbert spoke Friday to the Utah Mining Association, saying “Utah is and will be at the forefront of what has been called the energy makeover of our country.”  Energy development was listed as one of Herbert’s top priorities in his inaugural speech, though plans have not been discussed.  Herbert sees work with Interior Secretary Ken Salazar to assure developers will have access to resources underneath federal lands.

Speaking against renewable, geothermal and hydro-electric as central energy providers, Herbert said “The math just doesn’t work,” adding that oil, gas and coal must remain in the picture.  Rep. Mike Noel, R-Kanab, expects Herbert to be more open to traditional energy development than former Gov. Jon Huntsman Jr.  Huntsman called for renewable energy development and carbon emissions caps.

“I think he’s more apt to listen to other voices than just the Al Gore lobby,” Noel replied.  He believes Herbert will remain vigilant for federal climate legislation that could hurt Utah’s dependency for power on coal.  Southern Utah Wilderness Alliance’s Stephen Bloch is hoping Herbert will take a “balanced approach to energy development.”

Bloch said he expects Herbert to explore renewable opportunities while supporting “conventional energy development where it’s appropriate,” pointing to the Uinta Basin, coal bed methane fields near Price and other existing development.  Bloch is hopeful that Herbert will avoid “flashpoints” like Nine Mile Canyon and Desolation Canyon deemed too sensitive for development.

16.  Feds award grants for irrigation pipelines in Utah, Colorado and Wyoming—AP, SLT 8/20/09

The grants will help irrigation companies in Daggett, Duchesne and Emery counties in Utah deliver water more efficiently and lower evaporation rates.  $11 million across the three states was awarded in part to reduce the 9 million tons of salt discharged into the Colorado River yearly.

17.  Comment period extended on Snake Valley aquifer deal—Patty Henetz, SLT 8/20/09

The comment period on the controversial Utah-Nevada water share deal for the Snake River Valley has been extended through September 30.  Utah Department of Resources Executive Director Mike Styler said most comments received to date have called for more time.  [Specifics of the deal can be found in editions of the Environmental and Sustainability Roundup over the past two weeks—ESR editor.]

The Southern Nevada Water Authority voted Thursday to continue to pursue a 285-mile pipeline from the aquifer and other nearby regions to boost Las Vegas’ water supply.  In addition, the authority hosted some 300 people in the final public hearing for the two state water share deal just a week after secret negotiations were finalized and made public.

Specific controversies include the fact that while the US Geological Survey estimated the aquifer’s available water at 132,000 acre-feet, accuracy was estimated at only 67%.  In addition, division of un-allocated water favors Las Vegas over Utah 7 to 1, though the Snake Valley lies mostly in Utah.  Utah legislators responded “warily” to the proposed agreement on Wednesday, concerned over the deal favoring Nevada and potential threats to water and air quality.  The upshot was that the deal shouldn’t be rushed.

18.  Great Salt Lake stands out—for mercury pollution—Judy Fahys, SLT 8/20/09

The US Geological Survey’s (USGS) extensive, recently completed report on mercury pollution in freshwater streams, lakes and wetlands across the nation did not include the Great Salt Lake (GSL)—a salt water body.  Still, a Utah-based geochemist with the USGS said it offered a “good guideline to compare ourselves to.”  Geochemist David Naftz called GSL “anomalous”, extremely high compared to data in the recent study, which showed every fish in the 291 specimen sample contaminated with mercury.

The comprehensive national data underlines high mercury contamination identified in GSL for a number of years.  Saltiness, low oxygen, sulfur and dissolved organic carbons contribute to the chemical reaction in bodies of water that converts mercury to methyl mercury, which travels up the food chain.  GSL on average showed twice the mercury levels found in over 90% of waterways surveyed nationwide.  Open waters showed up to 38 times more of the toxin than 97% of waters surveyed, and a recent wetlands sample near GSL showed over 6 times the amount found in 97% of the samples.

With 9-12 million migratory birds per year stopping by or calling GSL-area wetlands home, up-chain travel of the toxin is of especial concern.  Methyl mercury is known to cause neurological damage in humans ranging from speech impediments to IQ and other behavioral impacts.  After Naftz team identified levels of the toxin warranting high concern, Utah Division of Wildlife Services, US Fish and Wildlife Service, Utah State University, University of Utah and the US Environmental Protection Agency joined to study mercury in the lake.

Following advisories that have been established for consumption of freshwater fish in lakes and rivers statewide, mercury advisories for the Common Goldeneye, Cinnamon Teal and Northern Shoveler bird species have been issued, warning against consumption, especially for women and children.  The Great Salt Lake has no fish.

Nafitz seeks to contextualize the data in a hemispheric perspective.  Recent data corresponds to plant and animal life on the lake.  Initial findings should be made public in a few months.  The assessment could answer questions such as whether mercury is entering Utah from Nevada’s gold mines and whether Common Goldeneye ducks have been especially receptive to methyl mercury uptake.


19.  Current population growth not sustainable—A. Robert Thurman, retired Utah Public Service Commission judge, natural resources attorney and former Trib staffer, SLT 8/21/09

20.  Country needs uranium mines for power, jobs—Alan D. Gardner, James J. Eardley, Dennis Drake, Washington County Commissioners, SLT 8/22/09

21.  Urban Farming—Tribune Editorial, SLT 8/23/09

Roundup Friday August 21, 2009

1.  How to kill a coal plant—Mark Engler, 8/18/2009

ESR Editor’s note: in its Salon Fact Sheet claims the “award-winning online news and entertainment Web site combines original investigative stories, breaking news, provocative personal essays and highly respected criticism along with popular staff-written blogs about politics, technology and culture.”

On Oct. 8, 2007, a handful of Greenpeace activists from Britain entered a smokestack in a coal-fired power plant in Kent, England as others cut electricity on the plant’s grounds.  The ambition of the activists in their 30’s and 40’s was to rappel down the outside and paint a message to Prime Minister Gordon to end operation of such plants, which spew close to 20,000 tons of carbon dioxide into the atmosphere daily.

Scaling the 600 foot smokestack took 9 hours instead of 3.  “It was the most physically exhausting thing I have ever done,” one participant said, “the hottest, dirtiest place you could imagine.”  Only one word was painted—Gordon—before the troupe was arrested.  The effort, however, has transformed the debate over fossil-fuel power plants in Britain and sent shock waves across the entire global movement determined to use direct action to combat climate change.

As the Kingsnorth Six went to court, they executed what is termed in the US a “necessity” defense.  The valid, legal defense applies in situations where one violates a law to prevent a greater harm from occurring, such as breaking down a door to enter a burning building.  Renowned climate scientist James Hansen, director of NASA’s Goddard Institute for Space Studies, testified.

The Guardian reported that he presented evidence showing that the Kingsnorth plant could cause sufficient global warming in its lifetime to prompt “extinction of 400 species over its lifetime.”  A British government study cited by the defense showed each ton of CO2 yields $85 in future climate-change costs.  The defendants argued that shutting the plant down for one day prevented $1.6 million in damages, a far greater necessity than the violation of law required to prevent the emissions.

A jury of 12 agreed.  The acquittal made front page news and produced political results.  Britain’s energy and climate change minister announced a new policy in April, announcing “The era of new unabated coal has come to an end.”  A longtime environmental activist from Germany said “it was probably one of the most impactful civil disobedience cases the world has ever seen, because it was the right action at the right time.”

Following quick on Kingsnorth’s heels, the Dominion 11 were arrested in Nov. 2008 for forming a human blockade to halt construction of a coal plant in Wise County, Va.  The Drax 29 went to trial this summer for boarding and stopping a coal train en route to North Yorkshire, England in 2008.  The Coal Swarm Web site tracks these incidents.  Their number is expanding weekly.

Al Gore, Nobel Prize winner who authored An Inconvenient Truth, remarked in August 2007 to a New York Times reporter, “I can’t understand why there aren’t rings of young people blocking bulldozers and preventing them from constructing coal-fired power plants.”  As youth across the world are moving in that direction, there is yet a disconnect between widespread acknowledgement of the gravity of climate change and a willingness to respond in kind.

The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change’s 2007 report suggests a 2 degree Celsius increase in average global temps will, by 2050, create severe water shortages for up to 2 billion people and risk extinction for 20-30% of all plant and animal species.  A Guardian poll from April 2009 showed “Almost 9 out of 10 climate scientists do not believe political efforts to restrict global warming to 2C will succeed.”  They anticipate a 4-5C rise by end of century.  Desertification, depleted food supplies and coastal flooding would displace hundreds of millions.

Direct action is attempting to confront the success of the oil and coal lobbies in suppressing the urgency of this issue, not to mention the remoteness and seeming improbability that much of the American public seems to face, far from a real scientific debate.  Abigail Singer of the grassroots network Rising Tide said of Gore’s civil disobedience endorsement, “It’d be more powerful if he put his body where his mouth is.”

68 year old James Hansen spent the 1980’s and 1990’s publishing groundbreaking papers on the reality of global warming.  Hansen assumed the knowledge would lead to action as it had with the hole in the ozone layer in 1987.  As Hansen has faced the wall of climate change denial and political monopoly of industry interest groups, he has begun risking arrest at demonstrations.

Meanwhile others are opting for greater civility and invest a perhaps overconfident belief that the worst can’t happen.  Harvard Oceanographer James McCarthy said of the IPCC 2007 report, “The worst stuff is not going to happen, because we can’t be that stupid.”  Since the civil rights movement in the American South, it seems plain that an unruly civil rights movement is necessary for necessary change.  Political power wielded by the powerful industry lobbies may be far stronger at resisting change than run of the mill ignorance and stupidity.

Hansen and others have concluded that if there is not “a public counterbalance to the organized money of those who profit from the status quo, what science has to say will be largely irrelevant, no matter how theoretically convincing it may be.”  Hansen was first arrested in West Virginia, the heart of coal country.  Coal is the largest source of greenhouse gas emissions in the US and worldwide, and the Earth holds enough coal to heat the planet to catastrophic levels.  “As long as US and European power plants continue spewing coal smoke, their governments will have absolutely no credibility in trying to influence the policies of rising economies such as China and India.”

With mountaintop removal coal mining, the impact has connected with environmental atrocity.  West Virginia has been labeled by one blogsite as “Climate Ground Zero”.  Not only are large amounts of landscape impacted, drinking water is contaminated, and lakes of toxic coal waste give way as with the billions of gallons of sludge that flooded lands near Harriman, Tenn. last December.  These impacts are much less abstract than an odorless, invisible gas that is warming the atmosphere, or complex climate change science.  A staffer from Coal River Mountain Watch of West Virginia said; “You stand at the edge of one of these mountaintop removal sites and you’ll never feel the same way again.”

Massey Energy has been one of a series of focal points for demonstrations in West Virginia.  Direct action such as chaining one’s self to a rock truck, obstructing coal roads, and occupying crane-line machines are seen alongside of community organizing, research for environmental impact statements, and garnishing political sponsors for a congressional ban on filling valleys with mining waste.  The staffer added “at this point there is not the political will to deal with the crisis.  I see it as my role as an activist to create that political will.”

A spokesperson for E.On Corporation, the Kingsnorth plant operator, said after the jury reached a verdict they were “worried that this ruling will encourage other protestors to engage in similar actions at power plants across the country.”  Diverse local protests occurring internationally are having an impact.  Over half of the 214 proposed coal plants in the US since 2000 have been canceled, abandoned or put on hold.  Coal Moratorium Now, a website tracking public campaigns, found citizen dissent instrumental in many of those cancellations.  Companies are seeing the PR nightmare such resistance is creating.

Bill McKibben of with Hansen and others formed a human chain in March to block entrance to Washington D.C.’s Capitol Power Plant, built in 1910.  Arrests were avoided due to the number of participants and the potential high-profile scene arrests could create.  House Speaker Nancy Pelosi and Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid responded with a letter to the Acting Architect of the Capitol calling for the plant to convert to gas.

An international day of action could soon follow as the UN climate conference in Copenhagen in December approaches.  The conference to replace the Kyoto protocol will occur nearly 10 years since the 1999 Seattle protests that disrupted World Trade Organization meetings and changed global debates thereafter.  Previously, global justice advocates working at local levels such as student anti-sweatshop drives, environmental boot camps. organic food gatherings, corporate ad spoofs, indigenous rights battles, and cross-border labor campaigns already showed a groundswell of international support.

Some say up to 100,000 people could show up to protest in Copenhagen.  Activists are deciding whether to create a strong presence near the conference or at a heavily polluting company nearby that exemplifies bad climate-change behavior.  Synchronized events in the US also are in planning stages, where activists are debating whether to work with the Obama administration or criticize its limited policies. managed by the satiric Yes Men and others in a coalition, is serving as a pledge site for nonviolent civil disobedience as the Copenhagen conference approaches.  So far, 3,210 have pledged, small compared to the number of people necessary for meaningful change.  Still, it suggests expanding dedication and personal sacrifice for the sake of the planet and our species.  Those people are saying they are willing to take the chance that a determined action, even if botched, could have a significant impact.  “It’s more than 3,000 people who may just be willing to climb for hours through a huge radiator in order to stop the planet from becoming one in all too short a time,” wrote Mark Engler.

2.  Another delay likely in trial of oil-bid ‘monkey wrencher’—AP, SLT 8/20/09

Lawyers for Tim DeChristopher said both sides need time for arguments and a decision from a hearing yet to be scheduled, and are calling for the Sept. 14 date to be moved back.  DeChristopher’s defense team with DeChristopher will be arguing the ‘lesser-of-two-evils’ defense, based on DeChristopher’s admission that he sought to protect wild lands in Utah from drilling and draw attention to climate change tied to oil consumption.  Prosecutors are trying to block the argument that he had a higher purpose in mind when bidding on oil leases without intending to pay for them.

3.  Thousands blast Whole Foods CEO over health care column—Cox Newspapers, SLT 8/19/09

Whole Foods Market Inc. CEO John Mackey recently published an op-ed column in the Wall Street Journal denouncing President Obama’s health-care proposal and calling for less regulation of the insurance industry.  Thousands have vowed online to boycott the company in a mounting backlash.  Mackey is a known opponent of unions, and criticized the Federal Trade Commission from his blog on the Whole Foods site two years ago.  11,000 posts had logged in to the company’s online forum on the topic as of late Tuesday.  A Facebook group calling for a boycott had over 13,000 members as of Tuesday.  One supporter of Mackey posted on the Whole Foods website, “I would rather heed the sage advice of a proven leader who has decades of experience in the employment of thousands of individuals over nebulous and untested ideas of reform.”

4.  New government study shows mercury in fish widespread—Dina Cappiello, AP, SLT 8/19/09

A new federal study of mercury contamination that assayed fish from almost 300 streams nationwide found mercury in every fish sampled, attesting to the widespread presence of the pollutant.  Only ¼ had mercury levels exceeding safe standards for human consumption according to the Environmental Protection Agency.

The US Geological Survey study, conducted from 1998 to 2005, is the most comprehensive to date.  Over 1,000 fish were collected for the study.  Interior Secretary Salazar said “This science sends a clear message that our country must continue to confront pollution, restore our nation’s waterways, and protect the public from potential health dangers.”

Mercury has been associated with nervous system damage and learning disabilities in humans.  Women and children are especially vulnerable.  The main source of mercury for most of the streams tested was coal-fired power plant emissions.  Smokestacks release mercury into the atmosphere where it blows on the winds and rains down into waterways where it is naturally converted to methylmercury, the substance that travels up the food chain.

Highest levels showed up in blackwater streams along Carolina, Georgia, Florida and Louisiana coastlines.  Bacteria in nearby forests and wetlands facilitate mercury conversion.  Largemouth bass in the North Fork of the Edisto River around Fairview Crossroads, S.C. had the second highest concentration of mercury.  Researchers have found mercury contamination in fish from remote Alaskan waters and even from the deep ocean.

Western streams draining areas mined for mercury and gold also showed heavy mercury levels in fish.  The highest level showed up in a smallmouth bass from the Carson River at Dayton, Nev., where heavy gold mining activity has occurred.  Scientists say acidic conditions from mining could also facilitate higher mercury levels.

Alaska and Wyoming are the only two states without mercury-based fish-consumption advisories.  The Obama administration plans to craft new mercury emissions regulations from power plants in the wake of a federal appeals court ruling that dismissed Bush-era plans favored by industry.  Under that plan, plants could buy and sell pollution credits rather than reduce their own pollution.  Cement plants have also been targeted for tighter regulation.

View the study:

5.  Utah lawmakers not sold on Snake Valley water deal—Patty Henetz, SLT 8/19/09

Rep. Brad Winn, R-Ephraim said “I don’t believe a bad agreement is better than no agreement.”  Sitting on the Natural Resources, Agriculture, and Environment Interim Committee, he and others got their first overview of the deal crafted behind closed doors by directors from Utah’s and Nevada’s natural resources divisions.

Executive Director of Utah Department of Natural Resources Mike Styler argued the deal is Utah’s best chance of protecting its water supplies as Las Vegas bears down on northeastern Nevada to quench its thirst.  Winn lamented the lack of involvement the 4-year deal has had with lawmakers and constituents.

Picking apart the agreement, he favored the delay of approval for the pipeline to 2019, when Las Vegas would convert 50,000 acre-feet of water from paper water shares.  He argued against the 7 to 1 division of unallocated water in favor of Nevada.

Sen. Margaret Dayton, R-Provo, preferred waiting until scientific studies are complete on water and air quality impacts.  “My hope is there isn’t a rush to sign this,” she added.  No action was taken at the committee hearing, thought the co-chair asked that the committee be kept informed.

6.  Feds haul off more seized artifacts—Patty Henetz, SLT 8/19/09

Vern and Marie Crites, a Colorado couple indicted with 23 others for illegal trafficking of ancient Puebloan artifacts, have turned over their collection to federal authorities.  The collection includes prayer sticks, fire sticks, a bone scraper and “cloud blowers”, Hopi ceremonial pipes.  The couple are alleged to have openly and willfully excavated, bought and sold artifacts in the Four Corners area.  Their home in Durango harbored a large number of items that required several vans for confiscation.

Indicted on 7 felony counts, the Criteses could pay up to $250,000 per count with up to 10 years in prison for each.  Crites, who claimed to have been in business for 50 years, offered the FBI-BLM informant an Abajo pottery collection he estimated at $50,000, as well as the opportunity to sell his entire collection.  He also claimed to have made half-million-dollar sales to two other collectors, one of which has since committed suicide.

Crites admitted to the informant—the Source—that federal agents had missed a safe when raiding his home in 1985, confiscating artifacts and business records.  The safe held an eagle that he and his son had tacked by the claws to a board to dry.  Crites also wanted to take the Source to as-yet unexcavated sites in San Juan County on BLM lands.

Court papers state Crites took the Source to graves on Sept. 14, which they excavated from an ancient Puebloan burial mound.  A human skull was excavated in the process, which was picked up and returned to the hole by one of the others implicated directly with Crites.  They filled the hole with excavated dirt but came up short.  Crites allegedly said at the time, “wished that fella had still been intact, the skeleton, I mean.”  In a conversation recorded earlier that day, one of those indicted, when planning where to park the truck, said it was better to be paranoid when doing something illegal.

7.  McEntee:  For tribes, land deal is personal—Peg McEntee, SLT 8/19/09

Northern Shoshone elder Helen Timbimboo was pleased with Governor Herbert’s orchestration of diverse stakeholders into an agreement that will preserve 252 acres in a conservation easement near the Jordan River in Draper.  The site was found in 2007 to host pit houses, stone tools and knives, spear points and arrowheads, awls and needles of animal bone, small bone beads, cooking and gardening stones and other artifacts suggesting the 3,000 year old Indian village had been inhabited a long time.  Evidence of corn farming has suggested the site is the earliest known in the Great Basin, with an 11,000 year archaeological record.

“From Salt Lake to the Brigham City area, Shoshone people are buried along the Wasatch Front.  It’s just something that will always be there,” 81-year-old Timbimboo said.  Ed Naranjo of the Confederated Tribes of the Goshute Reservation added, “We’ve inhabited this area for thousands of years.  Those are our ancestors who had those homes.  There’s a lot of history there, not only for we Indians, but for all Utahns.  This is something you preserve.  You don’t destroy it.”

Naranjo talked about his people roaming throughout the centuries with Utes, Paiutes and Shoshone.  Some of the stories he recollected were of Crow, Blackfeet, Navajo, Zuni and Pueblo people coming to the Salt Lake Valley for salt for their tribes.  “It was an open, sharing area.”

The site will be called Galena-Soonkahni, Shoshone for “many dwellings”.

8.  Lawmakers tip scale on climate change debate—Judy Fahys, SLT 8/19/09

Utah lawmakers heard from a metals scientist, a lawyer, a politician, businessmen and others who are relatively uniform in their warning that Utah will pay a heavy price in lost jobs and high energy costs should Washington’s climate change bill become law.  No climate scientist testified, but testimony did center on the dubious nature of the science behind the policy.

Rep. Mike Noel, climate change skeptic and co-chair of the Interim Public Utilities and Technology Committee declared the committee had heard from plenty of scientists.  “We’ve had some that had fairly good credentials”, Noel said, though he recalled none by name and assured none had been able to “refute the data I’ve seen.”  Noel claimed the forum was bringing “a little bit more reason and rationality to the process” than the media.

The executive director of Utah Clean Energy pointed out that understanding the science was crucial to indirect decisions that were showing up on lawmakers’ dockets more and more.  An environmental lawyer who testified to another interim committee Wednesday said lawmakers need to seek out input even from experts they disagree with.  He likened the situation to getting a second opinion, or a hundred opinions, for a fatal prognosis.  “[T]he reality is that the state of Utah is going to face a carbon dioxide limit in the not-so-distant-future,” the lawyer added.

Rob Gillies of the Utah Climate Center at Utah State University has been called to present data for legal, academic and policy-making forums, but has not been called to speak to the Legislature.  “We’re learning an awful lot very quickly,” Gillies says of the data that feeds agriculture, water managers and others depending on climate information.  Of note is the indication increasingly that Utah will warm and is likely to suffer deep droughts even if more water accompanies that forecast.  Jim Steenburgh, professor and chair of atmospheric sciences at the University of Utah, who with his team provided former Gov. Huntsman’s Blue Ribbon Advisory Commission on climate change with the 2007 science report, also has not been invited to speak.

Rep. Noel on the other hand introduced Tom Tripp, a US Magnesium metallurgist who spoke at this year’s Utah Farm Bureau conference on the fallacies of climate change, as a Nobel Prize winner and recipient of the Peace Prize awarded to Al Gore and the IPCC last year for its work on climate change science.  Though Tripp openly acknowledged his lack of training in climate model expertise, he argued that scientific evidence doesn’t support the notion of man-made climate change.  Tripp estimated greenhouse gas emissions from metals-melting processes worldwide for climate modelers.  Tripp says global cooling is under way.

Utah State University physicist and climate scientist Robert Davies said it’s misleading to consider Tripp a climate change authority.

9.  Culture Vulture:  ‘Flash mob’ rule:  Web makes politics easy—Sean P. Means, SLT 8/18/09

Last Thursday’s “flash mob” event—“an environmental protest organized via e-mail, text message and social networking sites—at the Gallivan Center followed similar events of the past.  Anonymous faces blend in a crowd, until at a certain time they act in concert, utilizing a YouTube video to record and broadcast the event well after the event is done and the faces have disappeared back into the crowd.  Events such as a 2006 “silent disco” in London Underground stations, a multi-city “Worldwide Pillow Fight Day” in 2008, and a 200-participant dance to Rodgers and Hammerstein’s “Do Re Mi” at a train station in Antwerp, Belgium this year serve as earlier examples.

Thursday’s Gallivan flash mob drew together around 100 people who played dead around the balanced rock in the middle of the plaza while a large banner unfurled warning “Climate change kills” from a nearby parking garage.  Peaceful Uprising organizers utilizing Thursday’s Twilight Concert Series venue said they were looking to raise awareness of the dangers of global climate change, especially with young people.  Almost 300 confirmed on Facebook they would participate in the event, with 400 attesting they might.  200 signed up for the text messages that triggered the start of the event.

Elsewhere, as in Iran during election protests, easy web-based emblems utilized on features such as Twitter suggested solidarity at times with true depth, at times superficial, a fad.  Faddish users of solidarity symbols, much like Facebook surfers who can check in as coming on the “Flash Mob” site, are likely to move on to the next fad when the impulse strikes.  “Getting politically active online is fine as far as it goes, but it should be matched by action in the real world.  Raising awareness, whether on a Facebook page or a flash mob, should be the first step, not the last,” Means argues.

10.  What to plant with the first frost in mind—Maggie Wolf, SLT 8/18/09

Most areas in the Salt Lake Valley region hit their first frost dates about mid-October, with seven weeks of frost-free weather left.  Tender vegetables will have to be protected by then, but cold-hardy vegetables can be planted now for post-frost harvests.

Hardy vegetables like turnips, cabbage, kale, mustard greens, broccoli, kohlrabi, green onions and radishes survive and produce even if temps dip to 21 degrees.  Semi-hardy vegetables like beets, cauliflower, spinach and Chinese cabbage can withstand night temps of 32 degrees after a frost.  Transplants are quickest and easiest, though new plants may not be available at garden centers tapering off of spring and summer products.  Independent garden centers, nurseries and farmers’ markets may be a better bet.

“Early” varieties are ones that will reach harvest maturity quicker.  Cooler temps and shorter days will slow plant growth.  50 days or less to harvest are favored unless cold frames or other season extending devises will be used.  Utilize existing prepared beds, and keep in mind some fall crops are suitable as ornamentals in beds and pots, such as kale, Swiss chard and lettuce.  If utilizing seed, protect the beds from hot summer sun with temporary shades.  Fine mulch applied after seedlings emerge will keep the soil moist and cooler.

11.  SLC company plans to store natural gas in salt caverns—Steven Oberbeck, SLT 8/18/09

Magnum Gas Storage would use eight salt caverns north of Delta to store as much as 45 billion cubic feet of natural gas.  The company has called the project one of the West’s first large-scale salt-cavern natural gas storage facilities.  The project is considered a boon to future alternative energy development in the area.  Underground storage is common, utilized in the summer when demand is low and drawn from in winter as demand increases.  The company is seeking federal permits for the project on 2,000 acres it controls, and expects to have them by next spring.  The facility would go online in 2012.

Salt deposits under the property are almost a mile thick.  Water will be pumped underground to dissolve salt and form the caverns, and the brine will be recovered and offered for sale.  Each cavern will take 18 months to two years to develop.  26 companies have expressed interest in use of the storage site, including Questar Gas, though a spokesperson for Questar said the project was still in its infancy.  Questar utilizes the Clay Basin facility near the Utah-Wyoming border, a depleted natural gas field that can hold as much as 57 billion cubic feet.

If Magnum and its partners follow through, the site—already a pipeline nexus—would be developed as a “Western Energy Hub”.  As such, it could use renewable energy resources in the area to compress air for storage into one of the domes not used for natural gas.  The compressed air would then drive power-generating turbines as necessary.  Salt storage caverns, rare in the West, are common along the Gulf Coast of Louisiana and Texas.

12.  Target:  New coal seam—Paul Foy, AP, SLT 8/18/09

UtahAmerican Energy Inc., a subsidiary of Murray Energy Corp. of Ohio, has worked over the past year to tunnel into a section of the Book Cliffs to position itself under a potentially profitable coal seam.  The 500 feet of tunnels will eventually be excavated to 1,200 feet to access the coal.  The mining outfit has taken the more expensive route to avoid entering the seam through Lila Canyon, “a wild fold in the Book Cliffs that hides big game habitat and ancient rock art panels,” Foy said.

The site is 5 miles east of State Route 191 in eastern central Utah.  Three tunnels have been excavated, one for vehicles and equipment, one for a coal conveyor belt, and one for ventilation.  After entering the cliff face, they angle up 12 degrees.  The Federal Register notes that the Bureau of Land Management is estimating the value of the proposed 42.2 million tons of coal the mining operation will buy at the Dry Canyon site.  Regulations provide for a sealed bid based on what the company believes the seam is worth.  If the company wins the bid, they will be obligated to pay 1/5 of the bid for mining rights.

The company will be obligated to pay a rental fee of $3 per acre and an 8% royalty on coal produced.  The royalties will be split between the federal government and Utah.  Dry Canyon’s coal tract is around 6 ¾ square miles or 4,324 acres.  A Murray Energy affiliate operated Utah’s Crandall Canyon mine when a collapse in 2007 killed 9 miners.  Murray Energy is seeking to expand coal operations at Aberdeen, seven miles north of Price, as well.

13.  Idaho F&G commissioners approve hunt of 220 wolves—John Miller, AP, SLT 8/18/09

The Idaho Department of Fish and Game Commission vote will allow hunting of 220 of an estimated 880 wolves in Idaho, starting in September.  Environmental groups are threatening a lawsuit.  70,000 hunters are considered likely to purchase one of the tags, though commissioners did not expect that number would exhaust the quota.  An earlier plan called for 430 permits to be issued.  Montana acted similarly last month, offering 75 permits beginning in mid-September.

Officials estimated Idaho wolf populations would grow to 1,020 without a hunt this year alone.  And the commission is not concerned that even a quarter of the population will threaten the species in the state.  Wolves have been roving into areas like the resort region of Sun Valley as more inhabit Idaho.

One commissioner said, “It’s time for some environmental groups to abide by their previous promises.  It’s time for our judicial system to put science before partisan ideology.  Neither our sportsmen, our ranchers or our elk herds can wait any longer.  It’s time.”  While the commissioners intend to limit the wolf population to 518, the threat of lawsuit coupled with the likelihood that even 220 wolves could be bagged this year alone prevented a higher number of permits.

Thirteen environmental groups have filed lawsuits after the federal government decided in May to remove wolves from the Endangered Species List in Idaho and Montana, and warn hunts could damage restoration efforts.  Lawyers for the groups could seek an injunction in US District Court in Missoula, similar to one issued in July 2008 that prevented similar hunts.

A spokeswoman for Earthjustice, who is representing the environmental groups, said “[h]unting of an imperiled species at any level is inappropriate.  the science tells us this wolf population will remain imperiled and even become moreso under state management.”  The 2008 ruling held that interbreeding between wolf packs in the region was not adequate.

14.  S.L. County plows forward with urban-farming plan—Jeremiah Stettler, SLT 8/18/09

The plan, supported unanimously by the County Council, will offer farmers the opportunity to lease county property that has not yet been developed for agriculture or biofuel.  Other opportunities would shift “underutilized” parks to public gardens for home-grown food.  According to the program’s sponsor, the program will not cost the county anything.  Plans are expected to be submitted to the council by mid-October.  See related story Salt Lake County hopes to sprout more community gardens 8/17/09 below.

15.  Magistrate wants progress in artifacts cases—Nate Carlisle, SLT 8/18/09

Defense lawyers representing 20 defendants in the cases argued Tuesday they had not had the chance to review the thousands of pages of reports and voluminous hours of video and audio made by the fed’s informant.  The federal magistrate scheduled a conference with the attorneys for Nov. 23 to assess preparedness and possibly set trial dates.  The majority of the defendants are from Blanding and Monticello in a case that accuses them of removing American Indian artifacts from public land and offering them for sale or trade to an FBI—Bureau of Land Management informant.  Two have pled guilty in the case and two committed suicide.

16.  Feds:  29 species may need protection—AP, SLT 8/18/09

The species, from a near-extinct beach-dwelling plant in Yellowstone National Park to a caddis fly in Nebraska could be recommended across 20 or more states, US Fish and Wildlife Service said recently.  Utah is home to 14 of the near-extinct species, including 10 plant species and the Northern leatherside chub, a minnow-like fish.  Six snails and two insects also make up the threatened species being considered for Endangered Species Act protection.

WildEarth Guardians, an environmental group, petitioned protections for over 200 species in 2007, mostly across the West.  US Fish and Wildlife denied protection for 165 species in February, and delayed their decision for 38 species.  Each species will get a thorough review, identifying range, distribution and threats.

The species may be protected as an endangered species—“in danger of extinction throughout all or a significant portion of its range”—or as a threatened species:  “one that is likely to become endangered soon.”  Several of the species under consideration could be threatened by climate change.  Other threats include habitat loss, road construction, mining, livestock, energy development, off-road vehicles, and water diversions.

17.  Pipeline foes worry their objections falling on deaf ears—Patty Henetz, SLT 8/18/09

Neither director of Utah’s or Nevada’s natural resources departments have offered articulate answers to how they will respond to comments from residents and others concerned about the proposed split of the Snake Valley aquifer.  Nevada Department of Conservation and Natural Resources Director Allen Biaggi told the attendees at Tuesday’s Salt Lake City meeting simply that they would “respond” to comments.

Of the 75 or so attendees, Great Basin Water Network’s Steve Erickson said “You should have been recording this.”  Utah Department of Natural Resources Executive Director Mike Styler replied, “We’ve taken some notes.  Just because we aren’t recording doesn’t mean we aren’t listening.”  Tuesday’s marked the third of four public hearings on the directors’ ‘behind closed doors’ water deal, which has generally been met with protest and objection.  Monday’s Delta hearing saw 100 farmers and ranchers up in arms over what they alleged as a Las Vegas water giveaway.

Chair of the Confederate Tribes of Goshute Reservations said the tribes should have been included in preliminary talks or at least engaged before release of a draft accord.  “You guys make it look like we’re already extinct.  There is serious drought in the west desert.”  Valley area water users are convinced the aquifer will not support additional patrons, especially one as thirsty as Las Vegas.  The directors have stressed repeatedly that the deal protects existing water users first.

The Nevada state engineer would make the final agreement allocating 50,000 acre-feet of Nevada water from the Snake Valley and elsewhere in the northeastern part of the state to Las Vegas, and the agreement on the table would restrain that decision to 2019.  The states are abiding by a 2004 federal law that rules they must agree on how to split the aquifer.  A breakdown of the proposed split can be found in Snake Valley ranchers riled at sellout deal SLT 8/17/09 (see story below).

The USGS has given its estimates the aquifer only a 67% chance of accuracy.  The states have agreed on a 24,000 acre-foot reserve to manage any discrepancies.  That reserve would only be available provided that state engineers confirm drawdown won’t “unreasonably” affect already allocated supplies.

18.  Environmental Quality nominee still awaits Senate OK—Judy Fahys, SLT 8/18/09

The confirmation hearing for Utah Department of Environmental Quality director nominee Amanda Smith will not be scheduled until September, due to scheduling difficulties with the hearing panel.  The department has been without a director for 9 months.  Smith was nominated by then-Governor Huntsman in May just before his own nomination as US ambassador to China.  Delays have alternately been due to one member on a trip overseas and vacations.  The Republican chair of the panel said they also wanted to give Gov. Herbert time to settle into office.

Smith held a position at The Nature Conservancy before becoming Huntsman’s legislative director.  She has become known for her collaborative style, and lawmakers who will decide whether to confirm her have suggested support.  State Sen. Steve Urquhart, R-St. George said she was “an excellent public servant…very skilled.”  Sen. Dennis Stowell, R-Parowan, chairman of the panel that will review her nomination and a veteran of past work with Smith, said “I really like Amanda Smith.  She’s pretty reasonable.”  Deputy DEQ Director Bill Sinclair oversaw the agency after director Rick Sprott retired in December.  Smith has been serving as acting director pending confirmation.

19.  Dogs, cyclists to co-exist along planned Parley’s Trail—Derek P. Jensen, SLT 8/18/09

Salt Lake City Council elected this week not to build a 900-foot fence down the middle of yet to be built Parley’s Trail to separate dogs and owners from cyclists.  The trail will cross the northern portion of Parley’s Historic Nature Park.  One councilman noted that the two park use groups co-existed well in City Creek Canyon.  The trail may be expanded to 12-14 feet wide, and a soft shoulder could be added, to afford more room to a variety of users.  Salt Lake County will pay for the project and construct and maintain the trail.

Concerns from some dog owners were not allayed.  “Be warned that you will be getting complaints,” a director of Millcreek’s Friends Interested in Dogs and Open Spaces commented.  Other concerns hinged on whether dogs could be restrained from the park’s wetlands area and whether the area will remain a popular “dog park”.  Public services executives and county engineers were opposed to the fence from the beginning.  The trail is intended to bridge the park with lands east and west of Sugar House Park as well as connecting the Bonneville Shoreline Trail with the Jordan River Parkway.

20.  SLC chases $35 million in stimulus funds for Sugar House streetcar—Derek P. Jensen, SLT 8/18/09

With $2.5 million pledged by Salt Lake City, the city hopes to secure $35 million in federal stimulus funds to accelerate the completion of the Sugar House streetcar line to as early as 2012.  Total project costs anticipate $46 million.  The director of the city’s redevelopment agency warned the chances of winning the grant were “fairly low”, though to its benefit the streetcar is competitive with the least expensive transit projects that have applied, and Salt Lake City’s planning is well ahead of the pack.

The award will be announced in January.  The streetcar line would run from the Central Pointe Trax station near 2100 South at 250 West to 1100 East in Sugar House’s business district.  Seven stations would be spaced about every two blocks along the 2-mile line, and service would run every 30 minutes with more frequent service at peak service times.

Other options for funding would be through the standard federal earmark process, though the city would not likely fare as well.  South Salt Lake will match Salt Lake City’s $2.5 million for the project.  Salt Lake City plans on paying its share with redevelopment funds, special assessment areas, or area sales taxes.

21.  Herbert hands tribes a big win—Rosemary Winters, SLT 8/18/09

Utah’s new Gov. Herbert signed the deal Tuesday that will protect 252 acres from Utah Transit Authority’s (UTA) Frontrunner development in Draper.  The station and accompanying mixed-use development will be moved to a site further north, protecting ruins of a 3,000 year old Indian village and artifacts identifying the site as the Great Basin’s oldest known site for corn farming.

The Galena property, poised on a bluff east of the Jordan River and home to migratory birds, is considered “sacred ground,” according to the chair of Utah Tribal Leaders and the Confederated Tribes of the Goshute Reservation.  “It’s a place where our ancestors had ceremonies.  They mourned their dead.  They laughed and ran around and taught their children.”

In keeping with UTA’s hope to finish the Frontrunner line to Provo before 2015, the agency will work toward attaining 10 acres of a 150 acre parcel near 12800 South for the station.  The rest of the site would likely be developed into “housing, eateries, shops and offices”—mixed use—which would help make the station successful.

While the Legislature opted to preserve the 252 acres as open space in 2000, the Department of Natural Resources (DNR) never signed an agreement, and the Legislature reversed their decision late last year to favor UTA’s preference.  The reversal was afforded in part by a request that then-House Speaker Greg Curtis made to the DNR’s director to delay signing an agreement.  Curtis as an attorney was representing a purchaser for the land at the time that later backed out.

As time came to finalize decisions on the parcel, Utah tribal leaders balked at the move that would have destroyed the archaeologically significant site, and urged the governor to oppose it.  A Paiute chairwoman said, “This [land] is our history and also our culture.  Without our history, I really don’t think we have a future.  We need to know where we came from and who we are.”

The mayor of Draper acknowledged that the site was preferred for its location to surrounding development, proximity to Draper residents, access to the Bangerter Highway as well as a future freeway interchange.  Utah Open Lands’ executive director, pointing out the parcel made one of the largest protected open spaces along the Jordan River, said, “There’s an incredible sense of solace when you’re down there.  The sacredness of this site, the conservation value of this land is now protected—and that’s an amazing thing for the entire state.”

22.  Salt Lake County hopes to sprout more community gardens—Jeremiah Stettler, SLT 8/17/09

A proposal expected to be introduced by Salt Lake County Councilman Jim Bradley would convert “under-utilized” neighborhood parks throughout the county to community gardens.  Other county lands could be leased to farmers for food and biofuel production while awaiting future development plans.

Tyler Montague, head of the grocery department at Liberty Heights Fresh market with his own home garden near the capital, punctuated the announcement with a gift of home-grown tomatoes.  “It is a really smart move in terms of strengthening the Valley,” he said, adding that increased local crop production and enabling more people to grow their own food served the community well.

County Mayor Peter Coroon called the proposal “a great way to bring sustainable development into the county and a great way to remember our agricultural roots.”  Parcels such as a 200-acre plot on the city’s west side slated for a wastewater treatment plant years from now could be used to grow safflower for its oil-seed that could be converted to up to 10,000 gallons of biofuel a year.

A spokesman for the city’s mayor Ralph Becker said “We thought it was a no-brainer.”  A research scientist from the Utah State University Extension lauded the proposal even for smaller parcels.  He noted an 8-acre strip adjacent to Mountain View Golf Course that could be used for raspberries or a tree farm for the county parks.  The county-owned Wheadon Farms property, a 64-acre plot in Draper, could be leased to a farmer or provided to a government-assisted co-op.

Additional community gardens would also be created in open spaces.  One such Salt Lake City garden already in existence has a wait list of 5 years.  The urban-farming proposal would be initiated with a newly constructed technical advisory committee and the county’s open-space coordinator would be assigned to manage the program.  Bradley hopes the plan will be active by next spring.

23.  New penalties in the works for tailpipe testing—Judy Fahys, SLT 8/17/09

The federal Legislative Administrative Rules Review Committee will set new limits for penalties charged against emissions-testing stations that fail to meet standards.  In Utah, Salt Lake, Davis and Weber counties are the only ones where health departments currently set those penalties.  Health departments license service stations and inspection sites to certify vehicles are within acceptable emissions standards.  Cache, Box Elder and Tooele counties could develop emissions testing penalties under the new federal law as well.

Owners of two Weber County emissions-testing locations testified that Weber-Morgan Health Department had been heavy handed in enforcement.  Current penalties can exceed $10,000, according to the owners’ attorney, the same as a rape or murder case.  He argued for penalties closer to the $1,000 fine that can be levied in a drunken driving case.  Owners also balked at the possibility that they could be shut down if for instance cars were substituted for successful emissions inspections, and after three violations in two years, they could lose their license forever.  The two are currently fighting Weber-Morgan Health Department in court.

“This is the most outrageous penalty schedule I’ve ever heard of,” one owner testified, while the other responded “It’s their way or the highway…They’re in it to win it.”  An official from the Weber County Attorney’s Office implored legislators to solicit testimony from other shops, including ones that have never been cited for a violation, as well as other affected counties.  “I think you need to hear from unbiased parties before we go down this path,” he added.

24.  Snake Valley ranchers riled by ‘sellout’ water deal—Brandon Loomis, SLT 8/17/09

Directors from both the Utah Department of Natural Resources and Nevada Department of Conservation and Natural Resources both were on-hand at the Millard County Fairground public comment meeting on the proposed water share split ahead of a contentious Las Vegas pipeline development.  Around 100 farmers and local officials showed up to protest the deal that both directors say protects existing water users while paving the way for Las Vegas to mine the rest of the resource.

Ranchers, fearing legal maneuvering and barely sufficient water as it is, expressed their attitudes in fighting terms.  “Does anyone think Southern Nevada [Water Authority (SNWA)] is going to build a $15 billion pipeline and then let somebody turn it off?” one Callao rancher said.  Speaking against Utah director Mike Styler’s desire to settle in order to avoid a US Supreme Court settlement, the rancher fired “To hell with that…Let’s fight for it.”

Officials say requirements in the deal call for water table monitoring in the Snake Valley, ensuring that flows will not exceed mountain-based annual recharge levels.  Older water rights would be protected first, and since Las Vegas’ rights date to 1989, their spigot would be one of the first to be shut off.  Requirements also guarantee action should dust, vegetation or wildlife degradation fall beyond moveable thresholds.  The deal would also postpone review of SNWA’s pipeline application until 2019.

The postponement will offer more time for ecological and geological studies.  As it stands, the deal divides the 132,000 acre-feet (a-f) of annually available water between existing and future users in the two states.  Utah uses 55,000 a-f, while Nevada uses 12,000 a-f.  Nevada would receive 36,000 a-f for future users compared to Utah’s 6,000 a-f.  An additional pool of allocations split 18,000 a-f to 6,000 a-f in favor of Nevada could be vetoed by either side.

Utah director Styler said his goal was to protect current Utah water users and allow for some local growth to occur.  Nevada’s director Allen Biaggi said though Utah developed its part of the valley for agriculture, aquifer recharge comes mainly from Nevada-based mountain ranges.   Local ranchers argued the surface water and some springs in the valley have dried up since the 1970’s, and additional withdrawal was unsustainable.

A Millard County prospector reacted; “Why are you agreeing to this garbage?  These people out here are good people—good Americans—and you’re screwing them.”  A second public comment meeting is to be held Tuesday in Salt Lake City, and another Thursday in Las Vegas.

25.  Guv likely to save ancient Indian site from train station project—Kristen Moulton, SLT 8/17/09

A conservation easement agreement that newly-sworn-in Governor Herbert is expected to sign will set aside 252 acres near the development site of a new Frontrunner station in Draper.  Though considered the Utah Transit Authority’s (UTA) top choice, the authority developed three other alternatives to choose from for its new station.  A final meeting scheduled with stakeholders Draper City, UTA, representatives from seven Utah-based Indian tribes, environmentalists and state agencies will ensure a satisfactory final agreement.

The agreement, which will protect the site of an ancient Native American village, received kudos from Utah Open Lands (UOL) and tribal representatives.  “[I]f everyone is satisfied with the terms and everyone is comfortable with it, he will sign it tomorrow,” a spokesperson for Herbert relayed.  Situated on an eastern bluff above the Jordan River, the 3,000 year old site has been declared a significant American Indian site by the state archaeologist.  Artifacts suggest the earliest known corn farming in the Great Basin region occurred there.

Chair of the Northwestern Band of the Shoshone Nation, speaking on the meaning of the easement, said “it’s got to be protected for time and all eternity, as we say in Utah.”  UOL’s executive director said “[t]he sacredness of this site, the significance it has for generations speaks volumes about its value for future generations.”  An adjacent 70 acres exists already under a conservation easement.


26.  Feds and lands—Patrick Shea, SLT 8/17/09

On FLPMA section 303 regarding contracting with local law enforcement to protect the public lands.

27.  Joe would just say no to Albion Basin development—Salt Lake Tribune 8/18/09

28.  Can natural gas save the world?  Well, it’s better than coal—Randy Udall, SLT 8/18/09

Roundup Tuesday August 18, 2009

1.  Climate bill would bloat federal agencies—Amanda DeBard, The Washington Times 8/17/09

Billions of dollars and thousands of new employees are expected to be necessary to implement the proposed climate change bill.  Obscure agencies like the Commodity Futures Trading Commission (CFTC) and the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC) could grow rather large in carrying out their new-found duties.  And the monies are not reflected in the House-passed bill.

A spokesman from the left-leaning Brookings Institution said the mission is too big for the government’s current capacity.  The cap and trade commodity market, now almost non-existent, would mushroom under the bill.  A commissioner of the CFTC said the market could grow to $2 trillion in the first five years.

The commission would have to expand by 31% initially to meet new demands for regulating the fledgling market.  FERC would oversee day-to-day trading and would need a 20%-30% workforce increase to meet its new duties.  The Environmental Protection Agency, which already regulates 330 million tons of pollution a year, would regulate 6 billion tons of carbon dioxide at 7,400 industries under the bill.

The Congressional Budget Office, a nonpartisan entity, has estimated the costs for government expansion to meet the bill’s demands at $8 billion over a 10 year period.  Around 1,500 new regulations and mandates would have to be passed for 21 or more federal agencies, years in the making.

A spokesperson for PublicCitizen, a public advocacy group, who also sits on the CFTC’s energy and environmental markets advisory committee warned, “You have to ask yourself if it is wise policy to create a new derivatives market on the heels of the collapse of derivatives markets, and I don’t think it is.”

The CFTC’s 2010 budget is $177 million, up 21% from the 2009 budget.  If the bill becomes law, that number may increase dramatically.  A FERC spokeswoman said any new funds that might become necessary would come from user fees.

The senior vice president for environment and regulatory affairs for the US Chamber of Commerce said, “I’m not sure the government is capable of handling the bureaucracy that will come if the carbon market is set up.”

2.  Chickens settling in at Provo residences—Heidi Toth, Daily Herald 8/17/09

Six Provo, Utah residents recently paid the $15 permit fee that legally allows them to raise chickens.  While several residents in northeast Provo had kept chickens without neighbor complaints for years, bird owners are now protected by law.  The Municipal Council voted to allow citizens to keep chickens in the urban area in May.

Municipal Councilwoman Cindy Clark, who pushed for the law on behalf of chicken owners without legal standing, has seen only positive feedback.  The new rules do not allow roosters and only a limited number of birds can be kept according to property size.  The birds must be cooped according to code as well.  Coops must be 15 feet from property lines, and citizens must have at least 6,000 square feet to be eligible to keep chickens.

City code has allowed miniature horses and Vietnamese pot-belly pigs, though roosters and sheep tend to show up legal or not further west.  No complaints have been called in since the ordinance went into place, though beforehand complaints came mainly due to loose chickens on the streets.

3.  Ponderosa pines:  Rugged trees with a sweet smell—Daniel Kraker, NPR 8/17/09

The largest unbroken forest of ponderosa pines in the world stretch from about an hour south of the Grand Canyon in northern Arizona to southwestern New Mexico.  In Arizona’s Coconino National Forest, tourists take hiking tours through the trees scientists have yet to know well.

The trees have an age during which their bark is black, and an age during which their bark is yellow.  “Early lumbermen who came out here thought they were two different species,” US Forest Service’s Steve Hirst says of the trees.  Originally they were called black jack and yellow pines.  In truth, the trees shed their outer bark at between 110-120 years old to reveal the yellow inner bark that is the hallmark of its “teenage” years and older.  Some locals call them “Yellowbellies”.

Aromas from the maturing pines are similarly complex, exuding butterscotch, vanilla, cinnamon and coconut fragrances, or baking cookies.  Similar to the Jeffrey pine, a chemical in the sap may exude the fragrances when heated by the sun.  The bark is thick and flaky and suggests jigsaw puzzle pieces.  In an area known for some of the highest instances of lightning strikes in the nation, the bark buffers fire potential.  When lightning strikes the sap is flash-boiled, firing the bark off away from the tree.  Other forest vegetation is not so fire resistant.

Due to a century of fire suppression in favor of timber harvest protection, undergrowth has grown unchecked and now threatens to carry fire to the crowns of the pines.  “When the crowns burn and you destroy an entire stand, they may never come back,” Hirst noted.  The US Forest Service with environmental groups and timber companies is working to thin trees and set prescribed burns to protect the dominant species.

4.  Ferruginous hawks in decline—John Trumbo, Tri-City Herald, The News Tribune, Tacoma, Washington 8/16/09

A biologist with the Bureau of Land Management’s (BLM) Eastern Washington office has been studying ferruginous hawks in the Juniper Dunes area.  The hawk is a threatened species in Washington, and hawk pairs are at their lowest counts since surveys began 30 years ago.  If population declines continue, the bird could be placed on the state endangered species list.

The largest raptor of the hawk family, ferruginous hawks can be mistaken for eagles due to their wingspan of four feet or more.  They tend to be very wary of intruders and can flush unexpectedly.  They prefer desert and open grasslands, where jackrabbits and small mammals offer a plentiful food supply.  Habitat decline is considered the largest factor diminishing the birds’ presence.

In 1987, 17 nesting pairs were identified in the Juniper Dunes area of Franklin County, where only four were found last year and one this year.  Experts say expansion of agriculture pushed the hawks into wildlands, where intruding OHVs have further disturbed the hawks.  The BLM’s biologist, however, believes more is to blame than just increased ATV activity.

The dunes have seen a similar fall to a single pair in 1983.  1987 saw the largest year on record, though on average the region has seen only five or six pairs, with their presence tapering off over the past 10 years.  The BLM is actively working to protect hawk habitat, increasing efforts since last March.  Emergency ATV route closures have ensued.  The machines erode soil and destroy plants that animals like ground squirrels and kangaroo rats feed on, which in turn feed the hawks.

As the reporter and the biologist moved through the habitat, thousands of Mormon crickets, described as “a flightless katydid up to 3 inches long” made themselves known in the “knee-high brush”.  A decline in jackrabbits in the region, brought on by eradication efforts by farmers in the 1920s-1940s may have largely impacted hawk numbers.  Jackrabbits are seldom seen there to this day.  The biologist said ferruginous hawks are not adaptable like red-tail hawks are.

In the field, the biologist identified two fledglings, though the parents were apparently off hunting.  He said the birds looked healthy and well-fed.  Benton and Franklin counties in Washington have experienced ongoing growth over the last 10 years which makes for further concern in the wake of only one known nest in the region this year.

As wind farms are erected across southeast Washington and northeast Oregon, a new threat may be emerging—wind turbines.  Some reports have noted the hawks being hit by rotating blades.  Though the hawks don’t nest on ridges where the turbines are located, their hunting radius extends to 17 miles.

The federal Conservation Reserve Program pays land owners not to plant former agricultural lands, leaving them in a natural state that helps to avoid erosion and preserve habitat.  If the bird is placed on the state endangered species list, land use and planning decisions could undergo closer scrutiny where actions may impact the bird.  Still, the state does not have the power to close lands harboring endangered species.

5.  A new test for business and biofuel—Kirk Johnson, New York Times 8/16/09

A start-up company co-created by a Colorado State University professor is using a carbon dioxide-loving algae and investments from the Southern Ute tribe in southwestern Colorado and elsewhere to develop the biofuel.  The tribe’s land sits over one of the richest coal-bed methane based natural gas fields in the world.  Solix Biofuels received a number of benefits from working with the Southern Utes that could not have happened with other investors, such as a third of the company’s $20 million start-up capital, free use of land and over $1 million in equipment.

“If you’re going with strict venture capital, they’re looking for a blistering return on capital in three to five years,” Professor Wilson said.  “The Utes have a very long economic view.  They’re making decisions now for future generations as opposed to the next quarter, and that is just fundamentally different.”

The Southern Utes weren’t looking for just any alternative energy idea.  Any fuel idea that displaced land used for raising food was rejected, since the Southern Utes believe energy shouldn’t compete with food when people are still going hungry in the world.  “It’s a marriage of an older way of thinking into a modern time,” the tribe’s chairman said.

Owing to the tribe’s way of managing exceptional wealth for Native American tribes, the idea had to be feasible even if not offering an immediate profit.  And the tribe’s history of herbal medicine know-how fit well with the idea of growing algae for fuel.  “It reminded people of herbs that are helpful here, like bear root, which is harvested in the mountains,” the chairman noted.

The National Renewable Energy Laboratory in Golden, Colorado reports that over 200 companies are seeking a profitable, large scale way to turn algae in vegetable oil fuel.  Exxon recently acknowledged $600 million it plans to spend on its own project.  A spokesman from the Lab’s National Bioenergy Center warned that the industry was still quite young, and claims have yet to be matched with results.

Solix would grow algae in closed bags lined up vertically in water tanks next to a natural gas processing plant.  The vertical arrangement would increase yield.  The carbon dioxide waste stream from the processing plant nourishes the algae.  Waste heat from the plant may heat the algae beds during cold winters.  Natural solar radiation on the high desert plateau—noted for its solar potential—would accelerate growth of the algae.

If the idea works, Professor Wilson imagines algae farms next to carbon dioxide vent pipes at any number of power plants and factories.  The plant would sell the oil or biodiesel, and Solix would receive royalties as part owner-operator or through licensing.

A Standard and Poor’s credit rating agency director who tracks Native American economics assigned the Southern Utes’ dept the highest possible rating, AAA.  He called the tribe canny in its research and slow investment strategy.

6.  Earthquake shakes northern Nevada—AP, SLT 8/16/09

The quake was centered around 12 miles east-southeast of Rock House in remote northern Nevada near the Nevada-Idaho border.  The quake registered 4.2 in preliminary magnitude at a depth less than 9 miles from the surface.  The temblor was felt as much as 100 miles away.

7.  Researchers:  shrinking Teton glaciers will affect Utah water—Mead Gruver, AP, SLT 8/16/09

As glaciers in the Teton Range and elsewhere across the world lose surface area, water supplies below the glaciers are potentially threatened.  Since the late 1960’s, University of Wyoming researchers have found two of the largest glaciers in the Tetons lost over 20% of their surface area.  Wyoming, Idaho and less so Utah use the water, primarily for irrigation.

$225,000 for the study was appropriated by the Wyoming State Legislature in 2006, in the nation’s fifth-driest state.  One of the study’s researchers referred to the glaciers as frozen reservoirs.  The study is consistent with other recent finds, including a US Geological Survey study that showed three glaciers in Alaska and Washington state with long data tracking records were shrinking faster than anticipated in recent years.  In Glacier National Park, some predict the icons will vanish completely by 2030.

A researcher with the National Snow and Ice Data Center at the University of Colorado, Boulder said most glaciers below 15,000 feet that have been measured are shrinking.  “The rate at which they are diminishing is more or less parallel to the increase in the rate of global warming,” he added.

Graduate students working on the Wyoming project found that Teton Glacier had lost 20% and Middle Teton Glacier had lost 25% of its surface area, while Teepee Glacier, smaller and located between the two, had lost around 60% of its surface area.  Remaining volume has proven too difficult to estimate, but the ice lost from Teton and Middle Teton glaciers has been estimated at enough to fill over 500 Olympic-sized swimming pools.

Wind River Range glacier shrinkage also has been documented.  One of the graduate students on the project noted that while water supplies are probably boosted by melt-off, water flow eventually would decline as the glaciers shrink.  Snow has been plentiful in the region, totaling 542 inches this winter and 617 inches last winter, well above the 400 inch average.  But the fresh snows are melting off by mid summer.

Critical year-round stream flows fostered by the glaciers are what is at risk.  One of the researchers noted that July and August temperatures had been higher in the region in recent years.  Longtime Teton mountain climber Al Read said, “It just seems—I don’t have any records of this or anything—but it just seems it was much cooler then.”

8.   Power lines deserve a healthy buffer zone—Jason Bergreen, SLT 8/15/09

Citing a Bountiful accident where a branch fell, causing a power line to hit a swing set sending a toddler to the hospital, tree trimming by the power company is the best bet for safe management of trees near or under power lines.  Though downed power lines from tree branches rarely injure people, they often cause power outages.

Cottonwoods and poplar trees have a rapid growth rate and can climb to 30 feet over the 30- to 40-foot-high power lines.  Bountiful Light and Power’s director said “Trees themselves will eventually cause problems.  Weather can frustrate this.”  He said trees should be planted further than 10 feet from power lines, and small trees with slower growth rates, like maples, are preferred.  Referring to a poplar, he said “It’s going to grow right back behind you as you walk out the door.”

9.  Backpackers keep it green at European farms—Jeannie Nuss, AP, SLT 8/14/09

World Wide Opportunities on Organic Farms (WWOOF), founded in Britain in 1971, matches wanderlust-hungry volunteers with farms needing farm hands around the world.  15,700 individuals have been placed at farms across Europe this year, up from 6,400 in 2004, as many adventurers are looking for cheaper and alternative vacations.  Since 2004, the number of host farms has doubled to 2,240 as well.  In exchange for a few hours of chores, visitors get food, shelter and a cheap trip.

Many volunteers hold the opportunity to eat from the land and animals they caretake in high regard.  The director of Italy’s Slow Food Study Center said, “It’s one of the ways of recovering relationships with food.”  The slow-food movement was launched in Italy against fast food norms that had overtaken the country’s rich agricultural roots.

One sponsor farmer from northwest Spain said the program fosters cultural understanding.  “WWOOF is the perfect anti-discrimination device,” he added.  “We have Germans and Israelis sitting at a table together without problems.  It’s a really great way of getting to know more of a country than only the national prejudices.”

While college students and recent grads make up a large part of WWOOF’s volunteer labor force, seeking ways to travel on the cheap, a spokesperson for WWOOF noted “The profile of farms is really diverse.”  A Charleston, S.C. mom and slow-food advocate took her 10- and 13-year-olds with her on a volunteer trip to Italy recently.

Others noted the program was instrumental in making people more aware of their carbon footprints and what they can do for the environment.  One volunteer said, “you can’t do this without learning a bunch and having a more holistic approach to life.”

WWOOF on the web:

10.  Utah travel:  Participate in an archaeological dig—SLT 8/14/09

Southwest Ed-Ventures is hosting a trip to southeastern Utah’s Montezuma Canyon Oct. 11-17.  Trained archaeologists will lead the trip from Cortez Colo., offering hands-on learning on private lands.  A Puebloan ruin sited there that dates before circa 700 A.D. will be a central worksite.  Last surveys date to 1974.  The expedition will excavate test pits into a kiva, an underground series of rooms with surface-level roof used for ceremonies by ancient Native Americans.  Information on the trip can be found in the original article.

11.  Wharton:  Increasing recreation fees a concern—Tom Wharton, SLT 8/14/09

Notably, 1997 camping fees for Zion National Park were $8, currently are $16.  Kodachrome Basin fees have increased from $10 to $16.  Tanner’s Flat camping fees have increased from $9 to $18.  The concern is that the increased fees will deter poorer visitors or visitors who can’t justify for instance $25 for a few hours’ visit.  Many visitors too resent additional costs when expecting tax dollars already are paying for upkeep and management of the areas.

Fees for state parks tend to make up for funding cuts, but the fees amount to “a regressive tax”.  Still, user fees and concessionaires have transformed many areas such as Mill Creek Canyon.  While American Fork Canyon and the Mirror Lake Highway through the Uinta mountains instilled a $6 three-day pass, 85% of collected fees go to improvements on the ground, while 15% go to administrative fees, most often connected with fee collection.

Recent annual figures show $626,000 collected in American Fork Canyon and $341,240 for the Mirror Lake Highway.  Monies in American Fork Canyon were used for trail, campsite and picnic area improvements and reconstruction, improved signage, parking for cross-country skiers and snowmobilers and wilderness rangers.  The Mirror Lake Highway cut down hazardous trees, beefed up law enforcement, placed interpretive signs, improved restrooms, added a mountain-bike trailhead and published a free map and trail guide among other projects.

12.  Mill Hollow Reservoir reopens to fishing—AP, SLT 8/14/09

The reservoir southeast of Woodland in the Uinta mountains has undergone repairs to its dam.  Recent filling of the reservoir made restocking with fish possible.  Utah’s Division of Wildlife Resources have placed over 3,000 10- to 12-inch long rainbow and albino rainbow trout in the reservoir, considered one of the most popular reservoirs in the state.

13.  Redford pitches preservation of Old West community, family values—Mike McPhee, The Denver Post, SLT 8/14/09

A one-day conference of Democratic political strategists and leaders sponsored by Project New West featured a dialogue between Sundance Resort owner and environmental activist Robert Redford and US Sen. Tom Udall, D-N.M.  Speaking at the Colorado History Museum, Redford said “I think the New West should return to the Old West, when there was an emphasis on communities, on families and neighbors…It’s time to think about what kinds of development we want, whether we want to develop more communities or subdivisions and sprawl.”

He continued with dams and the Colorado River.  “Dams, all dams, should go away, the faster the better,” the historic attendee of University of Colorado at Boulder said.  “The Colorado River today has only half the flow it used to have.  Time and resources are running out for the West.  Compromises are needed.  I hope we wake up before we lose it for our children.”

Referring to leaders of his home state, Redford said they were “retarded and no friends of the environment.”  Utah’s delegation, with Senate Minority Leader Patricia Jones, sat in the front row.  Redford made an exception for Jon Huntsman, offering some praise.  Additional appreciation was expressed for Secretary of Interior and Coloradoan Ken Salazar, for his understanding of the West and making “good, brave decisions.

US Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, D-Nevada, rallied momentum for Democratic leaders in the West.  “Now is the time to build on our successes, to build a deeper bench of candidates,” said the Senator.  “For generations, prospectors, visionaries and entrepreneurs led Americans to the West.  Now, the West is leading America.”  He added that critical water and land issues were necessary gateways on the path to the White House for presidential candidates.

In another panel discussion, Latinos were identified as the fastest growing population, though issues with schooling for their children and solidifying political power are ongoing.  An Arizona government official said while 30% of the state’s population is Latino, only 6% of that group vote.  A New Mexico official said more than 50% of Latinos drop out of school there.  A 2008 Pew Hispanic Center report identified Colorado Latinos as 12% of eligible voters.

14.  50-50 split?  Utah-Nevada water deal draws flak—Patty Henetz, SLT 8/14/09

After solidifying the proposed Snake Valley water share split between Utah and Nevada to pave the way for a massive Las Vegas pipeline, opponents have taken action to resist finalization.  Millard County, a longstanding opponent of the deal, sent a 3-page letter to Utah Department of Natural Resources citing inequities.  While on its face the agreement splits 132,000 acre-feet of water evenly between the two states, 20,000 of 55,000 acre-feet already allocated in Utah leave the Snake Valley Basin to support the Fish Springs National Wildlife Refuge.  The actual split becomes 59% for Nevada and 41% for Utah, according to Millard County officials.

The Great Basin Water Network is seeking release of all records of the negotiation and drafting of the agreement over the last four years.  “The secrecy gag imposed on Utah’s negotiators by the Southern Nevada Water Authority should never have been agreed to,” a spokesperson for the Network said, “It’s cut out not only those of us who are concerned about the future of the Snake Valley, it’s cut out legislators and county commissioners.”

Concerns over previous groundwater mining in the Parowan region that have left water-rights holders with worthless water shares are yet to be answered for Sen. Dennis Stowell, R-Parowan.  “[S]uppose there isn’t that much water over there?” Stowell questioned.  Stowell noted that water use in Utah, while drawing valley water tables down and at times drying up springs, tended to stay in the region.

Rep. Brad Winn, R-Ephraim added after seeing a draft of the agreement last week, “My concern at this point is we have plenty of opportunity for public response.  I trust that will take place.  Tammy Kikuchi of the Department of Natural Resources said both Utah’s director and Nevada’s counterpart would be separately reviewing comment received during the four hearings scheduled the week of August 17.

Meetings:  Aug 17—1 p.m., Baker, Nev., Baker School Auditorium; 7 p.m., Delta, Utah, Millard County fair building, 81 Manzanita Ave.  Aug 18—10 a.m., Salt Lake City, Department of Environmental Quality Building 2, 168 N. 1950 West.  Aug 20—9 a.m., Las Vegas, Southern Nevada Water Authority Board meeting, Molasky Corporate Center Suite 700, City Parkway.

View the proposal:

15.  Upscale homes proposed near Alta’s Albion Basin—Rosemary Winters, SLT 8/14/09

Almost a dozen high-end homes have been proposed along the S-curve of unpaved road leading to the basin, known for its rich array of wildflowers.  The lands belong to the estate of JoAnne Shrontz, former Alta Town Council member and granddaughter of Joe Quinney, one of the Alta Ski Area’s founders.  The application calls for subdividing 26 acres on Patsey Marley Hill—dubbed the “gateway” to Albion Basin—for homes as large as 8,000 square feet.

The Alta Planning Commission recommended denying the application to the Town Council due to water access issues, natural waterway impacts among other reasons.  Alta’s mayor said the issue should be reviewed thoroughly ahead of a final decision, likely in the fall.  Friends of Alta, a local conservation group, has said the estate would need to meet all ordinance requirements before Friends would back off of opposition.

The area at the upper end of Little Cottonwood Canyon, a major watershed managed by the US Forest Service, Salt Lake City and Alta, has had its water rights further regulated since 1991.  At that time Salt Lake City prohibited “the use of capital water rights in expanding existing contracts in watershed areas—such as Alta—outside of the contracts’ original boundaries.”  In effect, Alta has been prevented since then from extending its water system beyond 1976 boundaries.

Challenges by Albion Basin property owners who were blocked from connecting to existing water systems in federal court failed.  The Patsey Marley property was annexed by Alta in 1980, which means it could successfully challenge the law.  While a Shrontz estate attorney argues obligations for hookup go back to agreements made in the 1970’s, Salt Lake City’s Public Utilities director has said he has a 2002 agreement signed by Shrontz disallowing hookup with Alta’s water.  The estate has an established right to build a system of its own to draw water from a nearby mine.

The Shrontz estate attorney told Town Council recently that water was guaranteed to the site, and while Alta’s water line runs through the property, other options could be developed.  Plans by Shrontz, who died in 2003, to build a hotel to serve the ski resort were denied by Town Council, who refused to change the extant single-family zoning.  The 10 homes would be laid out to preserve 23 of the 26 acres.

16.  Bennett backs future of nuclear power—Cathy McKitrick, SLT 8/14/09

Bennett, who will seek re-election in 2010, said at the recent Nuclear Energy University Programs workshop, “Every study I’ve seen says that under the best of circumstances, solar and wind will never produce more than a single-digit percentage of the energy that we need.”  Bennett added that nuclear potential in this country could drive the need for up to 3 reprocessing plants, which converts spent fuels and debris to contained waste ready for storage.

Critics note 120 sites in 39 states already are stockpiling nuclear waste with no place to go.  Bennett believes America’s weak will for nuclear has been fostered by Chernobyl, Three Mile Island and the 1979 film “The China Syndrome”.  HealUtah criticized Bennett’s logic as unsound energy policy.

In addition, HealUtah’s spokesperson said reprocessing takes years, leaving liquid radioactive waste and weapons-grade plutonium.  “France has over 80 tons of plutonium that they can’t get rid of,” the spokesperson added.  Bennett was instrumental in getting $43 million earmarked for nuclear research funding for universities nationwide, including $500,000 for Utah State University for 2009.

The Trib reports that Bennett’s largest campaign donor has been nuclear waste storage company EnergySolutions, which contributed $46,900 to his 2010 campaign.

17.  770 gas wells clear hurdle—Katie Burford, The Durango Herald 8/14/09

The San Juan Public Lands Center and the Bureau of Indian Affairs jointly signed a “Finding of No Significant Impact” on 770 new coal-bed methane gas wells to be drilled on the Southern Ute Indian Tribe reservation over the next twenty years.  95% of the wells would be directionally drilled from existing well pads.  The best available air emissions control technology would also be required.

The finding said “there would not be long-term significant impacts to air quality from carbon monoxide, ozone, nitrogen dioxide, particulate matter, sulfur dioxide, visibility and acid deposition.”  Ozone levels in the Four Corners area have been of concern, and studies have shown show oil and gas production in San Juan County, New Mexico are a prime source of greenhouse gas emissions in the area.

A Bureau of Land Management official at the San Juan Public Lands Center noted that computer models show no significant emissions increases provided that the latest compression technology is used.  While the EPA is tightening emissions standards, the tribe already is requiring that operators meet the new standards ahead of EPA deadlines. Though 965 acres of vegetation would be lost during drilling, with 450 acres lost during production, all would eventually be reclaimed.  Each well would be analyzed individually prior to drilling.

The tribe is expected to get $650 million in royalties and severance taxes and $195 million from working interests in the gas from the new wells alone.  $350 million in direct spending is expected to enter the local economy, along with creating 60 new full time jobs.  Meanwhile, gas development has sagged due to sharply falling prices over the last year.  The tribe already has around 1,300 wells in operation, with regulation shared by the BLM and the BIA.  Forecasts expect coalbed-methane gas production revenues to fall, though the tribe believes if it does not develop the wells, nearby drillers will tap the resource.

18.  Gooding sheep rancher backs off of wolf kill after herd attacked—Karen Bossick, Times-News, (Twin Falls, ID) 8/14/09

Though the Phantom Hill wolf pack killed 12 sheep earlier in the week north of Ketchum, the sheeps’ owner has reversed his original demand to have the wolves killed.  “I have to deal with the people up there, like the Forest Service and the wolf people,” the rancher said, adding “they do compensate for the sheep.”  Intensive talks with Idaho Department of Fish and Game, US Wildlife Services and wolf advocates played a role in changing his mind.  Defenders of Wildlife, an environmental group working closely with wolves and ranchers, have agreed to pay the rancher fair market value for the sheep killed, $100 and $150 per sheep.

Defenders of Wildlife trained volunteers last year under the Wood River Wolf Project to monitor wolf activity.  By alerting sheep herders, the herders can prevent attacks utilizing electric fence wiring and flagging.  A spokesperson for the group pointed out that the herd recently attacked had no dogs or herders overseeing the sheep.  They were released in the region where they were killed two days early for grazing.  Volunteers apparently were not notified of sheep presence in the area.

The Gooding rancher said he’s lost 40 head so far this year to wolf predation in the central Idaho region.  One of last summer’s kills was also attributed to the Phantom Hill pack, though the rancher named a number of other places, exclaiming “they’re all over”.  A spokesman for Fish and Game said they were considering a GPS collar on one of the wolves for tracking.  Collars currently in use identify wolf locations from the air.

Numbering around 10, the Phantom Hill pack has become the darling of many Wood River Valley residents who have frequently spotted them on Highway 75 north of Ketchum and in nearby residential areas, where residents have enjoyed their howls.  Fish and Game’s spokesman said “We’re trying to be responsible and consistent in our management of them.  We feel strongly that livestock, wild game, the public and even the wolves themselves benefit from a strong management plan.”

19.  Obama backs roadless ruling—Matthew Daly, AP, Casper Star-Tribune 8/13/09

An appeal notice filed in US District Court in Wyoming says the Obama administration will defend a 2001 Clinton administration ruling that blocked road construction on tens of millions of acres of remote national forest land.  The appeal may help settle a Wyoming case and set precedent for the nation’s forests.

Previous court opinions have see-sawed back and forth between upholding and blocking the so-called Roadless Rule, which blocks commercial logging, mining and other development on 58 million national forest acres across 38 states and Puerto Rico.  A Bush Administration rule opened remote areas to commercial development.

Last week the California-based 9th Circuit Court of Appeals threw out the 2005 Bush roadless rule remarking that the rule “had the effect of permanently repealing uniform, nationwide, substantive protections that were afforded to inventoried roadless areas” in the national forests.

The Wyoming case is pending in the 10th Circuit Court of Appeals.  Environmental groups have challenged a federal judge’s ruling that repealed the Clinton-era roadless rule.  Groups such as Earthjustice are enthusiastic that the Obama administration is standing behind its promise to support nationwide roadless protection.

20.  Farmers say to check the tag for homegrown items—Dawn House, SLT 8/13/09

Local farmers Randy and Roland Kuwahara, who sell their fresh-picked produce grown without pesticides at a 738 W. 12300 South market, appreciate the increase in demand that buying local has brought.  A spokesman for Harmons grocery said while farmers like the Kuwaharas are in greater demand, local farms are growing more scarce.  Utah has lost as much farmland in the past 40 years as Rhode Island and Delaware combined.

Meanwhile, farmers like the Kuwaharas compete with cheaper, industrial farm produce that comes from out of state and overseas.  They say that purchasing foods with the Utah’s Own label guarantees the food is raised and produced locally and keeps dollars flowing into the state’s economy.

Originally farming in the Holladay area, the Kuwaharas’ father moved to Draper when plans for I-215 commenced in the 1970’s.  Their market, which sells produce from other farmers such as Green River watermelons and cantaloupes, has only the one road sign, though a good number of word-of-mouth customers have shopped there from early on.

In addition to farming 15 acres, the brothers broker for 12 other growers and sell to Harmons, Macey’s, Dan’s, Dick’s Market and Petersen’s Marketplace, among others.  A spokesperson for Associated Foods noted the difficulty small farmers can have keeping up with demand, as well as the problems posed by coordinating with a number of small growers.  Though the number of small farmers is limited, farmers markets have doubled in grower venders, currently at 35.

21.  New SLC bar scores ‘green’ points at City Hall—Derek P. Jensen, SLT 8/13/09

The Green Pig Pug at 31 E. 400 South has been noted by Mayor Ralph Becker and his sustainability staff.  The bar has a substantial recycling program, utilizes low-flow water technology, and has incorporated 16-foot passive solar windows that face City Hall.  The bar also recycled equipment and furniture from Port O’ Call, which recently closed its doors.  Owner Bridget Gordon claims 90% of materials used are recycled, and hopes to funnel food waste to area farmers.  Salt Lake City’s Director of Sustainability said the business “should have little trouble qualifying as an “E2” business,” an energy efficiency and recycling designation the city awards.

22.  Proposed Utah, Nevada water accord could clear the way for Snake Valley pipeline—Patty Henetz, SLT 8/13/09

The agreement will split unallocated shares in the valley equally.  In addition, the final decision for a 285-mile, $3.5 billion Snake Valley to Las Vegas pipeline would be postponed to 2019.  Utah Department of Natural Resources (DNR) said the deal would avoid a water war that would end up in the US Supreme Court.

DNR’s executive director added the deal would protect the way of life for Snake Valley’s water users.  Snake Valley residents, Millard County, the Great Basin Water Network and the National Park Service among others claim the area’s water equilibrium is already fragile, and drawdown of the aquifer would adversely affect the region.  Anticipated impacts include the drying out of meadows and the potential for large dust storms that could impact the Wasatch Front.

A spokesperson for the Great Basin Water Network said the US Geological Survey’s estimate of the valley’s aquifer included water used by area vegetation.  Shallow-rooted plants could be the first to be impacted, and loss of surface vegetation could result in high wind-blown soil erosion.

Currently scheduled for 2011, a hearing held by the Nevada state engineer will decide for Nevada whether the pipeline is granted.  Delaying the hearing to 2019 would allow the states time to make changes to general water management policies over water rights, one Snake Valley rancher said.  The proposed $3 million mitigation fund is considered insufficient by a number of opponents.

Nevada’s Department of Conservation and Natural Resources said while Las Vegas currently gets 90% of its water from the Colorado River, the water supply is unstable.  Nevada must develop all available water sources in the state before it can apply for more from the river.  Original grants under the 1922 Colorado River Compact afforded only 300,000 acre-feet per year owing to Vegas’ sparse population at the time.

Snake Valley, which lies mostly in Utah, is fed by the peaks of Nevada’s Great Basin National Park.  Park officials and officials from the Fish Springs National Wildlife Refuge fear both parks could be harmed under an agreement.

Each state under the proposed agreement would have rights to 66,000 acre-feet of water, including already allocated shares.  Nevada would be given 36,000 of 41,000 unallocated acre-feet.  A 24,000 acre-foot reserve would be divided in a 3 to 1 fashion with Nevada gaining the larger of the shares, provided engineers of both states agree drawdown would not adversely affect previously allocated shares.  If the agreement is formally established, a baseline against which future potential environmental impact could be measured would be required.

Millard County and the Utah Association of Counties argue that the agreement inordinately elevates the power of Southern Nevada Water Authority and threatens Utah’s sovereignty as well as rights to administrative and legal dispute resolution.  According to legal counsel for Utah Association of Counties, the agreement would take away Millard County’s right to be heard.

23.  Innovative wind turbines to top new downtown Portland high-rise—Abby Haight, The Oregonian 8/13/09

Four 45-foot-tall wind turbines have been erected on top of the Twelve West Building, one of the few in the nation that utilizes wind power generated on-site.  The turbines are expected to generate around 9,000 kilowatts yearly or about 1% of the building’s energy needs.  More importantly, they will serve as a learning lab for urban wind-power systems, available to other developers and urban leaders.

Critics argue monies spent on the turbines would be better spent on improved building energy efficiencies or investing in dedicated turbine sites.  A green building consultant and author of Green Building Trends:  Europe called the turbines “kinetic sculptures” that amount to a mere gesture.  His book portrays the lag in US versus Europe in energy-efficient construction.  “[T]he real game is to design a super-efficient, comfortable, healthy building,” he replied.

The $137 million building erected by sustainability leader Gerding Edlen Development Co. and designed by Zimmer Gunsul Frasca Architects is seeking the highest Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED) certification offered by the US Green Building Council, their platinum certification.    The building includes motion-controlled lights, storm water recycling, an eco-roof garden atop the 22 story building, residential, retail and office space.

A large push for the turbines, which are generally not highly efficient in downtown areas nor structurally proven for high buildings, came from the development company, which boasts 6 platinum, 26 gold and around two dozen silver certified building projects.  A leading principal with the firm said, “We have a very strong belief that you have to innovate.  The only way we’ve gotten where we are with platinum is to take some risks.”

The company enlisted Dutch consultant and wind researcher Sander Mertens for downtown wind flow analysis, Tom Zambrano, who helped engineer the human-powered Gossamer Albatross for understanding the wind shear plane of the building and best turbine placement, and Southwest Windpower Inc. for their Skystream turbine.

24.  Lobby groups to use Town Hall tactics to oppose climate bill—Ian Talley, Washington Wire, Wall Street Journal Blogs 8/11/09

Fueling the model of enraged and disruptive protests at health care-based Town Hall meetings held by congressional representatives across the country, anti-climate rallies organized with the oil industry’s help are slated to take place this fall.  Led by the American Petroleum Institute (API), the National Association of Manufacturers, the America Farm Bureau and other organizations are funding disruptive rallies across 20 states opposing the climate bill during the August congressional recess.

Template flyers produced by the alliance EnergyCitizens, founded by API, warn “Climate change legislation being considered in Washington will cause huge economic pain and produce little environmental gain.”  The message claims the Waxman-Markey climate bill “will cost 2 million American jobs, raise gasoline and diesel prices up to $4,” as well as threaten US competition and energy security.

An API spokeswoman said they were not encouraging protesters to yell at their congressmen.  Rather, they want to empower citizens so the bill doesn’t affect energy prices.  Clean Air Watch’s Frank O’Donnell said “We’ve all seen those angry folks raising heck about health care…So I guess it was inevitable a special interest would try the same thing on the climate legislation.”

Environmental Protection Agency studies have forecast increased energy costs amounting to about the cost of a postage stamp per day.  Conservative organizations claim it could cost families thousands.  The Energy Information Administration (EIA) has forecast energy cost increases of $26 to $362 per household by 2020 depending on which scenario comes to pass.   As energy prices rise under the landmark climate bill, .the gross domestic product could shrink 9% or $1.9 trillion, according to API forecasts.


25.  Climate Security—Tribune Editorial, SLT 8/13/09

On the military’s view of climate change and national security

26.  Save some wild places from machines—David Sumner, 5th generation Utahn, assoc. professor English and environmental studies, Linfield College, Oregon, SLT 8/14/09

27.  Snake Valley water—Tribune Editorial, SLT 8/15/09

28.  Take Utah back from outlaw ORV riders—Tom Patton, former ski resort professional and longtime OHV rider, SLT 8/15/09

Friday August 14, 2009

1.  McEntee:  Birdwatcher:  Know ‘the wildness within us’—Peg McEntee, SLT 8/13/09

Ella Sorensen of the National Audubon Society takes McEntee on a tour of the new 2,738 acre South Shore Preserve, a newly restored ancient Jordan River delta that has been designated as new migratory bird preserve.  The delta has been restored in such a way that fresh, saline and brackish ponds can occur.

On their tour, the pair spot avocets, Wilson’s phalaropes, a great blue heron, pelicans, cormorants, yellowlegs, and a harrier hawk as well as a butcher bird or loggerhead shrike.  Tamarisk trees spot the landscape.

The preserve has been in the making since the mid-1990’s.  Salt Lake County, Bothwell and Swanner Inc. of California, the Utah Mitigation Commission, the Nature Conservancy, Kennecott Utah Copper and The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints all are shareholders in the land and stakeholders in the project.  Local duck hunting clubs worked to make the project possible, and an anonymous donor provided a crucial generous land donation.

Sorensen has been oversight manager for the project, which has constructed culverts and water gates that can adjust the amount of water held from place to place.  The preserve is not open to the public.  Sorensen said “Birds remind us of our wildness…for wildness dwells within us.  We are part of it.  And when we stop talking and listen, we know.”

2.  Exxon Mobil to pay $600,000 for killing 85 birds—AP, SLT 8/13/09

The migratory birds died mostly from exposure to natural-gas well reserve pits and wastewater storage facilities across Colorado, Wyoming, Kansas, Oklahoma and Texas between 2004 and 2009.  Birds often were coated in hydrocarbons or ingested toxic waste, killing the birds.  None of the birds were listed as endangered or threatened species.

The fine, around $7,000 per bird, will go to wetlands preservation funds.  Based on the $8.6 billion the company earned in the first half of 2009, that amounts to about what the company makes in 20 minutes.  The company also says it has spent $2.5 million towards changes to prevent such deaths in the future, as per an agreement.

While the company formally pled guilty to five misdemeanor charges of violating the Migratory Bird Treaty Act, the Assistant Attorney General lauded the company for taking steps to correct the problem and for working with the government.  A spokeswoman for ExxonMobil said the company had “a long-standing water-bird protection program that focuses on deterring birds from landing in water on company property.”

3.  California meat plant cited for cow handling—Trib Staff and Wire Reports, SLT 8/13/09

Fresno-based Beef Packers Inc. was cited last year for inhumane practices that could have caused last year’s recall, the biggest recall in history.  Last week, 826,000 pounds of ground beef was recalled from Sam’s Club stores in Utah and elsewhere across the West as at least 28 people turned up with salmonella-related illnesses since late last week.

Production dates from mid-June to July 14, 2009 were identified in recent recalls and notices advising consumers to throw away such packages and seek refunds.  Last year’s recall was linked to a Southern California slaughterhouse.  When inspectors visited Beef Packers Fresno operation along with 17 other plants that sold meat to the National School Lunch Program, inspection records showed USDA violations.

The March 2008 records showed that as workers used electric cattle prods legally to move resistant cattle into the slaughterhouse, three refused to move.  The three were stunned unconscious “so that they could be pulled through the restrainer to be shackled, hung and bled,” records report.  While cattle prod use is considered humane by the USDA when used appropriately on moving animals, dragging unconscious cattle increased risk for E. coli and salmonella contamination from bacteria in feces around the chute that could collect on dragged hides.

The chutes are known to get very soiled with feces and urine throughout the day, and usually are not cleaned during intensive use periods.  Cargill Meat Solutions, Beef Packers Inc.’s parent company, argued the cattle balked because too many auditors were present on the day in question.  Cargill appealed the alleged violation, and the USDA’s Food Safety and Inspection Service replaced the citation with a letter of concern.

4.  Recycling in Utah:  A learning process—Ross Chambless, KUER 8/13/09

Chambless follows Salt Lake City recycling intern Mitch Davis on his rounds while Davis educates the public on appropriate recycling options.

5.  Interior Department:  California water a national priority—Garance Burke, AP, SLT 8/12/09

A top level Obama administration official placed California’s water crisis akin to restoring Florida’s Everglades or the East Coast’s Chesapeake Bay.  Interior Secretary Salazar will hold meetings in Washington in September over plans to save the Sacramento-San Joaquin Delta, considered one of the most important wildlife habitats on the West Coast and the freshwater estuary where 2/3 of Californians get their drinking water.

Deputy Interior Secretary David Hays informed the Sacramento region Wednesday in a visit that the department would be looking to make water supplies available for crops and fisheries as the state moves through a third drought-affected year.  “Not only is it a crucial ecosystem that is in peril, but more than 20 million Americans in the most populated state in the nation rely on it for their drinking water.  The status quo is not sustainable,” Hayes said.

Recent water battles and diversions over limited water in the San Joaquin Valley, along with drought, further threatens agriculture in the area that produces much of the nation’s produce.  Hundreds of thousands of acres have been laid fallow, and farm workers have been laid off.  Less water in the delta has additionally threatened native salmon and the fishing industry.  One consideration involves a $17 billion canal for deploying water around the ecosystem.

6.  Beetle battle involves variety of weapons—Cory Hatch, Jackson Hole News & Guide 8/12/09

The wildland-urban interface at the base of the Tetons is considered a high-risk area for pine beetles by a fuels specialist with the Bridger-Teton National Forest.  “We are trying to figure out how to let fires burn in the Palisades and the Caribou-Targhee but have a fire break that stops [the blaze] before it gets to Red Top,” one of a number of developments.  Current thinking is the beetle epidemic will end when they run out of food, and the landscape will be forever changed.

Beetle damage affects everything from campgrounds and campground use, where danger exists from falling dead branches and burning trees, to power lines, road corridors, and log-able timber.  And the whitebark pine, a keystone high-elevation species, could go extinct from beetle and blister rust fungus invasion.  Currently forest managers and management plans adopt plans of actions individually.  Many of these policies and responses are adapted to the kinds of lands they manage.

In wilderness or roadless areas, nature is let alone to take its course, providing “a mosaic of tree types and age classes that encourages diversity of plants and animals.”  Campgrounds and other more developed sites are aggressively protected with insecticides such as carbaryl and pheromones like verbenone.  Removal is not favored, owing to its labor intensity and impacts on ambience of campgrounds.

Carbaryl is applied every other year with an industrial sprayer and saturates the trunk.  Though less effective, a verbenone patch is used in more remote areas or near water annually.  Such treatments and tree removal cost the Bridger-Teton $150,000 per year.  In wildland-urban interface areas, forest managers are using thinning practices.  The projects are subject to environmental review before action is taken.

Where feasible, forest managers are encouraging timber salvage, especially if logging has been deemed an appropriate use in the area.  Two years beyond death, however, many lodgepole pines crack and twist, depreciating their value as lumber.  Timbering could also accelerate regeneration of the forest.

Whitebark pines typically grow in a dispersed fashion in high and remote areas, making them poor candidates for chemical treatment.  Seed collection by biologists and ecologists hopefully will avoid extinction.  Prescribed burns and seedling restoration is being recommended in one region, though the project is on hold.  Infestation wouldn’t be possible for 80-100 years, and the technique has been used elsewhere with success.

Wyoming’s director for Greater Yellowstone Coalition complimented Bridger-Teton and Shoshone forest managers.   “They tried to stay as much as they could out of roadless areas and sensitive habitat.  All of the work was in the front country, not in the backcountry.  As a result, in the front country they’re creating defensible space [and in the backcountry] they’ve now allowed for fire to come on the natural landscape.”  Efforts such as clear-cuts in the backcountry would disturb habitat for a number of species.

Owing to drought and climate change, and the fact that the beetle epidemic is a natural phenomena, the director said, clear-cuts would not likely work anyway.  He adds the ecosystem shift that is happening is unstoppable.

The executive director of Forest Service Employees for Environmental Ethics had a more critical stance.  His experience began with cutting down infested trees in the Dillon Ranger District in 1979.  Regardless of the efforts, he believes they have no impact, policy or no.  His preference is simply to let nature take its course in all circumstances.

7.  Leasing Blue Ribbon Fisheries—Bill Schneider, 8/12/09

According to Trout Unlimited (TU), the Bureau of Land Management (BLM) is developing management plans for oil and gas leasing in western states that would affect blue ribbon trout streams such as the Yellowstone, Stillwater and Boulder rivers and their tributaries.  Overwhelming is the notion that the Rocky Mountain States has 158 million of the BLM’s leasable acres, 30 million already leased.

While TU has focused on preserving cold-water fisheries, and oil and gas development has typically occurred in warm-water regions, new threats have changed that priority.  “We’re not saying there shouldn’t be oil and gas development,” TU’s energy field coordinator said.  “It’s a matter of where you do it and having proper planning at the front end.”

Whereas everybody seems to want development “somewhere else”, TU is only asking a half-mile setback from cold-water fisheries and streams and those that might be used in the future for restoration.  Energy companies could directionally drill under the rivers, but the BLM would rank the areas as “no surface occupancy”.  The benefit is that sediments would be prevented from washing into waterways.

At least one office, the BLM’s Butte Resource Office, already provided those protections in the region it manages near the Big Hole, Madison and other nearby rivers.  TU hopes that the Billings Resource Area too will adopt the designation for its new management plan, and the trend will continue nationwide.  TU is requesting similar setbacks on red ribbon streams and smaller streams that may play a significant role in restoration efforts.

One of the risks of leaving the designation out of future resource management plans is that once lands are leased, fewer options for control and prevention are available. Some leases already abut the Yellowstone, though these have yet to be developed.  The Yellowstone and other blue ribbon fisheries are magnets for extensive private as well as guided fishing.

Conservation easements, another route that conservation organizations could go, are often encumbered as “split estates”, meaning subsurface leasing takes priority, and protections are lost to the letter of the law.  If “fracking” in natural gas wells occurred nearby, proprietary chemical mixtures could seep into the water table and finally into the river, contaminating the water and its life forms.   TU reminds everyone that resource management plans must undertake a public comment period before being signed into policy, and TU has an action alert list for “when your voice is needed.”

8.  EnShale begins operations—Mary Bernard, Vernal Express, 8/12/09

The Uintah County facility south of Naples is working out some problems, but expected to begin processing as early as this week.  The pilot plant under Bullion Monarch Mining’s subsidiary EnShale is expected to provide engineers with final commercial plant designs.

EnShale’s president said “[T]here are other shale extracting plants like Brazil’s state-owned Petrobras company and Estonia’s oil shale extraction for power generation, but this facility will be the first of its kind in the West.”  EnShale seeks to test their proprietary extraction process and develop a commercial grade product.

The company has dredged enormous piles of crushed shale from its 4,650 acres of state lands leases.  The six month testing period will determine the quality of gas, diesel, jet fuel and fuel oils produced from the shale.  The patented process has thus far been tested through computer modeling by the Department of Energy’s Idaho National Laboratory.

Kilns heat, separate and cool the shale and its byproducts.  Driers release oil vapors that are condensed through cooling.  EnShale wants to reduce emissions, minimize water consumption and produce oil at $30 a barrel or less.  Years may be necessary to finalize commercial production.

9.  Plasma screen TVs:  The next environmental threat?—Amy Littlefield, Greenspace Environmental News, Los Angeles Times 8/12/09

As television consumption goes up in California, so do accessory purchases and use like DVD players, DVRs and cable boxes, accounting for 10% of a home’s energy consumption, the California Energy Commission reported recently.  New standards about to be issued by the leading-edge commission would decrease TV energy use by 30%-50%, saving up to $1 billion in electricity costs.

The limits would hinge on the size of the television, keeping freedom of choice in purchase intact.  Flat-screen models such as one produced by Vizio and others by Samsung, Sony, Panasonic and Sharp, Sylvania and Insignia, already meet the new requirements.  The Natural Resources Defense Council has offered its approval.

The coalition of industry interests Consumer Electronics Association, objects over threatened job losses, tax revenues and potentially banned TV models.  A spokesman for the energy commission noted that the commission had a track record over the past 30-plus years of saving consumers money while providing energy-efficient and cost-effective standards on a spectrum of appliances including lighting, air conditioning and refrigerators.  That track record, he added, saved Californians $56 billion since its inception.  The energy commission reports 4 million TV purchases per year.

10.  Economy and environment; Residents debate biomass plant—Jessi Chapin, WMBB/ABC News, Panama City, Fla. 8/12/09

Port St. Joe, Florida near Tallahassee in Gulf County is debating a proposed renewable energy biomass plant in the region.  Air quality was the chief concern for area residents.

“You’ve done so much in this community, if you put a biomass plant here and 143 tons of particulate matter falls down on these boats, what do you think that’d do to the fishing industry?” said one local.

Supportively, others compared the new plant to other local industries.  “The emissions that come out of the biomass are thousands of times less than the paper mill and Arizona Chemical,” one woman said.

“The goal is really to create a healthy economically-viable and sustainable community,” an Economic Development Council member responded.  “If there’s a reason to stop this because it’s going to be harmful to this community then we’ll stop it,” added Port St. Joe’s mayor.  Public comment meetings will continue through August.

11.  Acid in the oceans:  A growing threat to sea life—Richard Harris, NPR 8/12/09

When the oceans absorb CO2, carbonic acid is formed from the process, an acid especially corrosive to shellfish and corals.  Rising acid levels correspond to rising CO2 in the atmosphere, where Monterey Bay Aquarium Research Institute Biologist Eric Pane says about a third of increased atmospheric CO2 has been absorbed by the oceans.  Oceans are currently measuring a tenth of a unit more acidic on the pH scale than in previous times, and rates are expected to rise as much as half a unit by the end of the century.

Pane says in actuality the increase is three-fold, due to the logarithmic nature of the scale.  Given a high enough acid level, sea life with known sensitivities, like corals and shellfish, will be eaten away.  Pane and other scientists are studying the impact on other organisms, as well as how the ecosystem reacts.  Their research is expansive, covering as many vertebrates and invertebrates as possible.

One subset of such marine life is deep water loving, such as gastropods, marine snails, brachiopods, decapod crabs, and basic crustacea.  Blood samples and other techniques suggest that these life forms may expend more energy balancing their pH levels, robbing energy for activities such as growth and reproduction.  Studies are centering on fecundity, amount of offspring produced and the relative health.  Pane says the expectation is for “profound changes to ocean ecosystems.”

Peter Brewer, a fellow researcher with Eric Pane, began identifying the problem as early as the 1960’s.  Brewer says that with current absorption levels at over 500 billion tons, physical and biological properties are going to change.  He’s seen the ocean chemistry alterations affect the way sound travels through the ocean, which may affect whale communications.

Advancing techniques include utilizing a chamber on the ocean floor that will allow impacts to be studied on animals in the chamber.

12.  Recent hurricanes not matched since Middle Ages—Jon Hamilton, NPR 8/12/09

A recent study published in the journal Nature has studied hurricane activity over the past 1,500 years utilizing paleotempestology techniques.  The study shows the Atlantic Ocean’s hurricanes over the past decade have been unmatched in 1,000 years.  2005 was the busiest season in recorded history, with 28 named storms such as Katrina and Rita.

Michael Mann, director of the Earth Systems Science Center at Pennsylvania State University and an author of the study, said one technique used for study was searching for physical evidence in lagoons that are removed from ocean behavior except when storms blow water over land barriers.  Core studies in the sediment of the lagoons identify ocean debris.

Additional studies involve searching for evidence suggesting conditions ripe for hurricanes in past centuries.  Warmer Atlantic temperature evidence and suggestions of La Nina conditions—where the atmosphere fosters winds that promote hurricane development—are useful indicators suggested by coral growth patterns and ice cores respectively.

These conditions were especially ripe in the Middle Ages, researchers found, though ripe conditions do not necessarily lead to a heavy storm era.  Medieval era sediment cores taken from lagoons between Massachusetts and Puerto Rico, however, confirmed frequent activity during the era.

One key difference Mann and his fellow researchers identified was that while the older storm era had La Nina influences, storms of the past decade are known to be primarily associated with warmer ocean temperatures.  Scientists believe “that recent anomalous warmth” is in large part due to human influenced climate change, Mann said.  A professor of geography from Florida State University added that the study supports the link between global warming and increased storm activity.

13.  GM says new Volt could get 230 mpg in city driving—Kimberly S. Johnson, AP, SLT 8/11/09

The electric car’s mileage has yet to be confirmed by federal regulators.   The four-door sedan is expected to hit showrooms late next year at $40,000.  The Volt would be the first mainstream plug-in.  The battery pack has a 40-mile range.  A small internal combustion engine generates electricity and the car has a 300 mile total range.  Recharge will be accessible from a standard home outlet.  Toyota’s hybrid Prius, starting at around $22,000, gets 51 mpg city miles and 48 mpg on the highway.  The Tesla electric Roadster at $100,000 plus has a range of 224 miles.

14.  GM says mercury not its problem anymore—Ken Thomas, AP, SLT 8/11/09

In the wake of the “Cash for Clunkers” program, General Motors has left a partnership that has collected mercury-containing parts from junk-bound autos.  An estimated 750,000 vehicles, many of which contain mercury switches, are expected to torn apart and recycled due to the recent stimulus program.

GM argues the post-bankruptcy re-structured company is not producing autos with mercury switches in assemblies such as trunk convenience lights and antilock brakes.  Around 36 million of the switches were used in assemblies during the 1980’s and 1990’s.  Over half were installed in pre-2000 GM vehicles.  End of Life Vehicle Solutions Corp.(ELVS), the auto industry partnership, was formed in 2005 to prevent mercury emissions due to the crushing and shredding of vehicles.  The National Vehicle Mercury Switch Recovery Program, organized by the EPA with automakers, the steel industry and environmentalists in 2006, has so far recovered 5,600 pounds of mercury.

GM was the program’s largest participant ahead of its bankruptcy.  The company has not paid its organization dues since the bankruptcy filing.  The organization in turn may be forced to cut back or end operations without GM’s support.  The partnership’s executive director said “We’re surprised that GM, who wants to have this great, green image, would do this.”

15.  Coal’s future wagered on carbon capture—Steven Mufson, The Washington Post 8/11/09

The new capture technology installed on a 30-year-old coal plant near New Haven, West Virginia has a 150-foot-tall exhaust stack as wide as six adults stretched hand to hand and a warehouse four stories tall and larger than a football field.  Pipelines run from the capture unit two miles underground into saline aquifers.  The process may be in operation by September.

Of the $2.4 billion devoted in the recent stimulus bill to pilot capture projects, $20 million is going to a program using supersonic airwaves to compress carbon ahead of storage.  $408 million has been awarded to two other carbon pilot projects, and $1 billion has been promised to FutureGen’s model plant.  The Waxman-Markey climate bill could provide $1.1 billion per year to Carbon Storage Research Corporation, a new research firm.  Bonus emission allowances that could be sold in the cap-and-trade market are additional incentives for carbon capture technology providers.

Coal plants cause 1/3 of US greenhouse emissions.  China has surpassed the US in coal-fired electricity generation, with no signs of slowing.  But carbon capture and storage, making “clean coal”, remains expensive, energy-intensive and largely untested.  Commercial viability is not expected for another 6-10 years.  The process could also prove to be cost-prohibitive.

American Electric Power, who owns the West Virginia plant, is the nation’s largest consumer of coal.  Still, the new project will only capture emissions from 20 megawatts of power generation, or 15% of the plant’s output.  Finding the room for such a large technological expansion at other power plants could be impossible.  Energy use for the new process is expected to be 15%-30% of output.

Alstom, a French company, manufactured the technology.  Exhaust from burned coal bubbles through a solution of chilled ammonia where CO2 bonds with it and can be separated from other gasses.  After separation from the ammonia, the gas is compressed for storage.  A 235 megawatt plant, modestly sized, could pay $700 million for the new technology, or about $100 per ton of CO2.  Earlier estimates from MIT placed costs at from $50 to $70 per ton.  The Waxman-Markey bill aims to provide the first six gigawatts of plants, about seven average-sized plants, a $90 per ton subsidy through free allowances.

Some experts recommend retrofitting old coal plants at a 4%-5% emission reduction or replacing them with more efficient ones, cutting more than ¼ of emissions.  Storage requires non-porous underground chambers that don’t exist everywhere.  Pipelines may be designed and built to carry the gas to locales with useable underground chambers.  Sale of compressed CO2 could be made to oil companies that use it to increase oil recovery in aging wells.

According to a research fellow at Stanford University’s Center for Environmental Science and Policy, what is happening now is far from the 1.5 billion to 2 billion tons of sequestration needed by 2025.  The International Carbon Bank and Exchange, a private sector trading company, a new VW beetle averaging 12,000 miles per year would fill up the Washington Monument three times over.  The US produces enough CO2 to cover the entire country a foot deep every year.   Greenpeace says sequestering all coal plant emissions would require 28 million train cars a day or a Grand Canyon twice a month.

Monitoring and storage site maintenance over hundreds of years has yet to be worked out.  One spokesperson called that far “beyond the likely lifespan of any corporation.”  Legacy costs could grow as they are handed down as well.  And corporations are looking to the government to limit liability should unexpected consequences occur.  “A naturally occurring “burp” of carbon dioxide in a Cameroon lake in 1986 killed hundreds of people,” the Post reported.

Optimists depend on technology growing cheaper and better over time.  Policymakers too are depending on ingenuity and what Senator John Kerry D-Mass. calls “game-changing possibilities”.    For instance, one company is pursuing a technique that bubbles emissions through sea water and traps them in cement.  Pre-combustion extraction technologies are also under study.

A Stanford University study of the technologies warns “the conventional wisdom that experience with technologies inevitably reduces costs does not necessarily hold…the opposite of the conventional wisdom” is true.  For both nuclear power in 1960-1980 and global liquefied natural gas from 1960-1995, costs increased even with government subsidy.

16.  Salt Lake Valley drivers cleared the air—Michele Straube, Deseret News 8/10/09

Michele Straube is a mediator/facilitator with Salt Lake Solutions, Mayor Ralph Becker’s collaborative government initiative.

Vehicle exhaust manufactures directly or indirectly 50% of year-round pollution in the Salt Lake Valley, including winter’s brown haze inversions and summer’s “yellow” and “red” air alert days.  Salt Lake Valley drivers responding to the Clean the Air Challenge eliminated over 1 million miles and 1.7 million pounds of emissions during the six weeks of the challenge in June and July.

Presented by Salt Lake City Mayor Ralph Becker, Salt Lake County Mayor Peter Coroon, Gov. Jon Huntsman Jr. and a 20-organization Partners Team, participants drove fewer miles, carpooled, took mass transit, worked from home, biked and walked.  Additional practices included trip chaining.  But such habits are needed beyond a challenge.  The website is available to foster changes with information and daily trip diaries.

Straube describes herself as one especially vulnerable to the impacts of air pollution, with a heart condition that becomes aggravated, dizziness and other likely symptoms on bad air days.

17.  Off-road vehicle enthusiasts rally to ‘Take Back Utah’—Sarah Dallof, 8/8/09

The frustrated crowd showed up to protest backcountry road access and federal government control over the state’s public lands.  Hundreds rode on four-wheelers and dirt bikes from the City-County Building to the state capitol Saturday for the “Take Back Utah” rally.  Their message was to keep public lands public, open to each and every one and every vehicle.

Coupled with frustrations over blocked access by federal—not state—mandate, the protesters also are anxious over the future of access under the Obama administration.  According to Rep. Mike Noel, R-Kanab, “They’re going to shut down public lands.  They’re canceling leases.  They’ve shut off the resources management plans.  We spent 10 years on those plans, and a lot of money for Utah.  They’ve shut them off.”

Senator Orrin Hatch, R-UT said “I just want you to know we’re fighting the battle back there.  We’re a small majority with just 40 Republicans but we’re doing the best we can.”  According to the Southern Utah Wilderness Alliance (SUWA), however, the majority of Utahns want greater environmental protection.  “Seventy-eight percent of Utahns we polled in 2005 said off-road vehicle use needs to be reigned in, needs to be better managed,” SUWA’s associate director said.

Tens of thousands of miles of trails already are open to off-road enthusiasts, SUWA’s spokesperson said.  “What you see is soil erosion, the loss of native vegetation,” she added.  “A lot of times weeds will attach to the undercarriage of these vehicles.  So wherever you see a road, an off-road vehicle trail, you tend to see a lot of weeds, which tend to be very flammable.”


18.  Pushing back against feds—Deseret News editorial, Deseret News 8/12/09

On healthcare reform

19.  Conserve critical lands—Editorial, 8/12/09

On preserving the McAllister Critical Land Conservation Fund

20. Land sustains valley life—Thad Box, freelance columnist, The Logan Herald Journal 8/12/09

On preserving the natural beauty around Logan

Roundup Tuesday August 11, 2009

Geoengineering to mitigate global warming may cause other environmental harm—Science Daily 8/7/09

Geoengineering techniques have been suggested to slow global warming through massive human-made changes to land, seas or atmosphere.  Ecologists at the Ecological Society of America’s Annual Meeting have concluded the risks outweigh the benefits.  Robert Jackson, Director of Duke University’s Center on Global Change, said “The bigger the scale of the approach, the riskier it is for the environment.”

One reason is that global alterations of the Earth’s natural cycles have too many uncertainties to be viable with our current level of understanding, Jackson said.  Atmospheric seeding for instance, an approach that would cool the climate much like volcanic ash by placing light-colored sulfur particles or other aerosols that would reflect the sun’s rays back into space, could cause significant changes in localized temperature and precipitation.

Though 1991’s Mount Pinatubo eruption in the Philippines cooled the Earth by .9 degrees Fahrenheit, simulations by a National Center for Atmospheric Research scientist suggests sulfur seeding could destroy atmospheric ozone and lead to increased UV radiation.  She added that it could delay recovery of the ozone hole over the Antarctic by decades.

Other global-scale geoengineering ideas include seeding the oceans with iron, which would increase carbon uptake from the atmosphere.  But an Oregon State University scientist argues that increased iron could cause iron-limited phytoplankton populations to increase, with massive die-offs creating large ocean dead zones due to oxygen deprivation.  Even without the phytoplankton disruption, he believes the offset would be miniscule, and ocean acidification due to over-rich CO2 uptake in seawater remains unaddressed, and potentially exacerbated.

Smaller scale geoengineering, such as geologic sequestration, offers safer possibilities, Jackson says.  He sees the technique as having the potential to store up to a century or more worth of electric power emissions at a relatively low cost.  Still, sequestration risks carbon leakage and groundwater interactions.

Overall, ecologists like Jackson support more direct approaches such as energy efficiency, reduced consumption, and investment in renewable options.

Seattleites slowly learning to BYOB—bring their own (shopping) bags—Marc Ramirez, The Seattle Times 8/7/09

A referendum on the August 18 ballot would mandate a 20 cent charge for plastic bags at Seattle stores.  Earlier and more informal behavior change programs and suggestions have seemingly led successfully to the “do the right thing” at the right time strategy for getting consumers to utilize their own reusable bags.

Many of the individuals and social-change consultants interviewed for the story already had clever ways to remember to take their bags with them.  Stores are selling and donating logo-sporting totes and remember-your-tote stickers as well as posting parking lot signs as reminders.

Many stores already have eliminated plastic bags.  Last year’s Seattle City Council-passed 20 cent surcharge was delayed by fierce opposition backed by the American Chemistry Council, which forced the referendum.  Under the law, stores earning less than $1 million would keep collected surcharges, while those grossing over $1 million would keep 25% and pay the rest to the city.

Surcharge fees would then go to educate people about and promote recycling.  One social change consultant said successful social-change programs rely on appealing to a sense of responsibility and the greater good.  Especially impactful are campaigns with a feel-good catch to it, like “Only You Can Prevent Forest Fires” and “Friends Don’t Let Friends Drive Drunk”.

Other social change programs have used regulation and enforcement, such as the Transportation Security Administration’s post-911 shoe removal law to pass through airport gates.  Peer pressure too has been successfully invoked, and some imagine Trader Joes customers as particularly vulnerable to such peer pressure.

Opponents to the surcharge say other bags have worse carbon footprints, and a spokesperson with the Coalition to Stop the Seattle Bag Tax said Seattle already was a voluntary leader without the bag tax.  Bob Lilienfeld, editor of the Use Less Stuff Report, said reduced bag consumption paled next to for instance driving to the store in terms of carbon footprint, but changing those kinds of behaviors are more difficult to do.

Senate confirms Abbey to Lead BLM—David Frey, NewWest.Net 8/7/09

Bob Abbey, known as the architect of the Great Basin Restoration Initiative, has been confirmed as Director of the Bureau of Land Management (BLM).   Abbey served as Nevada state BLM director and led successful restoration efforts there.  Interior Secretary Salazar noted Abbey had “more than 32 years of experience working with states and federal land management agencies.”

Suggested by Nevada senator and Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, Arizona Republican senator John McCain blocked the nomination temporarily over a proposed copper mine dispute in an Arizona national forest.

Abbey also served as chair of the Executive Committee for the implementation of the Southern Nevada Public Lands Management Act and has consulted for Abbey, Stubbs & Ford LLC. of Nevada.  He has served on numerous boards and committees.

Conservation group says drilling on federal land could hurt big game—AP, Deseret News 8/8/09

The Theodore Roosevelt Conservation Partnership is concerned that drilling will spook mule deer, elk and pronghorn away from prime Utah western desert habitat.  26,000 acres slated for lease this month have raised protests by the partnership, which will be reviewed by the Bureau of Land Management.  The BLM’s quarterly auction for Utah will take place Aug. 18.  The partnership has advocated environmental safeguards be adopted by federal land managers to protect big-game herds in Utah’s West Desert.

Some question the environmental impact of clunkers program—Ambar Espinoza, Minnesota Public Radio 8/7/09

Complaints over the program focus on the lack of stringent fuel economy standards.  The program offers a $3,500 credit for trade-ins that get 18 mpg or less if the new vehicle gets between 4 and 10 mpg better than the old one and $4,500 if it gets better than 10 mpg more than the trade-in.  Notably, large vans, pick-ups and sport utility vehicles (SUVs) qualify for the $3,500 incentive if the new vehicle gets just 2 mpg better, and 5 mpg better earns the larger credit.

An environmental studies professor from the College of Saint Benedict and Saint John’s University said consumers could turn around and buy a truck that gets 16 mpg or a hybrid that gets up to 40 mpg, “so how green it is ultimately depends on the consumer’s choice.”  Recent sales data from the federal government shows around 80% of trade-ins have been trucks and SUVs.

The most popular replacements nationwide have been the Ford Focus, Toyota Corolla, Honda Civic, Toyota Prius and Toyota Camry.  On average the new purchases get about 25 mpg, 10 mpg more on average than trade-ins.  Environmental professor Derek Larson would rather have seen the bill written so that a minimum incentive was available for 25% better gas mileage, and a larger incentive at 50% improvement.  He said rather than calling it an environmental bill, it’s more of a stimulus bill with some “positive environmental impact”.

According to experts at nonprofit CalCars, vehicle replacements reduces carbon emissions only at better than 50% improved fuel economy, due to energy costs of manufacture and disposal of the old car.  The Associated Press published analysis suggesting the “Cash for Clunkers” program may impact CO2 emissions in the same way shutting down power for the entire country for an hour per year would.  Trade-ins by law must be destroyed to prevent re-sale and re-use.  Most of the refuse is recycled after processing.

Some critics worry the program is stimulating unnecessary production of new cars, though current sales are from existing inventory, and the program has boosted only a relatively small increase in average yearly sales.

Plan urged to save national parks from global warming effects—Margot Roosevelt, Los Angeles Times 8/7/09,0,7287363.story

A recent report published by the National Parks Conservation Association (NPCA), a Washington-based advocacy group, calls for decisive action in the wake of anticipated global warming impacts on the nation’s national parks.  NPCA wants the National Park Service to devise a detailed plan replete with funding for global warming adaptation.

Concerns related to climate change include the bleaching of coral reefs in Florida and the drying up of high-altitude ponds in California that support yellow-legged frogs.  President Thomas C. Kiernan wrote; “[N]o national plan exists to manage wildlife throughout their habitat, which is often a patchwork of lands managed by multiple federal agencies, states, tribes, municipalities and private landholders.”

The Waxman-Markey climate bill that has yet to win senate approval would provide over $500 million per year for natural resources adaptation through its carbon-trading program.  Obama administration park service director nominee Jon Jarvis recently testified; “Climate change challenges the very foundation of the national park system and our ability to leave America’s natural and cultural heritage unimpaired for future generations.”

Jarvis sees national park holdings as places to monitor and document ecosystem change absent of stressors dominant on other public lands.  The NPCA report recommends a number of adaptation strategies such as inter-park wildlife corridors for freedom of species migration and more effective limits on environmental hazards.

Nevada Water Authority vote sought on pipeline project—Henry Brean, Las Vegas Review-Journal 8/7/09

Southern Nevada Water Authority chief Pat Mulroy is seeking an “up-or-down-vote” from her board on the Authority’s controversial proposed pipeline project from Snake Valley in the central eastern part of the state to Las Vegas.  Mulroy said Thursday she was seeking the vote “in order to show that the political will is still there to move forward with the project.”  Mulroy added that there had been a recent surge in opposition to the multibillion-dollar pipeline.

The proposed pipeline, ahead of federal permits and environmental clearances, would draw water for about 270,000 homes from 300 miles north.  Board chair and North Las Vegas Mayor Shari Buck believes the vote will come down on the side that protects sustaining Las Vegas.  The Authority’s current strategy is to get all the studies and permits out of the way so that the project can be initiated when it’s most needed.

Another Authority spokeswoman said if Lake Mead shrinks at its current rate, that could be as soon as three years or less.  About 90% of Vegas area drinking water comes from the Colorado River-fed lake, which has dropped over 100 feet in the wake of the past decade of drought.  Another 20 feet and the vote for pipeline production would be triggered.  At 50 feet lower than the current levels, Hoover Dam would stop producing power and the Authority would no longer be able to draw from the reservoir.

Mulroy said “It is high risk to assume that the worst is not going to happen.”  Some of the seven-member board, assembled from county commissioners and city council members across the region, have never voted on the pipeline.  One such voter admitted the Authority has said there were no other options, but he was not completely convinced.

Opposition groups, including the Progressive Leadership Alliance of Nevada (PLAN)—a liberal advocacy group, are expected to protest the vote.  PLAN said the last month reaped 16,000 signatures against the pipeline from Southern Nevada residents.  A spokesman for PLAN called Mulroy’s alarmist comments “fear mongering”.  He added that the original argument for the pipeline was growth.

In reversal, highly developed nations see rise in fertility—Rob Stein, The Washington Post, SLT 8/10/09

Though birth rates have slowly declined for a number of decades in highly developed countries, triggering a number of policymakers, demographers and social scientists to speculate over the result, new research suggests that once a nation achieves especially high development, birthrates begin to grow again.  One professor from the study said “We project a more optimistic future where fertility will go up, which reduces fears of rapid population decline and rapid aging.”

The debate over the demise of countries with diminishing populations revolves around a nation’s fertility rate.  A generally desirable number has been the replacement rate, an average of two children per woman.  As economic prosperity has risen during the 20th century, fertility rates have fallen in places such as Japan, South Korea, Germany, Spain and Italy.  Concerns over the sustainability of pension programs and rapid loss of a labor force grew under the apparent one way downward trend in fertility rates.

Some countries such as Sweden and Italy, resistant to immigration, have offered female citizens incentives for births, though without significant impact.  By examining fertility trends from 1975 to 2005 in 37 of the most developed countries and utilizing the United Nations’ human development index (HDI)—which utilizes income data and other measures of advancement such as longevity and education levels—researchers found fertility rates declined as HDI rose, but after 18 of 26 countries crossed an HDI of .9, fertility rates began to rise again.

Timing of the turnaround differed between countries.  The US turnaround was in the mid-1970’s, Norway’s in the early 1980’s, and Italy’s in the early 1990’s.  Causes are unclear, but one speculation suggests women in most-developed countries can both work and have children.

Idaho ranchers embrace deal to help sage grouse—AP, SLT 8/10/09

The conservation measures developed by southwestern Idaho farmers and ranchers with Idaho Department of Fish and Game would improve sage grouse habitat and limit conflicts should the grouse be named an endangered species.  US Fish and Wildlife may decide in February whether the bird will land on the federal Endangered Species list.

Some measures would change the way hay fields are cut and delay livestock grazing in areas where nests exist until chicks are raised.   Some farmers already utilize such measures, and the voluntary conservation efforts would be rewarded with exemption from further regulation on private lands if the sage grouse becomes an endangered species.

Public lands would still be subject to endangered species regulations.  66% of the area identified in the agreement now up for public comment is held privately.  Landowners would join the 30 year agreement voluntarily, and could opt out at any time.  A biologist with Idaho Fish and Game said the bigger threat to the bird is development, where Washington County, Idaho is one of the fastest-growing counties in the state.

Up to 16 million sage grouse may have lived across the West from Kansas to California in the early 1800’s, diminished by urban sprawl, farming, ranching, oil and gas drilling, wildfires and the spread of invasive weeds, encroaching on the bird’s habitat.   Some environmentalists have called the state agreement “piecemeal” and “doomed to fail”.  A spokesman for the Western Watersheds Project said that sage grouse “are so imperiled that only listing will provide the protections that they need.”

Perseid meteors to shower down late Tuesday, early Wednesday—Sheena Mcfarland, SLT 8/10/09

Billed as the most-watched meteor shower of the year, the Perseid meteor shower is predicted by NASA to be even more intense between 2 and 3 a.m. Wednesday morning.  Astronomers expect the Earth will pass through an especially rich pocket of meteor-producing particles.  The particles are fragments of the parent comet Swift-Tuttle which last approached Earth in 1610, and will not return for about another 100 years.  Other comets may have contributed to the Perseid shower’s debris.

While the showers can be viewed before and after Aug. 12, early Wednesday morning will find the Earth centered in, and Utah facing directly into the meteor showers.  With a dry, high-pressure system expected in the area Tuesday thru Wednesday, conditions should be optimal for viewing.  The Perseid shower is named for the constellation Perseus, where the showers appear to occur.  The shower is considered to be one of the fastest, with meteors entering the atmosphere at 60 kilometers per second.

Utah chemical incineration operation gets safety award—AP, SLT 8/10/09

The US Army’s Tooele Chemical Agent Disposal Facility was recognized with a “voluntary protection program” award by the US Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) recently.  The chemical weapons incinerating facility was recognized for its exemplary health and safety program that exceeds OSHA standards.  Over 1,000 people work at the facility that works to destroy the Army’s largest stockpile of aging chemical weapons under an international treaty.

Fire crews continue to gain on Big Pole fire—Jason Bergreen, SLT 8/10/09

The Big Pole fire, about 55% contained, was reined in enough Monday morning to allow some fire crews to be shifted to California.  Cooler weather over the weekend aided in control, and winds are expected to be low, though hotter, drier conditions are forecast.

Feds hold back $40 million in Utah drill leases—Paul Foy, AP, SLT 8/9/09

Around $100 million paid for millions of energy lease acres over the past 7 years in Utah, Colorado and Wyoming remains in a federal account pending final review of environmental protests and lawsuits on the backlogged parcels.  A spokeswoman for the Denver-based Independent Petroleum Association of Mountain States said the government shouldn’t be sitting on that kind of money during times of economic hardship.

One oilman during Salazar’s trip to Salt Lake City in May said “We think the government should issue the leases we purchased or give the money back.”  Leasing delays have grown worse, officials say, but legal wrangling that allows anyone to challenge a lease on public lands has their hands tied.  Kent Hoffman, deputy Utah director of lands and minerals for the Bureau of Land Management, said “We have to answer these protests in a very legal fashion, knowing the next step could be the Interior Board of Land Appeals or federal court.”

While protested parcels are sold in buyer-beware fashion, speculators, brokers, drillers and oil companies have not previously been deterred.  The Utah director for the American Association of Professional Land Men said in past years protests were resolved quickly:  either a site was fit for oil and gas development or it wasn’t.  He complained that the current process leaves investors on the hook while the money sits idle in federal accounts.

International Petroleum, a Salt Lake City-based family firm with outside investors, has had 46 leases awaiting administrative review since 2005, and Par Five Exploration of Orem also has had hundreds of thousands of dollars of leases dating as far back as 2005.

Southern Utah Wilderness Alliance staff lawyer Stephen Bloch said “Leases were being issued at a breakneck rate throughout the Bush administration, and we were challenging that because they were being sold in spectacular landscapes.”  Complaints rose after Interior Secretary Salazar blocked 77 parcels leased at the tail end of the Bush administration, but Salazar ordered the return of those auction monies.

Records show $40 million in held up leases in Utah, about $50 million in Wyoming and $1.2 million in Colorado, with an additional $5.7 million in coal, uranium and potash leases in Colorado.  In a June 23 Salt Lake City auction that was billed as protest-free, Utah BLM director Selma Sierra decided in mid auction to allow protests filed after the deadline by Denver-based Center for Native Ecosystems and Washington D.C.-based Theodore Roosevelt Conservation Partnership on all the leases.

ESR Editor’s note—While critics argue that “anyone” can challenge a lease on public lands, BLM guidelines acknowledge repeatedly that only those challenges on substantive grounds will be considered.

At Caffe Ibis, social change is brewing—Arrin Newton Brunson, SLT 8/8/09

Owners Sally Sears and husband Randy Wirth began business ventures in Logan in 1976 with a health food store.  Caffe Ibis roasts around 300,000 pounds of coffee per year, and serves its home brew in a trendy Logan coffee house and café.  Exceptional quality and freshness are key to the enterprise’s success.

Wirth said the goal is to “have the eyes of the coffee bean farmer and the eyes of the customer in front of us as we work.”  The owners’ own software tracks coffee products from farm to roaster.  Triple Certified Coffees, the highest industry standard, lie just below certifications like Fair Trade and Smithsonian Shade-Grown and Organic.  The search for beans from a healthy environment started for the couple well before the movement became popular.

Fair Trade standards guarantee a decent wage, humane labor conditions and community improvements.  The Smithsonian designation protects birds and rainforests, benefitting farmers who provide habitat for insects, orchids and animals.   Caffe Ibis pays an additional premium to farmers boasting these designations, and hasn’t passed the cost on to consumers.  The couple say it’s part of what their ‘ethical consumers’ pay for.

Whereas coffee production has meant women in oppression, the couple took advantage of a plan to help disenfranchised female farmers in northern Peru in 2003.  “They [women] had been forced up into the highlands.  A lot of them didn’t have husbands and were abused…We wanted to see if we could raise up those women.  In raising up those women within their village, it raised up the entire village,” Sears said.

Sears and Wirth were the first non-natives to visit a remote village north of Lima that is a part of their co-op for harvest, in 2005.  They described the villagers as often sleeping eight to a room on earthen floors.  “They hand-carried mattresses from other villages for the two married couples in our group,” Sears added.  The farmers regularly carry 152 lb bags of coffee on their backs.

With the Café Feminino project, the couple brought nine new wet mills to the region, cutting the 4 hour one way trip to the wet mill to just 20 minutes. Until four years ago, only one vehicle was available in the region, and shared by many villages, often used to truck kids to one remote village school.  Every village now has a school, and the girls of the villages are attending as well, where only boys once attended.

Café Feminino began with 76 members and has grown to more than 800 members, expanding into the Dominican Republic, Columbia and Mexico.  The group trades exclusively with other women in the coffee industry.

“We wanted to honor and respect the woman-to-woman experience,” Sears said.  “We call it the triple-bottom-line because we’re looking at social justice.  We’re looking at the environment and it gets us out of bed in the morning.  We’re thrilled to come to work and we know that we are making a difference every day.”

Coffee ranks as the world’s second largest commodity and the US consumes one third of the resource.

ATV protest:  A few thousand ride to ‘Take Back Utah’—Tom Wharton, SLT 8/8/09

Around 3,000 riders with American flags paraded up State Street to the state Capitol for the rally Saturday morning.  One sign read:  “I’ll keep my guns, my freedom, my land.  You keep the change.”  Another read “This is the Place for US, not the U.S. Government.”  The parade included sheep trailers, mountain bikers, oil and coal trucks and ATV riders defiantly riding without helmets.

Utah Senators Orrin Hatch and Bob Bennett spoke to the “appreciative and somewhat angry throng.”  Attorney General Mark Shurtleff and Cherilyn Eagar, both Bennett’s 2010 Republican Senate nomination opponents, also spoke to the rally, organized by Rep. Mike Noel R-Kanab with off-road vehicle clubs and sponsored by an array of public land users including hunters, farmers, miners and oil and gas companies.  “[T]he event was long on anger and rhetoric and short on specifics about how federal land management should be changed or even eliminated,” reporter Wharton said.

A representative of the OHV group USA-All said “We’re God-fearing and gun clinging.”  Aiming his words at what he termed radical environmental groups, he said “You guys that love rocks and trees more than human beings, you have awakened a sleeping giant.  We are not going away.  We’ve been too easy on you.  There is a new war in the western United States to take back our lands.”

Targets of the rally included the Southern Utah Wilderness Alliance, the Bureau of Land Management, the Obama administration, wilderness designation and the federal government in general.  After 20 years working for the BLM as a lands specialist, Rep. Noel quit in disgust when the Clinton administration established the Grand Staircase-Escalante National Monument.  He said he hoped the event would push more people to explore the public lands on off-road vehicles.

“[I]t’s about farming and mining and keeping revenues generated by the lands of Utah…We have got to be extreme in the way we take back these public lands,” Noel said.  Hatch told the story of how he became a part of the Sagebrush Rebellion in 1976 in an effort to gain more state and local control over Western public lands during the Carter administration.  Rep. Rob Bishop R-UT said states with large swaths of public land find their education funds hamstrung.  His oration included a historical and constitutional case against wilderness and federal ownership of public land.

Bennett, Shurtleff and Egar all vied to establish credentials as freedom-loving states’ rights advocates.  Senator Bennett said of the oil leases pulled earlier this year in Utah, “They listened to SUWA rather than abide by the law.”  Shurtleff, present state attorney general, rallied, “These are our roads, our lands, our families, our resources, our rights and we are going to stand up for them once and for all.”  Egar called federal ownership of the public lands in Utah unconstitutional.

In a pre-emptive news release, SUWA associate director Heidi McIntosh said “Despite their rhetoric, these groups have long had access to nearly all public lands in Utah, frequently to the detriment of the long-term health of the public lands, with no long-term economic stability.”

ESR Editor’s note:  Elsewhere McIntosh said of the rally that organizers were trying to capitalize on recession angst among those hardest hit.

Births down:  Economy not the only thing receding—Mike Stobbe, AP, SLT 8/7/09

In the first annual decline in births since the start of the new millennium, US births declined almost 2% from 2007 to 2008.  The largest declines were in California and Florida, where recession issues have been very strong since its start in December 2007.  By the fall of 2008, there were about 68,000 less births than the year before, or 4,247,000 new births nationwide.

2007 marked the largest birth year in the nation’s history.  While birth rates have been on the rise since 2002 in women of different age groups, new demographic statistics are not yet available.  Births were up in 10 mostly northwestern stats.

Utah’s new bison herd thriving, expanding—AP, SLT 8/7/09

Recent Utah Division of Wildlife Resources surveys of the Book Cliffs herd found the 44 transplants in good health after their first winter, with four newborns in tow.  Utah’s newest wild herd is the first in 70 years.  Two others exist in the state.  Officials anticipate the Book Cliffs herd to peak at 450.  The transplants were donated by the Ute Indian tribe and rounded up from the Henry Mountains.

Staying vigorous in Utah’s ozone season—Judy Fahys, SLT 8/7/09

After hearing from health and environmental officials that smog can harm even healthy people, Utah Nordic Association president Richard Hodges asked his son’s cross-country coach to switch workouts to mornings when the ozone is lower.  “Everyone has a personal, vested interest in the air we are breathing,” Hodges said.

A group of state health officials, environmental staff and advocates met last winter and spring, updating the public message on ozone.  Because ozone pollution affects everyone, each individual can take steps to protect themselves from hot, sunny, ozone-rich afternoons.  The group reviewed ways to prevent typical wheezing, fatigue and asthma symptoms caused by the pollution.

While smog is generally obvious as haze, ozone builds up as a technically colorless and odorless sun-activated pollutant.  New .075 parts per million EPA standards are expected to be even more difficult to reach by northern Utah counties that already struggled to meet .080 ppm standards.  According to the EPA, the reduction will prevent as many as 2,000 premature deaths per year and save up to $19 billion in related costs.  Critics such as the Utah Manufacturer’s Association say compliance could cost as much as $8.5 billion.

Several counties will face new compliance requirements due to the changes.  The state task force was struck by growing evidence that ozone impacts healthy people.  Inflammation responses in the blood breathing and heart functions can lead to heart attacks, strokes and cancer, though some studies have not found associations.  Repeated inflammation is known to repetitively trigger the body’s immune system.  New advisories are targeted at reducing this physiological stressor.

Suggestions include shifting exercise to mornings or evenings when ozone is lower.  The Utah Asthma program offers a tracking sheet to help asthmatically sensitive individuals identify their ozone thresholds.  Inhalers too may be for the first time recommended for summer use by physicians.

This article has a number of additional features titled “Ozone and you” at the bottom.  See the original article.

Utah Asthma program tracking page

Big Pole fire continues to burn—Jason Bergreen, SLT 8/7/09

The Tooele County west desert fire burned 44,700 acres since lightning ignition Wednesday night, across northeastern parts of Skull Valley and the Stansbury Mountains, making the Big Pole fire the largest in Utah so far this year.

Utah’s oil, natural gas boom ebbing—Steven Oberbeck, SLT 8/6/09

Oil and gas well starts are down 54% over the first half of last year, and a strong uptick is considered unlikely.  A spokesman for the Utah Division of Oil, Gas and Mining said while 50 drilling rigs were in operation a year ago, that number has fallen to 15, many of which are thanks only to big companies like Anadarko, New Field and Kerr-McGee.

The University of Utah Bureau of Economic and Business Research’s new report notes that in 2007 Utah ranked 13th in crude oil production and 8th in natural gas, bringing over $370 million in royalties, fees and taxes into the state’s coffers.  Crude oil production in 2008 was the highest in 16 years at 22 million barrels, while natural gas production shot to a new high of 441.5 billion cubic feet.

A senior research economist at the bureau called the oil and gas business “an extreme boom-bust industry”.  In a low-growth scenario the industry is still expected to create 16,820 additional jobs, $5.7 billion in personal income and $4.7 billion in earnings over the next 30 years.  The federal Energy Information Administration projects light-sweet crude rise above $100 a barrel by 2014.

EnergySolutions confident about foreign imports—Judy Fahys, SLT 8/6/09

Embroiled in a legal fight with Utah and radioactive waste organizations the Northwest Interstate Compact on Low-level Radioactive Waste and the Rocky Mountain Compact, company chair and CEO Steve Creamer told investors on a Thursday conference call the company was optimistic.  Creamer has offered to split $3 billion in profits from Italian waste burial with Utah, though shareholders may force withdrawal.

Creamer told shareholders Utah was lacking conviction about the lawsuit.  Some insiders have told him the law is on EnergySolutions’ side, and the Utah legislature is just “playing delay tactics”.  While the lawsuit on whether EnergySolutions has the right to import foreign waste is up in the air, the company, which saw a 19% revenue decline and 42% profit decline in this year’s second-quarter, in addition to seeking some of the US’s $6 billion in stimulus funds and $19 billion in prime contracting opportunities, is shopping in the UK, China and Germany for contracts.

Push is on for mine cleanup funds to go to uranium sites—Sue Major Holmes, AP, SLT 8/6/09

New Mexico has some 259 abandoned uranium sites that need cleanup with a total of 800 abandoned hardrock sites, more than ¼ of which suffer from radioactivity or chemical contamination.  The pattern is similar across 13 western states, according to the Government Accountability Office (GAO).  New Mexico state officials are pushing that more cleanup money go to the hazardous uranium sites.

Of Wyoming’s 956 abandoned hardrock sites, half are considered environmentally degraded, as with 9,900 of 50,000 Arizona sites and 5,200 of over 47,000 sites in California.  Uranium dust exposure has been known to cause kidney toxicity and acute kidney failure, and radiation exposure is known to increase cancer risk.

During the last quarter of the Bush administration, laws that allowed states to direct cleanup monies to sites deemed a threat to public health and safety were re-interpreted to direct monies primarily to coal mine cleanups.  New Mexico is calling on Interior Secretary Ken Salazar to reverse the solicitor general’s opinion.  Salazar is reportedly taking the matter under review.

Of $20 million over the next 6 years dedicated to New Mexico’s abandoned mine and mill cleanup, only $800,000 of this year’s $3.8 million grant can be used for hardrock site cleanup.  And an Obama administration proposal could cut a $142 million program dedicated to states and tribes certified for completed coal mine remediation.  That means as many as 520 abandoned uranium sites in Navajo country could go unaddressed.

The executive director of the Navajo Nation Environmental Protection Agency noted too that the Abandoned Mine Lands Program focuses on reclamation, where reclamation attends to removal of physical hazards.  In many instances, he noted, remediation—such as removing contaminated soil or studying groundwater concerns—is necessary.

During a demonstration last month marking the 30th anniversary of a tailings spill that flooded the Rio Puerco with millions of gallons of acidic water, one Navajo Nation leader decried the notion of covering but leaving intact radioactive tailings at a proposed site.  His expectation is that the cover will deteriorate.

Uranium cleanup concerns have heated up with the proposal of new uranium mines across the West.  Legislation is being proposed at the national level that would tie cleanup funds to production values.  Existing abandoned sites date back before 1977, when the Surface Mining Control and Reclamation Act began requiring financial assurance for cleanup on new development once mining was finished.  Some say the US is additionally responsible, since uranium until the 1970’s went primarily to national defense concerns.

Beetle battle being won near downtown Orem—AP, SLT 8/6/09

Japanese beetles that began proliferating near downtown Orem since 2006 have apparently been curtailed thanks to an aggressive spraying program rapidly launched after the outbreak.  While 2,000 beetles were found in the area in 2007, recently only four have been found.  Without aggressive, early treatment, officials feared the hungry beetles would spread to other areas, severely damaging lawns, gardens and trees.  Monitoring of the area will continue.

Eagle recovering after collision with semi—Lindsay Whitehurst, SLT 8/6/09

The 5 plus year old male golden broke through the cab’s windshield as the truck moved westbound on I-80 near Echo.  The bird experienced severe head trauma and lost vision in one eye, according to the executive director of Wildlife Rehabilitation Center of Northern Utah, where the animal is rehabilitating.  The golden eagle may regain vision, and could be released into the wild within a month.

Common in Utah, golden eagles have a 30 year lifespan.  Their young carry a white base at the tail that fades with age.  While not the apparent cause, large birds of prey have been known to be hit after gorging on fresh kill, diminishing their ability to fly quickly.  The Wildlife Rehabilitation Center treats 2-3 goldens from auto accidents per year.

American Indian linked to federal artifacts looting case—Patty Henetz, SLT 8/6/09

The man found it easy to buy bowls, Hopi kachina masks, SunDance skulls, eagle feathers, knives, pots, fetishes and other Puebloan artifacts from tribal members on New Mexico reservations.  Santa Fe resident Thomas “Tommy” Cavaliere sold thousands of dollars of such artifacts to undercover FBI investigators over a 2 ½ year period, allegations say.  A former antiquities dealer sparked the investigation after contacting the FBI in 2006 in Utah, seeking to curtail illegal trading.  Over 23 individuals have been charged in Utah in the case.

Cavalier pleaded guilty in 2002 to four counts of violating the Native American Graves Protection and Repatriation Act (NAGPRA) of 1990.  Several artists and antiquities dealers in the Santa Fe area were involved in the circle of connections the FBI’s undercover operative—“The Source”—was introduced to, and while confiscation of a number of artifacts from their property has occurred, no charges have been made.

Though most of the Santa Fe based individuals were not available for comment, one said that searches and prosecutions of dealers was politically motivated, utilizing the Obama administration’s interpretation of NAGPRA, another in a long line of uneven applications since hitting the books as law.  The dealer added “I’m doing the same thing today I was doing 38 years ago when I started in this business.”  He claims the federal government is serving people like him up to the tribes rather than honoring old treaties or offering compensation for stolen land.

The Santa Fe collective sold or traded to the FBI’s informant artifacts from Taos, Zia, Acoma, and Santa Domingo Pueblos, as well as from Hopi kivas.  Better than 20 tribes continue on pueblos—reservations without public land—across the Southwest, and the tribes consider themselves descendants of the Anasazi, who dispersed from Chaco Canyon and the region between the 12th and 13th centuries.

One confiscated kachina mask allegedly came from the Hopi Third Mesa, where the oldest continuously inhabited village in the US has existed since circa 1050 A.D., Old Oraibi.  According to a Hopi consultant, all kachina masks are considered living gods and unavailable for a tribal member to sell.


Courage, collaboration are keys to Jordan River’s future—Jenny Wilson, Corey Rushton, Chris McCandless, Salt Lake County Council, West Valley City Council, Sandy County Council respectively; co-chairs Blueprint Jordan River Implementation Committee, SLT 8/8/09

Roundup Friday August 7, 2009

1.  Court restores ‘roadless rule’ in national forests—Bettina Boxall, Los Angeles Times, 8/6/09,0,1222397.story

The 9th Circuit Court of Appeals found on Wednesday that the Bush administration neglected environmental laws when it effectively repealed a 2001 rule that barred road building and timber cutting in almost a third of the nation’s forests.  The ‘roadless rule’ issued during the last month of the Clinton administration is considered one of the administration’s most controversial conservation moves, sparking lawsuits, contradictory court rulings and administrative maneuvers.  Other cases are currently pending in US courts, and the Obama administration could devise its own policy.

Environmentalists are calling the ruling an important victory that will help keep some of the most pristine national forest lands from energy development and logging.  Earthjustice represented 20 environmental groups in the case.  The decision was issued by a conservative panel of 3 judges all appointed by Republican presidents, though the 9th Circuit has a reputation for liberal interpretation.  Their ruling stated that the Bush administration regulation that gave states substantial control over federal roadless areas took “substantive environmental protections off the books” without first undertaking environmental reviews.

A spokesman for the Blue Ribbon Coalition, an off-road vehicle group, said continuing litigation was likely for some time, and other cases are currently making their way through the courts.   While the original Clinton-era rule applied to around 58.5 million acres, the Tongass National Forest in Alaska was later removed from the ban.  Utilizing a longstanding federal petition process separate from the Bush rule, Idaho last year adopted its own standards for 9.3 million acres of roadless forest within the state.  Environmental groups are challenging the Idaho standards, arguing more than half the acreage could be opened to logging for the alleged purposes of thinning to reduce risk from wildfire.   Colorado also is seeking to adopt its own roadless rule.

2.  Obama admin teams with grassroots groups to ‘Green the Block’—Kate Sheppard, 8/5/09

The partnership between the White House and grassroots organizations Hip Hop Caucus and Green For All is expected to boost benefits of green jobs programs for low-income communities and minority youth.  The Green the Block Initiative was announced Tuesday, and will officially begin with a day of service on September 11, 2009 as part of the administration’s United We Serve program.

The president of the Hip Hop Caucus said “Future generations will measure us by our success in transitioning from a fossil fuel economy to a clean energy economy, and in the process building opportunity and prosperity for our most economically disenfranchised communities.”  The reverend added “We have to convince our generation that this truly is our lunch-counter moment of the 21st century,” referring to the sit-ins at segregated diners during the Civil Rights era.

Local initiatives will take place around the country.  The CEO of Oakland-based Green For All said “September 11 is about bringing people together to recognize that change happens not in the corridors of Washington, DC, but it happens in the cities of Detroit, Cleveland, San Francisco, Oakland, Richmond and cities across the country.

Obama administration investments to assist low-income Americans through greening efforts include $14 billion for housing upgrades, including $5 billion to make low-income housing more energy efficient.  Currently the government spends $5 billion a year in monetary assistance for energy bills in low-income neighborhoods.  Additionally the climate and energy bill moving through the Senate includes provisions that would help ensure jobs will be created in low-income and minority communities, including local hiring requirements and dedicating a portion of pollution permit revenues to job training programs.

Green For All’s CEO warned, however that minority communities potentially benefitting from the climate bill needed to remain active as the bill moves through the senate.  “If communities of color aren’t engaged, you won’t see provisions like that.”

Green the Block

3.  Stimulus funds jolt car-charging-station plans—Emily Heffter, The Seattle Times 8/6/09

As part of a $100 million Department of Energy grant, Seattle will get millions to provide infrastructure to streets and homes with charging stations for electric cars expected to become available for sale at local dealerships next October.  The funds will pay for 2,550 charging stations across the Seattle metropolitan area.  Ecotality, the parent company of electric Transportation Engineering Corporation (eTec), will establish the stations.

Nissan North America announced earlier this year that Seattle would be one of its first markets for an all electric car called the Leaf, which will get 100 miles to the charge.  One of the stimulus package fund stipulations is that purchasers of a Nissan Leaf will receive a 220-volt charging station in their home at no cost.  Also, eTech will be providing a station network throughout the area for any electric vehicle.  That includes vehicles provided by Zipcar, a local car-sharing service.

Home charges are expected to take 4-6 hours, while fifty of the public stations will charge in 15 minutes.  Expansion of electric vehicles was part of the campaign platform for Seattle’s mayor Greg Nickels.  His re-election agenda includes building 1,000 car-charging stations across the city and region over the next 4 years, removing 3,000 conventional vehicles from service.

Other cities receiving similar Department of Energy grants under the $100 million umbrella are Chattanooga, Knoxville, Nashville, San Diego, Phoenix, Tucson, Eugene, Corvales, Salem, and Portland Ore.

4.  Glacier melt accelerating, federal report concludes—Jim Tankersley, Los Angeles Times 8/6/09,0,2091418.story

A 50 year study of glaciers in Alaska and the Pacific Northwest shows that glacier melt has been rapid and accelerating due to global warming.  The study includes the longest records of glacial melt in North America.  Undertaken by the US Geological Survey, three benchmark glaciers were researched:  Wolverine and Gulkana in Alaska and South Cascade Glacier in Washington.  Their varying climates and elevations are considered representative of thousands of other glaciers across the continent.

Gulkana and Wolverine have lost around 15% of their mass since the mid-1950’s.  South Cascade Glacier has lost almost a quarter of its mass.  A direct link has been made to global warming.  Data tools included measurement stakes, photographic surveys, tallies of winter snow accumulation and summer melt.  Acceleration has been prominent over the last 20 years.  As the glaciers shrink, runoff declines and drier conditions follow, especially at end of summer, for natural and human communities below.

Interior Secretary Ken Salazar said “it is exactly the kind of science we need to invest in to measure and mitigate the dangerous impacts of climate change.”

View the full report:

5.  Pikas doing well in Glacier—Chris Peterson, Hungry Horse News 8/5/09

ESR Editor’s Note:  In its ‘About’ page, Hungry Horse News says it’s Montana’s largest weekly newspaper.

The American pika, a relative of the rabbit that survives without hibernation, has been found to be thriving in Glacier National Park by a University of Wisconsin-Madison researcher.  At least 1,500 animals and perhaps as many as 4,000 currently inhabit the park.  Elsewhere in the nation, pikas have gone extinct, including some native Great Basin populations.

Scientists attribute their disappearance to climate change:  too much heat and cold.  Pikas have a body temperature around 104 degrees.  They do best in climates under 80 degrees and where deep snows provide insulation from freezing to death.  Some trapped pikas where temps were at 78 degrees for more than a half hour died.

Pikas construct haypiles, large mats of vegetation under the broken talus rock of Glacier, which they feed on over winter.  Pikas also feed on their feces and the feces of other animals, especially hoary marmots.  They tend to be solitary animals, and while two litters are possible, the second tends to have a low survival rate.  Their mortality rate averages 37-47%.  They are susceptible to predation and if pushed out of its habitat may have a long way to migrate to another talus slope.

The potato-sized animals are considered an important climate change bellwether across the nation, because of their sensitivity to slightly increased temperatures and diminished snowfall.  The new research establishes baseline data for monitoring populations in the park, previously unknown parkwide.  While many were found in south facing talus slopes, larger densities were found on north faces.  Elevations were most dense between 7,000 and 7,500 feet.  They tended to be most active early and late in the day, due to their temperature sensitivity.

6.  It’s Official:  Breckenridge to Vote to Legalize Marijuana—Press Release, Sean McAllister and Josh Kappel, 7/24/09

ESR Editor’s note: says in its ‘About’ page that it was founded by Colorado professionals and parents to research, educate and advocate for effective drug policy.

The Breckenridge Town Clerk certified that a petition submitted by local reform group “Sensible Breckenridge” had enough valid signatures to place a new drug law measure on the November 2009 ballot.  While only 500 registered voter signatures were needed, more than 1400 were collected.

If the measure is passed, local penalties for private possession of one ounce or less of marijuana by adults 21 and older would be eliminated, legalizing small amounts of marijuana for adults under the Town Code.  By law, the Breckenridge Town Council can enact the law at their August 11 meeting.  Otherwise, the measure will be placed on the November 3rd ballot.

Local attorney and chair of Sensible Breckenridge said they found overwhelming support for sensible marijuana reform, and the measure will allow Breckenridge voters to decide whether “responsible adults should be criminalized for using a substance less harmful than alcohol.”

7.  Utah-based Harmons celebrates 77 years of buying local—Dawn House, SLT 8/5/09

The West Valley City-based grocery chain purchased goods and services from over 700 Utah manufacturers, service providers, food distributors and farmers last year, funneling $256 million into the state’s economy, vice president Bob Harmon said.  Harmon’s is the state’s 16th largest privately-owned company headquartered in Utah, employing 2,230 people.

“We want to support local producers and suppliers because we’re a local company too,” CEO and President Dean Peterson said.  “It’s something we’ve been doing for four generations.”  The market got its start in 1932 when Jake and Irene Harmon opened the Market Spot fruit stand on Main Street in South Salt Lake.  Local eggs and milk soon followed, and the market moved to Granger—now a part of West Valley City—at the end of World War II.

Harmons makes a point of identifying local products with the Utah’s Own label.  A Utah Department of Agriculture and Food spokesman said every dollar spent on a Utah product adds $4-$6 to the state economy, preserves the watershed and local farmlands.  A recently released 2007 agricultural census report showed Utah lost 635,500 acres of farmland since 2002.  Over the past 40 years, Utah additionally has lost more farm and grazing lands than Delaware and Rhode Island combined.

8.  Utah’s 4-day workweek cuts energy use 13 percent—Brock Vergakis, AP, SLT 8/5/09

The 4-day workweek begun last August has had 17,000 of the state’s 24,000 executive branch employees working 10 hours four days per week and taking Fridays off.  Cities and states across the country are following the policy closely, and using it as a model for energy efficiency and cost cutting.  While $203,000 in reduced custodial contracts were identified, other savings were not pinpointed, and the report released this week covers only the first 9 months of the program.  Final savings estimates are due out in October, incorporating utility rate and weather fluctuations.

Governor Jon Huntsman’s target had been a $3 billion savings from an over $10 billion budget, but due to a number of factors, including falling oil and electricity prices, the fact that 200 of the state’s 900 buildings already enjoyed closure on Fridays, and the lag time for booting up efficiency in the new program, experts doubted that number could be reached.  Incoming governor Gary Herbert will decide whether to extend the program sometime after the October report is issued.

The state energy manager has said that if the program is permanently instituted, savings could grow, since long-term leases could be negotiated, including ones that have utility costs incorporated into rental agreements, and equipment could be installed to better isolate and control heating and cooling on nights and weekends.  He expects utility rates to rise, especially if a cap and trade program on carbon emissions is instituted.

A majority of workers surveyed prefer the new schedule, and absenteeism and overtime are down.  Customer complaints too have dropped, and wait times at Department of Motor Vehicles have decreased due to the extended Monday-Thursday hours.  Employees are estimated to save collectively $5-$6 million annually from commuting one less day, and greenhouse gas emissions are expected to be cut by 12,000 metric tons.

Employees favoring the program have instituted a voluntary peer pressure network to ensure the program is continued.  Volunteer team captains remind co-workers to turn off lights, shut down computers and unplug electronics with phantom power when not in use.

9.  EnergySolutions’ Utah site due trainloads of depleted uranium—Judy Fahys, SLT 8/5/09

Though state regulators are considering a ban on import and storage of depleted uranium in Utah, the US Department of Energy is planning to ship 14,800 barrels of depleted uranium from the Savanna River cleanup site in South Carolina over the next 13 months.  The shipments will be paid for by part of a $1.6 billion stimulus money package awarded to the Carolina cleanup site.  Depleted uranium becomes more hazardous over time.

The mile square EnergySolutions site 80 miles west of Salt Lake City already contains 49,000 tons of depleted uranium from cleanups nationwide.  While a moratorium has been sought and continuing efforts are underway, the US Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC) affirmed last spring that depleted uranium fell into permissible waste for Utah.  One caveat is that large amounts of the waste in shallow burial sites such as the Tooele landfill could become unsafe without additional precautions, though the NRC’s review is expected to take years.

According to the NRC, depleted uranium increases in hazard to its peak in about a million years.  EnergySolutions has assured regulators that waste at the site won’t exceed state threshold limits for 35,000 years.  The federal government currently stockpiles around 700,000 tons of depleted uranium, with another 700,000 on the way from new enrichment facilities.

The company voluntarily requested last month that the state Division of Radiation Control amend its license so that the company is required to use extra-thick covers on future shipments of the waste.  Salt Lake City-based Cavanagh Services Group received the $3.4 million contract to haul the waste to the Tooele landfill just days after EnergySolutions assured the state radiation board that no new shipments of the waste were expected anytime soon and the board tabled its moratorium vote pending NRC meetings in September.

Activist groups such as HealUtah, some past and present radiation board members and Rep. Jim Matheson D-UT all are pushing the board to invoke a moratorium on depleted uranium.

10.  DEQ:  Explosive factory site could be clean enough to live on—Donald W. Myers, SLT 8/5/09

The Utah Department of Environmental Quality (DEQ) has said the former Ensign-Bickford site, an explosives plant that operated for 46 years outside of Mapleton, Utah, is safe to build on after contaminated soils are entombed.  The site contaminated a city well with a plastic explosives chemical previously.  Mapleton’s mayor is skeptical, but will not prevent a developer from proceeding if the DEQ OKs the site.  The developer is seeking to have the site incorporated into Mapleton’s city limits.

The DEQ’s hazardous waste facility’s manager said Ensign-Bickford took steps to decontaminate the property, including baking 90,000 tons of contaminated soil in a kiln to clean it, and shipping 200,000 tons of soil to a landfill outside of Price.  Soils with low pollutant concentrations still remain, and these would receive a 2-foot soil cap.  An environmental covenant will prevent development on that part of the site.  Other restrictions could apply for other parts of the site as well.

One citizen pushed at the public hearing sponsored by the DEQ for a study of cancer cases in the city due to previous contamination, rather than relying on the state’s verdict that the property is safe.  Years ago, when pushing for the state to test the city’s water wells, the state replied there was no way contamination could reach the wells.  The Mapleton citizen believes the RDX, an explosive, contamination has been responsible for four deaths in his neighborhood.

11.  Zoo pelican swallows cell phone—AP, SLT 8/5/09

The Tautphaus Park Zoo pelican in Idaho Falls, Idaho regurgitated the phone shortly afterward.

12.  Brazil forest group:  Go green—go in the shower—AP, SLT 8/5/09

Brazilian environmental group SOS Mata Atlantica favors the campaign to reduce flushes and save the Atlantic rainforest.  Cartoon drawings of ie a trapeze artist, a basketball player, and an alien are shown urinating in the shower, and the commercial is narrated by children’s voices that end with “Pee in the shower!  Save the Atlantic rainforest!”  SOS Mata Atlantica says saving a flush a day could save a household 1,157 gallons of water annually.

13.  Anxious anticipation as elephant’s pregnancy nears an end—Matthew D. LaPlante, SLT 8/5/09

First attempts to inseminate the 22-year old elephant occurred over three years ago, and birth is days away.  Calf mortality is high in spite of veterinary advances, and no African elephant has ever been born in Utah.  Few zoos undertake the years-long process.  One Asian elephant birth occurred in 1918 at the Hogle’s previous Liberty Park location, but the calf died in the first year.

Recently a mother elephant accidentally killed her day-old calf at the Memphis Zoo.  San Diego Zoo veterinarians euthanized a 2-month-old calf infected with antibiotic-resistant staph last year.  Stillborn calves are not uncommon.  Several of the hundreds of captive cows in US zoos have been found to carry mummified fetal remains in their wombs for years.  Misha, a Hogle cow that died in 2008, delivered a stillborn fetus at Six Flags Marine World in California a couple years before she was moved to Utah.

Elephant fetuses experience a complex passage from womb to birth.  The fetus sits low in the womb and is pushed up and over the mother elephant’s pelvis at birth. Beyond, the calf descends a long urogenital canal to emerge.  Calves can weigh between 180-350 pounds, and can get stuck in a number of places along the passage.  C-sections have always resulted in death of the mother.

After confirming the pachyderm was pregnant late in 2008, her keepers initiated a daily regimen of strengthening and stretching exercises that will ensure the calf of the 7,700 pound mother will not over-grow, and to prepare her muscles for the birth.  The elephant yard has been checked to ensure that there are no places where the calf could become endangered or accidentally killed.

Review of past delivery experiences elsewhere has been part preparation for zookeepers.  While the elephant’s hind legs will be harnessed for safety, keepers are preparing for an intervention-less birth.  They also are planning on minimal calf handling after the birth, lowering non-elephant smells that could interfere with mother-child bonding.

14.  Healthy plate:  Cans can compete nutritionally—Jim Romanoff, AP, SLT 8/4/09

While canned foods have typically held a poor reputation for nutrition, with fruits canned in sugary syrups and vegetables overcooked and canned in brine solutions, canning technology advances are allowing water and juice as well as low-sugar and -salt solutions.

Some fruits and vegetables are known to improve nutritionally with canning.  Apricots provide vitamin A and canning makes it easier to absorb the nutrient.  Tomatoes harbor nutrients during processing and are better than raw tomatoes for the antioxidant lycopene.  Fresh produce has been known to lose nutrients due to improper shipping and storage temperatures.

Produce headed for canning typically is harvested at peak flavor and nutrition.  Heating can degrade some nutrients, but packaging stabilizes nutrient loss afterward.  Canned fish and meats now have low-salt and -fat versions and compare nutritionally at times with fresh.

15.  Dining out:  For starters, Pago’s got the goods—Lesli J. Neilson, SLT 8/4/09

Pago, in Salt Lake City’s 9th and 9th neighborhood, touts itself as a “farm-to-table” restaurant featuring artisanship, local fare, and farm freshness.  Pago means “single vineyard” in Spanish.  Bell Organic, East Farms and Sandhill Farms all are supported through the restaurant’s participation in a Restaurant Supported Agriculture (RSA) program.  Spring and summer symbiotic relationships between restaurants and farms boom, but may become taxed in typical non-producing months like November.  Menus reflect the seasons, including a “succotash” of rotating RSA vegetables.

16.  Canning:  Present and future sealed—Kathy Stephenson, SLT 8/4/09

Last year, 75 year old Val Chatwin won 16 blue ribbons and the title “Utah Canning Champion” at the Utah State Fair.  She entered 50 separate categories—the contest limit—including traditional as well as unique selections like apple-plum syrup and elk meat.  The year before, she won 24 first place ribbons, but came in at second place.

The unstable economy and food safety scares have led to a record number of homeowners in Utah and elsewhere to plant a backyard garden, join a Community Supported Agriculture group or visit a farmers market.  Chatwin recalls when everyone canned fruits and vegetables out of necessity, a time when everyone had fruit trees and good peaches, jams or pickles were unavailable in stores.

Chatwin’s strategy for her canning wins began with identifying which categories had the fewest contestants, avoiding popular categories like salsa, apricot jam and peaches.  Her 2008 win requires her to sit out of competition the following year.

A list of upcoming food preservation workshops in August and September is posted at the end of the original article.

17.  Yes we can:  Safe and sound food processing—Kathy Stephenson, SLT 8/4/09

Six things canning beginners need are a canner, jars, lids and bands, accessories, recipes and a friend or mentor.

The canner can be a water bath or pressure canner depending on what is to be canned.  A rack holds jars in a pot during processing 1-2 inches below water.  Water-bath canners are for high-acid foods:  ie peaches, apricots and other fruits, tomatoes, pickles, relishes, jams, jellies and syrups.  They’re best for beginners and price.  Pressure canners are large and deep and have a vacuum seal, offering high pressure with a little water.  A gauge identifies working pressure and temperatures, and must be checked to assure it’s working.  Pressure canners are good for low-acid foods that require higher canning temps:  ie vegetables, meats, poultry, fish, stews and soups.

Standard mason jars come in a wide variety of sizes and are tempered to withstand canning temperatures.  Threaded openings allow for a tight seal, and the jars are reusable, if not damaged.  Lids and bands also create a tight seal.  Flat lids should be used only once, but screw bands are reusable until bent or rusty.

Accessories including knives, cutting boards, liquid measuring cups, ladles, wooden/slotted spoons, scales, thermometers, juicers, a food mill or processor differ depending on what’s being canned.  Review the recipe before getting started.  A reliable recipe is a must, and substitutions and proportion changes are frowned on, because they can change the acid level and make the food unsafe, as with processing times.  The process raises the food to a temperature for a certain amount of time that kills bacteria and other organisms that will otherwise contaminate the food.  High altitudes require longer processing times.

A mentor is highly useful, whether a mom, grandma or cooking class.  further information on a tight seal—improper head-space, air bubbles, dirty rims, incorrect processing time, improper cooling—and an altitude adjustment chart for water bath as well as pressure canners are available in the original article along with several canning recipes:  spiced apples, roma salsa, hamburger dills, corn and red peppers with basil.

Recommended reading:  The Ball Blue Book of Preserving, The Complete Idiot’s Guide to Preserving Food, The National Center for Home Food Preservation

18.  Government help not enough for most dairy farmers—Dawn House, SLT 8/4/09

While the Agriculture Department has raised the price paid for milk and cheddar cheese through the Dairy Product Price Support Program, operational costs are still too high to avoid deep debt for Utah dairy farmers and elsewhere.  Production skyrocketed last year with increased US milk export demand, but the global recession has brought plummeting demand and falling prices—a 30 year low.  Farmers are shutting down or borrowing heavily, losing equity in land, animals and equipment.

Equity values have declined as well.  Last year’s $2,000 milk cow fetches only $1,000 now.  A spokesperson for the Western States Dairy Producers Trade Association added that operational costs have also exploded, pointing out a $40,000 tractor in 1970 now costs almost $300,000.  US Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack called the issue “one of the worst dairy crises in decades.”

Temporary USDA price fixes will be in effect through October, and are expected to raise overall dairy farmer revenue by $243 million.  USDA attempted to raise wholesale prices in March with the release of 200 million pounds of surplus powdered milk to schools, food banks and needy countries, seeking to reduce US supply.

Still, a vice president with the National Milk Producers Federation said while farmers currently receive about a dollar per gallon of milk, farm costs are around $1.50 per gallon.  The federation announced in January that the dairy industry was on the brink of collapse, and the Obama Administration responded with supportive price hikes.  Dairy farmers argue prices need to reflect feed, fuel and supply costs.  The upshot is, milk could become “the only commodity to have a government-set price based on the cost of production.”

The Utah Department of Agriculture and Food reports that the number of Utah farms declined from 900 in 1998 to 530 in 2007.

19.  Airlines:  Tougher limits needed on oil speculators—Cox News Service, SLT 8/4/09

Noting oil speculation contributes to large oil price swings and lost dollars for airlines, including when prices fall and carriers are obligated to hedging contracts, airlines advocated for tighter regulation at a Commodity Futures Trading Commission hearing last week.  A similar push at peak oil prices a year ago failed.  Though airlines typically defy regulation, they say speculative traders disproportionately control commodities markets and utilize loopholes, and point out speculation hurts consumers.

An Air Transport Association spokesman said many flight and job cuts and other industry impacts were a direct result of oil price volatility.  Delta acknowledged it lost $8.4 billion in the “oil price bubble” since 2007, both to fuel expense and hedge losses, resulting in 10% reduction in flight capacity and 10,000 lost jobs.  Fuel price volatility especially impacts airlines that plan flights months in advance.

Ironically, general counsel for Delta said speculators “play a valuable role by providing liquidity needed for hedging.”  He argued that the commission should provide for enough speculation for liquidity, but no more.

20.  Senate panel approves land swap—Matt Canham, SLT 8/4/09

The Utah School and Institutional Trust Lands Administration (SITLA), which oversees state-owned lands, would receive oil- and gas-rich parcels of currently owned federal land in exchange for scenic and wilderness quality terrain in Utah.  Rep. Jim Matheson D-UT and Sen. Bob Bennett R-UT have worked on the bipartisan bill for four years, and Bennett called the bill very non-controversial, as shown by the relative rapidness with which it has gained approval.  The bill moves out of committee and to the floor of the Senate for approval.  The House passed the bill unanimously in July.

Also backing the bill is a diverse array of stakeholders including environmental groups, energy companies and county leaders.  Tens of thousands of acres could be exchanged after the bill passes into law, simplifying the longstanding “checkerboard” pattern of state lands that were given to Utah by the federal government when it laid out the grid system for land distribution and management back in the 19th century.  SITLA’s policy is to protect its investment interests, meaning lands of similar or better value must be exchanged—especially important where significant known mineral deposits are found.

21.  Rabbit fever detected in Kane County—Mark Havnes, SLT 8/4/09

Southwestern Utah health officials advise people to avoid stray cats and the handling of dead animals.  Two cats were identified with the bacterial infection tularemia in Kane County, a disease common to wild rabbits.  Though no cases have been reported, humans can contract the disease by handling blood tissues of dead animals and through tick and deerfly bites.  Untreated, rabbit fever can be fatal for humans.  The US Center for Disease Control and Prevention reports about 200 cases per year.  A number of symptoms are possible [see article], with incubation period 3-14 days.

22.  ‘No single cause’ says geologist; ‘Investigate’, says soon-to-be governor—Matthew D. LaPlante, SLT 8/4/09

The Utah Geological Survey’s director testified to the Executive Water Task Force Tuesday that no single cause existed for the failure of the Northern and Logan Canal that triggered a mudslide recently killing three people.  Causes that may have contributed to the failure include serious leaks that destabilized the ground beneath, an unseasonably rainy June and the heavily watered golf course that sits above the canal.

While Lt. Gov. Gary Herbert requested a full investigation, he backed off due to a lack of authoritative body to review the failure under existing state law.  He did reaffirm his belief that the failure must be investigated to prevent similar occurrences in the future.  Herbert wants the task force to identify who could investigate.  Though Herbert could authorize an investigation under state law, participation would be strictly voluntary.  Both the city of Logan and the Utah Attorney General’s office have declined to investigate the canal failure’s causes.

23.  Utahns sound off about hot waste at Matheson meeting—Judy Fahys, SLT 8/3/09

US Rep Jim Matheson D-UT recommended Monday that citizens become advocates for his low level radioactive waste ban bill.  About 60 people attended the congressman’s local meeting.  EnergySolutions Inc. can currently import waste from Italy and elsewhere around the globe, as well as import waste from 36 states across the US.  Utah’s authority is limited only to health and safety issues per a court ruling earlier this year.

Matheson’s “roundtable”, as he called it, was not announced to EnergySolutions, and a spokesperson said the company would have appreciated the opportunity to present their side of the issue.  She added that their faith lies in the US Nuclear Regulatory Commission, and the proposed bill is not necessary.

Attendants to the meeting acknowledged disappointment over state lawmakers, regulators and the Radiation Control Board in their oversight of the Tooele disposal site.  Radiation board member Pat Cone and former board chair Stephen Nelson expressed concerns over importation from other countries, state-granted exemption to EnergySolutions from a government site-ownership requirement, increase in radioactive waste blending and containment of more depleted uranium on top of the 49,000 tons already stored there.

One speaker said Utah was the only state to experience the downwind effects of fallout, which puts Utahns in the unique position to know the costs to public health and environment.


24.  Kirby:  Home canning:  Crime in a bottle—Robert Kirby, SLT 8/4/09