Roundup Tuesday September 1, 2009

The Editor would like to thank Headwaters News for supplying a number of links to stories in this edition of The Roundup.

1.  Mill Flat fire roaring out of control—Mark Havnes, SLT 8/30/09

A severe incident management team is being brought in to combat the blaze west of New Harmony in Washington County.  Around 170 residents were evacuated and at least three homes have been destroyed since lightning triggered the fire in the Pine Valley Wilderness Area.  Originally officials let the fire burn to lower combustible dead vegetation in the area.

Saturday’s winds transformed the 1,200 acre burn to a rampant 10,000 acre blaze by Sunday.  An additional 550 homes and 58 commercial properties are under threat.  An LDS church in Kanarraville has been set up as an evacuee shelter.

“It came down [Straight] canyon like a fireball,” a New Harmony councilman said.  One couple whose 3,200 square foot home lies adjacent to the national forest boundary expressed anger over letting the fire burn before it got out of control.  Homeowner Don Ondriskio said he was told when he called the US Forest Service that the fire couldn’t be suppressed because in was in a designated wilderness area.

Smoke and ash have been airborne and precipitated throughout southwestern Utah.  Though evacuation orders are mandatory in the most threatened areas, officials have said they won’t force anyone from their home.  The American Red Cross is running the evacuee shelter, and the US Department of Homeland Security’s Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) has already authorized federal funds for combating the fire.

2.  Researchers to light workplace with smarter buildings—Brian Maffly, SLT 8/29/09

Engineer Paul Israelson with Utah State University colleagues are working to develop “intuitive” buildings, ones that self-adjust lighting to the activities going on.  Beyond motion sensors, the systems would respond to the kind of work going on in the room and where in the room light is needed.  Such systems could cut energy use by half and maximize workplace productivity through enhanced interior light quality.

The Utah Science, Technology and Research initiative (USTAR), Utah’s long-term, high-dollar investment program for transforming university-generated technologies into economic drivers, has chipped in $5 million in seed funding.  The Institute for Intuitive Buildings, Israelson’s I2B, along with USU-based Interactive Design for Applications (IDIAS) Institute led by artist Alan Hashimoto and Veterinary Diagnostic and Infectious Diseases (VDID) led by Ken White all have garnished USTAR dollars.

A University of Utah initiative formed jointly by the colleges of Science and Engineering are working on advanced energy technologies associated with batteries.  All told and aided by Department of Education federal stimulus funding, USU has 9 USTAR research teams, and the U. has 13.  USTAR’s executive director said; “The faculty that have been coming up with these ideas are folks that are not only pursuing a calling to teach and do research, but they also have a real entrepreneurial focus.”

Israelson’s I2B team was originally motivated by energy savings.  A fifth of the nation’s electricity consumption goes to lighting, as does over a third of commercial building energy use.  The team includes professors from the electrical and computer engineering departments, an optics expert leading the USTAR biofuels team, and a Weber State University psychology professor who researches how lighting affects humans.

The goal is to develop lighting systems that anticipate from observing past behavior, monitoring natural light and tracking movement.  One professor observed, “We have been warned by people in the industry to not do the wrong thing, so we will try to be as conservative as we can.”

3.  Man, 78, mauled by bear in Desolation Canyon—Brett Prettyman, SLT 8/28/09

The man had worked at nearby Rock Creek Ranch on the Green River for 17 years without seeing a black bear.  On a recent trip down the river with his family, the man was mauled as he slept in a cot near the river.  Earlier in the day, he was excited to see the bear.  Around 12:30 a.m., the family was awakened by Louis Downard’s cries:  “The bear has got me! Help!”  Downard’s daughter “jumped up and smacked it a couple of times and then my nephew Riley Downard ran up and grabbed the bear and kind of threw it away from my dad,” Downard’s son Marvin said.

Riley shot the bear with a .45-caliber handgun after the bear had moved away.  Marvin added; “He had a bite just above his belt on his left side and a big ol’ bite mark under his left arm on the tricep and a claw mark on his right side.  The guides had a big first aid kit, and they had him taken care of very quickly.”

Though the bear traveled only another 150 feet before dying, the family, unsure of the bear’s whereabouts in the dark, built a large fire and sat out the night.  “We stayed up just telling [the story] over and over,” Marvin said.  Earlier in the evening the family found signs of the bear and it walked into camp.  “He got about 20 feet away and hung around for about an hour.  He went to the river and got a drink and then came back,” Marvin said.  They banged pots and pans to chase the bear away.

Marvin said they had cleaned up after dinner and put all the food in a raft at the river in case the bear returned.  Desolation Canyon has experienced sightings, encounters and maulings in the past.  Two separate incidents occurred on the same night in May of 2004, and another camper was mauled in his sleep in July 2003.  There have been no fatalities, and all attacking bears were killed after their attacks.

Bear encounters are up from this time last year, though Utah’s only reported fatality was the death of an 11-year old camper in American Fork Canyon in 2007.  Just hours after the Downards launched their raft trip to Rock Creek Ranch through Salt Lake-based Colorado River & Trail Expeditions, the company got a call from the BLM saying a boater had reported encountering an aggressive bear at Rock Creek earlier in the week.

Other reports from rafters leaving Desolation Canyon turned up at the Utah Division of Wildlife Resources (DWR) Thursday.  DWR biologist Brad Crompton said; “That country is very good bear habitat, but at this time of year when things start to dry up they drop down to lower elevations and encounter people camping along the river.  It is a credit to river runners that there are not more incidents.”

Louis Downard was recovering at his daughter’s home by late Friday.  “My dad can tell you some crazy stories about the outlaws who visited the ranch when he lived there,” Marvin Downard said.  “Now he has one of his own.”

4.  Update in the works for Great Salt Lake plan—Judy Fahys, SLT 8/28/09

The state Division of Forestry, Fire and State Lands said Friday it will update the 2000 Great Salt Lake Comprehensive Management Plan, the blueprint that governs the lake and its resources.  The division director said the update would “ensure that policy directing future use of the lake is based on current information and knowledge obtained from a comprehensive study.”

The lake ranks as the biggest contiguous area managed by the state at 1.35 million acres.  The mineral-rich terminal basin sprawls over five counties.  Adjacent wetlands support over 9 million birds, many of them utilizing the lake as a layover on north-south migrations.  The lake is also home to a multi-million dollar brine shrimp industry for use in feeding aquaculture.

The review includes withdrawal of all sovereign lands in the lake bed from lease and permitting.  The withdrawal won’t impact Great Salt Lake Minerals’ plan in the works for a major potash extraction expansion at the north end of the lake.  A request for proposals will be followed by studies, public meetings and input from the public as well as industry.

Studies for the plan will cover wildlife, ecosystem protection, industry, salinity, impacts from the causeway dividing the lake, perhaps mercury pollution and certainly protection of the migratory bird flyway.  A division spokesman said the most important part of the comprehensive plan lies in the process, utilizing public participation.  “That is where we start getting a document we can believe in,” he commented.

5.  Ogden food bank needs gardeners’ extra fruit and produce—Dawn House, SLT 8/27/09

The Bank of Utah requests that local gardeners drop off leftover fruits and vegetables using bank-provided boxes in Ogden on Sunday nights or Monday mornings before 9 a.m. at area branches.  Catholic Community Services volunteers will collect the boxes from bank branches and take them to the Joyce Hansen Hall Food Bank in Ogden where they will be distributed to senior citizens and 400 families utilizing the food bank throughout the week.

In addition to the convenience the Bank of Utah is fostering, volunteers from Boys and Girls Clubs and the Mount Benedict Monastery are harvesting vegetables from gardens they’ve tended in Ogden for the food bank, though more produce is needed.  Senior citizens especially are at risk for low-produce diets due to fixed incomes and lack of mobility.  Northern Utah Catholic Community Services director Marcie Valdez said “Fresh produce is a rare commodity at the food bank.  We have a lot of canned and dried food, but we see very little fresh fruits and vegetables.”

Utilizing Mel Bartholomew’s square-foot gardening technique, the monastery’s “Sow for Humanity” garden uses less water and no fertilizers or pesticides.  The 4 foot square raised, partitioned wood boxes produce a more abundant harvest than row gardens.  Mount Benedict Monastery prioress Sister Danile Knight donated land and water for the garden and blessed it as well.

Bank of Utah provided financial support and volunteers.  Wheelwright Lumber donated materials and local nurseries donated plants.  Black Island farms in Syracuse donated produce and Alan Kap of West Haven donated three truckloads of watermelons.

ESR Editor’s note:  Drop box locations can be found with the link to the original article in a box at the end of the article.

6.  Park City gets more open space—Christopher Smart, SLT 8/27/09

Over 100 acres of federal lands in what are known as the Oak and White Acre parcels were transferred to Park City under the Omnibus Public Land Management Act of 2009.  Mayor Dana Williams noted the lands, previously managed by the BLM, would be added to 7,000 existing acres of open space and preserved in perpetuity.

7.  Nature Conservancy launches climate change research site—Judy Fahys, SLT 8/27/09

The Nature Conservancy’s Dugout Ranch will be home to the new Canyonlands Research Center, addressing specific climate change concerns such as how ranchers, water districts and natural resource managers can address anticipated changes.  A climate scientist for the Utah chapter of the environmental group said “We’ve got to act now.”

Barry Baker, who will oversee the center, added, “There’s still time to develop land and water management strategies that will enable us to adapt and possibly delay the negative impacts of climate change and protect Utah’s communities and natural resources.”  The Conservancy’s national office released a new analysis Thursday that says Utah will be one of a number of states to see dramatic temperature increases due to climate change.

Utah could see an increase of 9.4 degrees over the next century, according to the most extreme models.  Eight other states could see higher annual average temperatures.  The analysis, which relies on climate modeling, was developed with the University of Washington and the University of Southern Mississippi.

The Dugout Ranch center will eventually feature a building devoted education and practical research.  Kennecott Land Co. and Kennecott Utah Copper have granted $210,000 for the center’s development.  The ranch was acquired by The Nature Conservancy in 1997 with 5,200 acres of private land and 300,000 acres of public grazing allotments that include 42 miles of cottonwood and willow riparian areas host to abundant wildlife and rare wildflowers.

The center is located on a significant monsoonal boundary that makes it especially useful as a source for climate data helpful in addressing climate change.   Partners include the US Geological Survey, Utah State University, the National Park Service, the US Forest Service, the Bureau of Land Management, the Utah Division of Wildlife Resources and the Indian Creek Cattle Co., along with the Dugout Ranch’s previous owner, rancher Heidi Redd.

The Nature Conservancy’s Utah Climate Change Vulnerability Assessment, the first such project in the state, is identifying and mapping plants, animals and ecological systems most vulnerable to climate change impacts.  “Land managers are eager for science-based data about how to help Utah’s species adapt to climate change,” Baker commented.  “This study could provide our first meaningful answers.”

National Parks and Conservation Association’s David Nimkin said US Senators Mark Udall, D-Colo., and John McCain, R-Ariz., noticed the impacts of climate change during a tour of Rocky Mountain National Park last week.  Nimkin values the new center’s mission for finding practical solutions.  “We have so many data points and the research is so overwhelming,” Nimkin said.  “What does that mean on the ground?”  The new center will try to help answer that question for parks and natural resources managers.

New governor wants debate on climate change—Robert Gehrke, sidebar

Governor Herbert said Thursday he will bring experts from both sides of the climate change issue to debate the science and shape the best possible policy for the state.  He said the goal was to “for the first time, have a legitimate debate with civility, have a discussion on climate change, man’s impact on the climate and global warming:  what it is, where it is and what you do about it, including cost-to-benefit analysis and making sure we have good science that dictates and leads us toward good policy.”  Herbert expects to know particulars within a month.  “I think science needs to have that continued discussion and debate,” he said.  “Clearly, as we see in the marketplace, the debate is not over.”

8.  Appeal begins in high-profile fight over hot waste—Judy Fahys, SLT 8/27/09

The court battle over who will control flow of radioactive waste in Utah is developing into a national test case in an appeal that could draw waste agencies from eight other states.  The state of Utah, the Northwest Interstate Compact on Low-Level Radioactive Wastes and the Rocky Mountain Compact filed initial arguments at the 10th Circuit Court of Appeals in Denver seeking to overturn US District Court Judge Ted Stewart’s finding earlier this year in favor of EnergySolutions Inc.

Stewart’s decision places the nation’s waste oversight system at risk, attorneys for Rocky Mountain Compact said.  “The District Court’s ruling unravels the long-standing solution to the problem of low-level radioactive waste disposal—which was crafted by the compact states and Congress over 20 years ago,” attorneys drafted in initial arguments.

Stewart found that because EnergySolutions was not created by the Northwest Compact, it was not subject to the compact’s authority.  But the state’s appeal has called the ruling erroneous for relying on a law repealed in 1986.  The appeal also argues the ruling undermines Congress’ intent in creating compacts to encourage new low-level radioactive sites.  The state said Stewart’s ruling “would encourage non-compact states to send their radioactive waste, without restriction, to a host state like Utah.”

The Northwest Compact has eight participatory states including Utah and has an alliance with the Rocky Mountain Compact which has three participatory states.  A Hanford, Washington disposal site overseen by the Northwest Compact ensures low-level radioactive waste for Utah businesses and universities above the acceptable threshold for EnergySolutions.

A spokeswoman for EnergySolutions said “We continue to be confident in our legal position and we look forward to the ruling of the appeals court.”  A friend-of-the-court brief is expected from the Southeast Compact—composed of six states—before next week’s deadline.

The two-state Texas Compact Commission expects to sign onto the friend-of-the-court brief pending resolution of technicalities.  A new site for low-level waste disposal will likely open next year, but only to Texas- and Vermont-generated waste.  The site is the first licensed since Congress passed compact regulations.

9.  Don’t exhale:  EPA expected to declare carbon dioxide a dangerous pollutant—Fox 8/28/09

Skeptics say CO2 regulation could be difficult, “especially since people emit carbon dioxide with every breath,” the article said.  A senior policy analyst from the Heritage Foundation argued that the EPA was too understaffed to implement regulations stemming from an April EPA finding that “man-made pollution is a cause of global warming,” the article recounts.  The EPA is now in the middle of a 60-day comment period before the finding is finalized.

The EPA’s move stems from a 2007 Supreme Court ruling that declared greenhouse gasses (GHGs) were pollutants in accordance with Clean Air Act stipulations, triggering regulation if the gasses are in turn found to pose a threat to human health.  Over 300,000 comments have been received and are under review pending the EPA’s final ruling.

According to congressional aides, the EPA is likely to rule just after Congress reconvenes in the fall, blaming auto vehicle emissions.  Beyond such a proposal, other sources would be included in oversight, with any building project emitting over 25,000 tons of GHGs.  Schools, nursing homes and Walmarts would have to obtain an EPA permit to build and operate.

Other GHGs the EPA could tighten restrictions for due to the belief that they cause global warming include methane, “emitted by gassy cows as well as steam boilers” the article said; nitrous oxide, “found in cooking sprays and used as anesthesia by dentists, better known as laughing gas”; hydrofluorocarbons, utilized in refrigerators and aerosols; perfluorocarbons, “a gas permeated by fire extinguishers, refrigerators and high end ski waxes”; and sulfur hexafluoride, found in circuit breakers, switchgear and other electrical equipment.

Concurrently Congress is working on a climate change bill that would eventually impose an 80% reduction on GHGs by mid-century “by putting a price on each ton of climate-altering pollution”, the article said.  President Obama has said he favors Congressional over administrative action in addressing climate change.  The bill Obama is looking for would use market-based solutions to lower carbon pollution and shift to a clean energy economy that hosts millions of green jobs.  The EPA cannot utilize market solutions nor does it have the authority to tax.

A recent Washington Post-ABC News poll found 55% of Americans approving of Obama’s approach to energy issues, including the use of climate change legislation to cap GHGs.  Only 30% disapproved.  Polling on the cap-and-trade proposal, setting a GHG cap and providing companies with the opportunity to buy and sell emissions permits, 52% supported while 43% opposed the idea, a narrower margin.

An attorney with the Environmental Defense Fund said “Most Americans would strongly support the president’s and the bipartisan commitment to comprehensive legislation that addresses our dangerous addiction to foreign oil and create new jobs and address the climate crisis.”  She argued that a misinformation campaign was driving Americans apart instead of uniting them in the pursuit of solutions.  Senate Democrats are seeking to pass a bill ahead of global treaty talks in Denmark in December over reduction of heat-trapping gasses.

Cap-and-trade legislation could, however, have some obstacles.  The House version of the bill passed by a narrow margin of 219-212 though negotiations had endured for months.  Passage was characterized by “last-minute deals” and “significant concessions” to bring on board moderate Democrats representing industrial and agricultural states hesitant due to the costs associated with the legislation.  A similar bill has failed in the Senate previously, suggesting compromises will be necessary for the legislation to have a chance.

A GOP Senate Aide said the Senate Environment and Public Works Committee would introduce a climate change bill the day Senators return from summer recess, and Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid wants all committees to finish climate change efforts by September’s end.  The public backlash over Democratic-sponsored health care reforms makes uncertain whether Democrats will push for a vote on the climate change bill ahead of December.

The aide said signs were doubtful, moreso with so many Democrats concerned about cap-and-trade.  The Heritage Foundation analyst believes the EPA decision is a way the Obama administration can leverage Senate passage of the legislation.  “There’s a lot of people who want to use the bogeyman of EPA regulation to force people into the cap-and-trade bill…They don’t want to give up that lever,” he added.

The Heritage Foundation’s analyst called the EPA regulation a “ransom”.  “It’s a stone axe to go after something where you need a scalpel,” he commented.  His suggestion was that Congress simply legislate a one-line bill declaring CO2 is not a pollutant.  That solution seems unlikely.

10.  New culprit seen in ozone depletion—Cornelia Dean, New York Times 8/27/09

Most atmospheric nitrous oxide comes from bacterial action in soils, researchers have said.  Nitrogen-based fertilizers, application of livestock manure in fields, biofuel combustion and other sources contribute as well.  The gas is not regulated under the 1987 Montreal Protocol that limited ozone-depleting chemical emissions.  But researchers from the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration are saying nitrous oxide is taking the lead in artificially caused ozone depletion.

A report of the findings was published in Friday’s issue of Science.  The researchers discuss an improving trend in the ozone layer since the Montreal Protocol took effect and nitrous oxide has emerged as a leading threat in part because of the reduction of other ozone-depleting gasses.  Too, chlorofluorocarbons—the central target of the Montreal Protocol—suppress nitrous oxide’s ozone-depleting effects.

Due to its link to global warming, nitrous oxide regulation is already under review by the EPA.  Nitrous oxide is one of six gases declared pollutants endangering the public health in April under the Clean Air Act due to global warming.  A recent agency statement said a reporting system for the gases was in the works.  A researcher with the study said though nitrous oxide’s impact on the ozone layer has been relatively well known, “there is a sort of gap between the scientific understanding and the policy.”  Policy recommendations were not included in the study.

Lead researcher A.R. Ravishankara said “It is not for us to gauge how much risk there is.”  Site-specific quantities of emission are highly unclear anyway, he added.  He estimates that the ozone layer has been diminished by 6% worldwide since industrialization began.

Ozone functions as a pollutant at ground level.  In the upper atmosphere it prevents ultraviolet radiation from entering the earth’s atmosphere, harming plants and animals.  The Montreal Protocol resulted from the discovery of ozone depletion by chlorofluorocarbons and a hole in the ozone layer over Antarctica.  Dr. Ravishankara said the atmospheric chemistry over Antarctica was immune to nitrous oxide.

11.  Solar salvation?—Arla Shephard, High Country News 8/31/09

While Kittitas County in Washington state was home to a booming timber industry less than two decades ago, over 12 lumber mills have closed in the past decade.  As lands held more value than trees, companies utilized real estate development to remain solvent.  Real estate too, however, has entered a bust period, and one logging company has decided instead to propose the largest ever solar power plant in the Northwest.

With 400,000 panels generating 75 megawatts, the Teanaway Solar Reserve would be able to power the equivalent of about 45,000 homes.  Clear-cut land leased by American Forest Land Co. is providing 400 acres for the project near Cle Elum.  The town is Teanaway’s preferred site for a solar manufacturing plant as well.

Central Washington’s American Forest Land Co. owns 43,000 acres in the state, though it hasn’t sold timber since 2006.  Some timber companies desperate for income are looking into the solar option, citing transportation costs and the housing market slump as obstacles calling for innovative new revenue strategies.  One market option has been to make cellulose compounds for use in toothpaste and ice cream, among other products.

Other companies such as Rayonier and Plum Creek Timber Co.—one of the biggest private landowners in the US—turned into real estate investment trusts that market lands to developers at premium prices.  Kittias County saw 7,412 acres sold to develop luxury resort Suncadia by Plum Creek, removing the region from timber and mining to make way for tourism and second homes.

Global, national and regional economic woes have turned attention to alternative energy, with tax incentives and a state mandate to reach a 15% renewable energy portfolio level by 2020.  Almost 1,600 megawatts from 16 wind projects have developed since 2001, and Washington now ranks fifth in the nation for wind capacity.  New pilot projects in the state will convert wood waste into energy.  And Puget Sound Energy in the lower Kittitas Valley has already demonstrated that solar is viable in the often cloudy Northwest with a 500 kilowatt, 3,000 panel project.

Timber companies have climbed onto the bandwagon.  SDS Lumber Co. and Broughton Lumber partnered with Whistling Ridge Energy Project recently to host 50 wind turbines on 1,152 acres of commercial forestland.  Vancouver, Washington and Portland, Oregon could benefit from the 75 megawatt output.  Teanaway’s project is expected to generate around 200 temporary construction jobs and 35 permanent jobs with hundreds more in the manufacturing facility.  That means a lot given Kittitas County unemployment rates are around 8.1%.

Clear-cut private lands could avoid lengthy environmental reviews and competition with other resources and uses found on public lands.  A Teanaway consultant said “This isn’t pristine land by any means.”  Construction is expected to begin next year, and talks are in progress with Puget Sound Energy and Bonneville Power for transmission and power-purchase agreements.

One controversy has involved the secrecy surrounding the project.  The project was announced to Cle Elum’s city officials but 24 hours ahead of public announcement.  Principal investor and managing director of the project Howard Trott, a Washington native, has not released the names of other investors.

The president of the Rosalyn Historical Museum, which features artifacts from the older boom-and-bust coal mining days, said though he hopes local jobs are provided, the project “sounds like a big secret, and that’s not a good way to come into Kittitas County.”  Cle Elum’s city planner said; “We’re excited as a city.  The green economy is in, that’s what Obama was all about, but we’re all in uncharted waters.”

12.  Tester defends forest bill, calls it precedent for West—Nick Gevock, Montana Standard 8/27/09

Responding to critics who say Sen. Jon Tester’s wilderness bill was being drafted in secret at the request of special interests; Tester said parties willing to compromise were offered a seat at the table for talks helping to shape the Forest Jobs and Recreation Act.  “The door was open to everyone who wanted to negotiate,” Tester said, though some didn’t, he added.

The act would designate 600,000 acres of wilderness areas that would exclude logging, mining and road building.  Over 500,000 acres lies in the Beaverhead-Deerlodge National Forest in southwest Montana.  The bill would also increase logging acreage to 7,000 acres per year in the forest, focusing on “stewardship” areas that would allow trees killed by beetle infestation to be removed.  Existing roads would be used.

The Beaverhead-Deerlodge Partnership, a conservation and timber company coalition has proposed a similar plan.  Their compromise protects backcountry areas while allowing logging in mid-elevation forests where dead trees pose increasing fire risk.  Senator Tester utilized the partnership strategy as a template for his act, and hopes it will serve as a model across the West to break decades long stalemates over forest management.  While he views the partnership as “visionary”, his bill has adopted changes based on input from various other interests.

Environmental groups have argued against the set acreage for logging, while local officials are concerned the legislation is a wilderness bill without any logging guarantees.  Tester allowed that no legislation was “bulletproof” from lawsuits, though a precedent would be set for forest cleanup.  He cited an act of Congress and diverse interests working together as favorable.

To critics who said the bill would outmaneuver environmental regulations, Tester noted all projects would have to undergo thorough analysis under the National Environmental Policy Act before action was taken.  Large-scale environmental reviews for the 50,000 acre stewardship areas would pre-determine areas calling for treatment and improved habitat.

Tester said “We’re not going to cut it all.  We’re going to cut a very small area.”  He noted as well the bill would help the ailing Montana timber industry which has run short of timber in recent years.  “At the same time, those companies can help restore forests that are ravaged with beetle kill,” Tester said.

Other Western lawmakers who are confronting high fire risk in developed areas are Tester’s primary targets for support of the bill expected to enter committee hearing in the fall.  He said environmental groups need to be aware of just how great the fire risk is near communities before challenging the logging quotas.

“You’ve got 2-3 million acres of forest; the Forest Service can find 7,000 acres to cut.  There are some places that industry would tell you they can’t log; there are also some places that should be set aside.  This is a nice mix,” Tester commented.

13.  Business groups target climate bill—Jim Snyder, The Hill 8/27/09

ESR Editor’s note—The Hill’s “New Members Guide” page says “The Hill is a nonpartisan, non-ideological daily paper for and about Congress…The Hill also reports on the impact of Congress’s  work on the rest of the country, particularly on business.  A keynote of the paper is the Business & Lobbying section”.

The National Association of Manufacturers (NAM) and the National Federation of Independent Business (NFIB) are utilizing a multi-million dollar ad campaign aimed at states whose senators will most likely determine the climate change bill’s success.  The Republican-leaning groups argue the bill will threaten the economy by escalating energy costs.

“Our message to senators is that the Waxman-Markey bill is an ‘anti-jobs, anti-energy’ piece of legislation,” NAM’s executive vice president said.  TV, radio and internet advertising will target Indiana, Michigan, Missouri, Nebraska, North Dakota, Ohio and Virginia among other states.

Other campaigns addressing the climate change bill include a League of Conservation Voters initiative that will criticize Pennsylvania, Missouri, Arizona and Montana congressional members for voting against the House climate bill.  The American Petroleum Institute has been funding rallies in opposition to climate change legislation while the National Resources Defense Council among other environmental and labor groups is running pro-legislation grassroots support campaigns.

The House bill sponsored by Energy and Commerce Committee Chairman Henry Waxman, D-Calif., and Energy and Environment subcommittee Chairman Edward Markey, D-Mass., barely passed in June, stipulating a 17% cut in greenhouse gasses like CO2 by 2020 and over 80% cuts by 2050.

Senate bills crafted on the basis of the House bill are to be ready by the end of September.  A NAM- and American Council for Capital Formation-paid study found the Waxman-Markey bill could result in 2.4 million jobs lost by 2030 due to lost economic growth.  Meanwhile advocacy groups supporting the bill say the legislation will create green jobs and encouraged post-recession economic development.

14.  More sun for less:  Solar panels drop in price—Kate Galbraith, New York Times 8/26/09

One homeowner in Magnolia, Texas priced a solar system for his ranch-style home at $100,000 a year ago.  His new system this year cost $77,000.  Costs for panels fell around 40% from mid-year’s prices last year.  Piper Jaffray investment bank analysts attributed the fall to rising supply of a vital component of the panels.

With increased federal incentives, panel purchases could pay for themselves in as little as 16 years in places with high electricity rates, SunCentric solar consulting’s chief executive said.  State rebates would only add to the savings.

Polysilicon, which until recently has had limited production facilities, was a major cause of high prices for panel production, passed on to the consumer.  China especially has seen a number of new polysilicon production plants open as well as a greater number of panel production plants. Meanwhile demand for panels has dropped off, especially in Europe.

In Europe, considered the largest solar market, installations are expected to drop 26% from 2008 statistics.  Confronting high unemployment and economic crisis, Spain cut large panel installation subsidies due to costs.  Manufacturers worldwide such as Massachusett’s Evergreen Solar have been heavily impacted by price drops.

Still, cheaper panels could motivate consumers and broaden the market.  Mike Ahearn of panel maker First Solar in Tempe, Ariz., said “It’s important that these costs and prices do come down.”  First Solar will be constructing two big Southern California projects in the near future.  Financing obstacles have held down expansion of the market to more commercial and government buildings, and growth is expected to be flat from 2008 figures.

Residential development in California—which leads in residential solar development—saw a 50% jump in installations in July over a year ago.  Standard Renewable Energy of Houston, who installed panels on the Magnolia, Texas home, saw second-quarter sales rise by over 225% from the first quarter.  In addition to falling prices, the company’s chief executive attributed a change in the 30% federal tax credit, removing a $2,000 cap earlier this year.

The Magnolia, Texas homeowner used the tax credit to cut $23,000 from the $77,000 installation.  Lower costs and the tax credit spurred him to up the installation on his 7,000 square foot house from 42 panels to 64.  He’s expecting 40-80% cuts in his routine $600-$700 per month energy bill.

15.  Governors extend fish-recovery pact—Amy Joi O’Donoghue, Deseret News 8/27/09

Several Western state leaders including former Utah Gov. Jon Huntsman Jr. and Western Area Power Administration’s head signed an agreement with Secretary of Interior Ken Salazar re-committing to a program recovering endangered fish in the Upper Colorado River Basin even as water development proceeds in accord with state and federal laws.  While Huntsman signed the agreement before leaving office, Gov. Gary Herbert is said to support the agreement as well.

The 1998 recovery program utilizes voluntary cooperation between federal and state agencies, water development interests, power customers and environmental organizations in Colorado, Utah and Wyoming.  The renewed agreement extends through 2023 recovery efforts for the endangered bonytail, humpback chub, Colorado pikeminnow and razorback sucker.  Future water development for agricultural, hydroelectric and municipal uses in the Upper Colorado River Basin is also provided for.

16.  Wolves hit Dillon herd hard—Nick Gevock, The Montana Standard 8/27/09

“They were in the sagebrush, on the creek bottom—just all over the pasture,” sheep rancher Kathy Konen said of the 120 buck sheep killed by wolves near Dillon, Montana last week.  “It’s a terrible loss to our livestock program,” she added.

The sheep were found August 16 in the Rock Creek drainage of the Blacktail Mountains south of Dillon, the rancher’s summer pasture.  A federal trapper dispatched by the Montana Department of Fish, Wildlife and Parks (FWP) investigating the scene found 82 confirmed kills and 40 carcasses classified as probable kills, though some had been eaten by bears.

“The sheep were just killed and yet the carcasses were almost all intact,” Konen said.  “They didn’t eat what they killed, most of them were just brought down.  I don’t know if they were teaching their pups or what.”  Wolves took 26 of Konen’s sheep in the same pasture in July.

FWP authorized federal trappers to remove three wolves identified in the area.  A gray coated wolf was shot and killed, one black coated wolf was mortally wounded but escaped and another escaped unharmed.  FWP’s wolf program coordinator said the wolves were from an unknown pack, though the Centennial Pack was also identified in the area.

The Centennial Pack has two collared adults, a third adult and five pups, though it has not been connected to livestock destruction in the past.  The uncollared adult was killed while the black wolves have not been located.  While Konen called for destruction of the entire pack, the request was denied.

“They’ve done enough damage to say that they need to be eliminated,” Konen said.  “We have cows and sheep up there right next to where the sheep were killed.”  A calf was found attacked nearby.  She fears additional attacks.  Wolf activity has been noted in the area.  Trappers destroyed the Freezeout Pack in the Gravelleys nearby, and wolves are known inhabitants of the Blacktails.

When officials asked whether the Konens had utilized protections such as electric fencing, dogs, herders, or fladry lines, Konen said they had not.  The program coordinator said “You could kill every wolf that shows up, but more will come.  It’s close to Yellowstone Park, it’s halfway between Yellowstone Park and central Idaho.”

The Montana Livestock Loss Program will pay as much as $350 per lost buck sheep, more if the rancher can demonstrate they held higher value.  The rancher said they would try to purchase sheep from a few sales in September.

17.  Environment is the focus at Eco Experience—AP, Rochester Post-Bulletin 8/28/09

The Minnesota State Fair this year is hosting Eco Experience, a n exhibit that includes a 2,200 square foot sustainable home with solar heating, green roof and LED lighting, along with a climbable “trash mountain” and entry into the base of a wind turbine.  With utilities, businesses and nonprofit groups, the Minnesota Pollution Control Agency co-coordinated the exhibit.

18.  Federal jury finds Bureau of Land Management, DuPont negligent in damaged farmland case—AP, The Washington Examiner 8/28/09

Over 130 farmers have won a six year Idaho U.S. District Court battle against the BLM and DuPont, manufacturer of Oust.  When wildfires consumed parts of southern Idaho in 1999-2000, BLM land managers responded with Oust to inhibit the spread of invasive weeds.  The powdered herbicide blew onto adjacent cropland killing the farmers’ crops.  Jurors decided DuPont had not offered sufficient herbicide warnings and the BLM exercised negligence in its use of the herbicide.


19.  Nuclear is good investment for economy, environment and energy security—Bernard Weinstein, San Antonio Express 8/27/09

20.  Going west—Tribune Editorial, SLT 8/27/09 On uncontrolled growth west of Utah Lake

21.  Nuclear nonsense—Tribune Editorial, SLT 8/28/09

22.  Wharton:  Let’s care for this ecological treasure—Tom Wharton, Trib Columnist, SLT 8/28/09 On the Great Salt Lake

23.  Ditch the green to save some green:  Xeriscape—Casey Coombs, SLT 8/29/09

24.  Defying disability and enjoying wilderness—Liz McCoy, SLT 8/29/09

25.  Proposed homes would benefit Alta—Erik Erlingsson, SLT 8/29/09


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