1. Coalition eager to revive Jordan River, but who will govern it?—Jeremiah Stettler, SLT 9/21/09
The transformative vision of the Jordan River corridor from waste dump to scenic and recreational gem is the apple of the eye of a number of interested and concerned citizens and organizations, but the question of leadership—and funding—continues to loom over the waterway. Salt Lake, Utah and Davis counties all have a stake in guaranteeing restoration, conservation and resource development of the jewel that has the Blueprint Jordan River Implementation Committee pondering the possibilities for long term caretaking of the river.
Considerations on the table of the coalition of government officials and interest groups span the gamut from non-profit oversight utilizing private funding to the creation of a special taxing district, to creation of a commission dedicated to netting federal and state grants for improvements. The transformation from garbage, graffiti and crime to a successful urban node for the corridor has great potential, yet faces complex obstacles around which to maneuver.
“I don’t know anybody who doesn’t look at the Jordan River and say, ‘The parkway is a tremendous asset,’” Sandy councilman and committee chair Chris McCandless responded. “The question is, How do we buy what [private property] is remaining and manage it?” Around 3,800 acres of waterway corridor remain in private hands, and oversight attuned to three counties and 15 cities along the river calls for a complex stakeholder process. Participants are imagining a possible 7,300 acre nature preserve in the urban watershed that would include recreation options. Clear bike and pedestrian pathways, dedicated open space, kayak and canoe launches, and multiple use commercial development all are under consideration for the 54-mile stretch of river.
Oversight possibilities include a river commission similar to the Utah Lake Commission, a multi-jurisdictional board without taxing authority. A special taxing district would have to be approved by voters but would guarantee revenue for development and maintenance. Envision Utah is contributing to the process of sizing up the different alternatives. A nonprofit would leave power distributed across the numerous governmental bodies and facilitate invigoration efforts, though retaining secure funding could prove difficult. A cooperative plan would utilize a common blueprint while leaving power in the hands of governing bodies as well. A commission currently seems in favor.
River advocate Jeff Salt is concerned that filling the commission with politicians from each of the communities will result in a collapse similar to the Provo-Jordan River Parkway Authority collapse in the early 1980’s. A community approach would bring diverse stakeholders into a stewardship role that Salt favors. Political and developmental pressures could be balanced. “We can’t trust these local officials to run the show,” Salt contends.
Salt Lake County Councilwoman Jenny Wilson is sold on the elected involvement version. “When the time is right, economically, we really would want to create a revenue stream—should the citizens be willing,” Wilson advocated. “Without that, we can’t meet our goal of property acquisition.” Murray Mayor Daniel Snarr opposes the taxing district proposal since Murray has already invested millions for Jordan River and parkway projects and the plan could in effect tax his community twice.
“Do we get reimbursed for all that we have already done,” Snarr asked. The city has installed pavilions, restrooms, equestrian trails, boat ramps and walking paths along the portion of the river that meanders from 6600 South to 4800 South. Other funding possibilities are possible, and discussions are yet in the exploration phase.
2. Utah hazardous waste incinerator faces penalties—Mike Stark, AP, SLT 9/21/09
Clean Harbors Aragonite in Utah’s West Desert has been fined over $500,000 for 48 violations involving the company’s hazardous waste incinerator from 2007 to 2008. The incinerator, which burns hazardous materials from around the West, drew 10 violations with a “major” potential for harm such as fire. The site is home to the only hazardous waste incinerator in Utah. The Utah Department of Environmental Quality is working to settle the matter. “This is the largest one I’ve ever worked on,” Don Verbica said. Verbica has logged 25 years with the state’s Division of Solid and Hazardous Waste. Everything from contaminated soils and pesticides to industrial solvents and out-of-date pharmaceuticals comprise the millions of pounds of hazardous materials processed at the facility every year. The facility has a history of changing hands and run-ins with regulators.
Over $644,000 in penalties have been assessed prior to the latest sum since the facility started burning hazardous waste in 1991. DEQ records show just over half that amount was charged for violations against Clean Harbors since its takeover in 2002. Clean Harbor’s senior vice president of regulatory affairs noted that violations were not uncommon in such a heavily regulated industry. “We think we’re not atypical,” he added. The VP attributed the violations to high employee turnover when new local businesses recruited seasoned staff, leaving a gap in personnel trained in the complex regulations and procedures. Retallick said the situation has stabilized, and the company has invested in its employees, creating improvements.
The Norwell, Massachusetts-based company proclaims itself the largest hazardous waste disposal organization in the country, with four incinerator facilities nationwide. Violations cited documentation problems, lapses in shipment tracking, and storage regulation issues. Fires at the site and radioactive waste monitoring lapses were topped off with other monitoring and documentation that never occurred. Officials said the penalty had been reduced by 40% in consideration of the economic crisis and subsequent reduced waste calling for incineration. Storage facilities will also have to be built along with installation of roof-mounted monitors for volatile vapors. Public comment on the settlement proposal is open until Oct. 5.
3. Green groups open ‘climate war room’—Mike Allen, Jim Vandehei, Politico 9/21/09
Between the health care reform protests during the Congressional August break and the difficulty of the House climate bill vote, cap-and-trade advocates are working hard to get Democrats on board another potentially volatile vote on the climate bill. “When you get your butt kicked, like we did [after the House energy vote], it focuses the mind,” Environmental Defense Fund’s Steve Cochran said. “We found out that this is not something to hide from but something to lean on—even in places where coal is king and Blue Dogs were perceived to be running for cover.”
Advocates are confident that their grassroots network—incorporating over 60 labor, business, faith, agriculture and environmental groups—will offer the kind of support that the health care bill didn’t have. A ‘climate war room’ is coordinating efforts across 20 states. Military veterans and polls showing majority support for substantial changes in US energy policy also fuel optimism. Yet White House advisors have noted reluctance for another tough vote after health care later this year. Climate bill critics say the bill will result in enormous tax increases.
One congressman suggested the Senate vote was much more likely to occur next spring. “We can’t make people walk the plank again this fall,” the Democratic official said. “I think it would be detrimental to climate change to jam it through.” On the other hand, environmental groups such as one led by former Vice President Al Gore may prefer jamming the bill through to the doom of delay in Washington. A long delay could offer substantial opportunity for destructive ads and uncivil town hall meetings.
Green advocates are consulting with vulnerable lawmakers regarding a recent poll that shows three Democrats from tough districts suffered no backlash for voting on the House cap-and-trade bill earlier this year. Though the conventional wisdom has left lawmakers cringing from the vote, pollster Allan Rivlin said the vote actually helped some Democratic lawmakers in their districts. “Senators can look at these results and find that voting for a climate change bill is not as politically risky as the opposition would make it seem,” Rivlin said.
Hanging in the wings is the question of what will happen if town hall meetings erupt again, this time venting anger over anticipated high energy bills and tax increases. Many say the vote will be postponed until next year, though added breathing room may not make the process any easier. Yet three of the districts polled showed optimistic results. Tony Kreindler of Environmental Defense Fund said “In every case, the members came out in a very strong place politically. The hard data say that even after two years of well-funded opposition campaigns, constituents aren’t buying what the opposition is selling.”
He added that their strategy is to build to a successful vote after health care has moved through Congress. In a conservative central Virginia district represented by freshman representative Tom Perriello, small business owners and entrepreneurs welcome clean energy and the subsequent economy. “People realize the problem of energy dependence and that both parties have yapped on without doing anything about it. They appreciate people stepping up,” Perriello said.
Strong opponents such as the American Energy Alliance, which opposes a “national energy tax” and the mandate of “increased use of expensive, unreliable forms of power” could make Perriello’s job much more difficult. But advocates, who want a vote no later than the UN Summit on Climate Change in Copenhagen in December, are energized. “We are here to turn up the heat on skeptics because doing nothing on clean energy and climate will turn up the heat on the rest of us,” Blue Line Strategic Communications’ chief executive said. Blue Line works for the war room as well.
Al Gore’s Alliance for Climate Protection has organized the Repower America campaign which has seen around 300,000 letters delivered to congressmen, including 50,000 delivered to senators in home states. Repower America has sponsored a Made in America Jobs Tour across 22 states. “When a member walks in a parade and gets called a traitor, that’s a big deal,” Repower’s Maggie Fox said. “And so our job is not just to be on the ground in these states, which we’re doing, but to build intensity.” She added that it’s the next generation that is providing a lot of the intensity to get people motivated. “It is their issue, and their inheriting the world,” Fox said. “They don’t want to hear that it’s inconvenient to deal with it. Our challenge is to give voice to them.”
Recent polls indicate clear support for clean energy and climate policy across battleground states. A polling memo sent to Democratic supporters read; “Voters know that Big Oil and special interests have blocked energy reform for decades to protect their profits and that we’re sending billions of dollars to foreign regimes, which hurts our economy, helps our enemies and puts our security at risk.”
While some doubts exist over whether President Obama will attend the UN Copenhagen summit should the health care bill go south, advocates are hopeful, noting that a strong and successful climate bill would demonstrate good international leadership on the part of the US. “This administration has done a pretty remarkable job of lining up a bunch of administrative action to show they mean business on this in the absence of legislation,” Fox commented.
4. Judge says Montana must restore protections for Yellowstone grizzlies—AP, The Oregonian 9/21/09
Greater Yellowstone ecosystem grizzlies lost threatened species status in 2007. But now US District Judge Donald Molloy siding with environmental groups has said protection must be reinstated for the areas some 600 bear population. A decline in whitebark pine trees due to climate change was cited by Judge Molloy as a key food source loss for the bears.
5. Study finds more tax breaks for fossil fuels than renewables—Scott Learn, The Oregonian 9/21/09
The Environmental Law Institute with the Woodrow Wilson International Center for Scholars co-sponsored the study, which found $72 billion in tax breaks and other fossil fuel subsidies while renewable fuels scored but $29 billion between 2002 and 2008. The largest subsidies were identified mainly as permanent installations in the US tax code, as opposed to renewables subsidies that are mostly limited by expiration date. The Foreign tax credit was the largest of the tax breaks, providing $15.3 billion in subsidies for overseas production of oil. Nearly half of renewables subsidies were identified with corn-based ethanol.
6. Artist Maya Lin turns to species extinction and habitat destruction for last memorial—Abby Haight, The Oregonian 9/21/09
Maya Lin, whose works include the now famous 1982 Vietnam Veterans Memorial in Washington D.C. and the Confluence Project, a cultural and physical history of the Lewis & Clark expedition, is in the process of finishing what she has called her last memorial. The first element is an environmental elegy titled “What is Missing?” opening this week in San Francisco.
Her impetus was the accelerating global species extinction due to habitat destruction and human pressures. Lin’s mission statement places the work online and on the road, a “multi-sited artwork dedicated to bringing awareness to the current crisis surrounding biodiversity and habitat loss.”
“’What is Missing?’ is a wake up call and a call to action showing what is being done throughout the professional field of conservation and also what individuals can do in their everyday lives to make a difference in habitat and species protection,” he mission statement reads.
“Listening Cone” plays sounds of animals from their habitats through a large brass megaphone. Introduced last week at its permanent location at the California Academy of Sciences, the megaphone is lined with reclaimed redwood and has a video screen for habitat footage.
7. EU lists industries exempted from carbon trading—EurActiv.com 9/21/09
The 27 member EU bloc has received expert testimony recommending exemption of certain industries from CO2 trading beyond 2013 to prevent export of production outside the EU. Included on the list of 164 sectors deemed likely to relocate to foreign were industries such as plastics, iron and food processing. Such “carbon leakage” would simply shift CO2 emissions to countries without tough emissions standards.
Most carbon-intensive industries were included, such as steel, cement and chemicals, which accounts for 77% of the total emissions addressed in the EU’s emissions trading scheme (ETS). The industries would be offered a much greater number of free emission allowances after 2013 when the ETS is revamped and the power sector of the EU-15 is required to pay for all permits.
Likelihood of defection to countries with lax carbon standards was figured from the intensity of trade with third world countries and projected increased production costs due to compliance. Member states are pushing to protect industries vital to their economies, while environmentalists have assailed the European Commission for prioritizing national capitals.
Brick and roof tile manufacturing exemptions are awaiting more data, a decision which has drawn charges that favoritism, rather than outside competition, is deciding the exemptions. The list will last through 2014, though more sectors could be added. One slant the EU is working is to use an international climate agreement to ensure other developed countries install similar emissions reductions targets so that EU industries aren’t vulnerable to excessive pressure.
France and Germany are pushing for carbon border tariffs to head off imports of manufactured goods and resources from countries without CO2 regulation. While free allowances will not be quantified until 2011, “performance benchmarks” qualifying the most efficient 10% of facilities are already in place. The measure is seen as an incentive to cut emissions. Environmentalists argue that the benchmark system will only lower the effectiveness of ETS when industries push for a flat benchmark, maximizing free allocations.
8. Obama avoids a ‘war on the West’—Rocky Barker, The Idaho Statesman 9/20/09
Though he has been accused of leveling war on capitalism, gun ownership and small-town values, traditional leaning organizations such as the Idaho Cattle Association has noted that President Obama has steered clear of waging war on traditional resource values in the American West. The Association was outspoken with concerns after Obama’s election that his administration would follow in the footsteps of the Clinton administration, restricting grazing on public lands and other traditional gimmes.
Association members were surprised in a good way to find rancher and former Colorado Senator Ken Salazar appointed Interior Secretary. Controversial decisions on issues such as wolves and salmon so far have followed Bush administration guidelines. The satisfaction of traditional resource users comes at the expense of environmental organizations like Defenders of Wildlife who were disappointed by wolves’ delisting in the northern Rockies.
Last week’s announcement that the administration would go forward with but minor modifications in the Bush administration plan for salmon and dam management on the Columbia and Snake rivers—leaving dam removal as a last ditch effort—further disheartened environmentalists. “Although the Bush administration is gone, unfortunately it looks like its policies will live on for Columbia-Snake salmon,” a Sierra Club field director said.
The Carter administration worked to end Western water projects in its first year. The Clinton administration pushed for mining and grazing reform. The Obama administration has sidestepped the ire of Western resource Democrats. Take for instance reinstatement of the Clinton roadless rule for national forests. Agriculture secretary Tom Vilsack did not challenge Idaho’s separate rule.
“First of all, it was the right thing to do, and it was a good plan,” then-Gov. and now Idaho Republican US Sen. Jim Risch said. “What they did was they sided with the largest group with the widest spectrum of views.” Idaho GOP Chairman and executive director of the Idaho Water Commission Norm Semanko also expressed support. “The Obama administration appears to be sticking to state water rights and the willing-seller, willing-buyer policy,” Semanko replied. “We’re glad to see that carried through.”
But Sen. Mike Crapo, R-Idaho, said “Overall, the credit primarily should be given to the folks in the West who have been working on these issues.” Still, Crapo and others have high praise for the choice of Salazar to head Interior. “He grew up with guns and cattle and neighbors in southern Colorado,” US Rep. Walt Minnick, D-Idaho, said.
A senior fellow for the Center for American Progress, a liberal think tank in Denver, said environmentalists had benefitted as well. Salazar rejected a Bush administration ruling favored by then Interior Secretary Dirk Kempthorne that would have softened the Endangered Species Act. Oil and gas leases near national parks in Utah were killed and climate change has been prioritized for the Interior department.
“He’s taking a far more balanced approach than the Bush administration did,” the fellow added. A senior fellow for the Andrus Center for Public Policy and Boise State political scientist called Obama’s decisions strategic, with climate change and alternative energy perhaps taking priority over wolves, salmon and roadless areas for Obama. Senior fellow John Freemuth has suggested the approach could be a new way of thinking about environmental issues, utilizing the priority of climate change.
“This may be a new version of the conservation movement,” Freemuth stated. Politicians like Minnick see Western Democrats playing a central role as well. “They have channels that lead closer to the ground, and they listen,” Minnick said.
9. The Air Aware—David Abram, Orion Magazine Sept/Oct 2009
10. Fisher: The plastic bag people fight back as San Jose considers ban—Patty Fisher, San Jose Mercury News 9/21/09
11. Quick decision in water dispute could hurt Utah—Jay Evensen, Deseret News 9/20/09
12. Denying climate reality is dangerous—Ed Firmage Jr., SLT 9/19/09
13. New national park—St. George Spectrum 9/18/09
14. Wolf populations not sufficient to put them on the firing line—Ken Fischman, SLT 9/18/09
15. Snake Valley water—Tribune Editorial, SLT 9/18/09
16. Lost Art: “Wilderness Areas’ for Wilderness” Sake—B. Frank, Mountain Gazette August 2009
Keep in Mind
17. Church wants to give poor a voice in global climate talks—EurActiv.com 9/21/09
18. Entrepreneur wants to pump Green River water—AP, SLT 9/20/09
19. Historic markers honored—Lynn Arave, Deseret News 9/20/09
20. Artifacts-hunting in southeastern Utah is a tradition—but illegal—Lynn Arave, Deseret News 9/20/09
21. Feds: Not enough Green River water for pipeline—Ben Neary, AP, Deseret News 9/20/09
22. Farm-fresh fish—with a catch—Juliet Eilperin, The Washington Post 9/20/09
23. Europeans say US lacks will on climate—John M. Broder, James Kanter, The New York Times 9/20/09
24. U. seeks out a dark and lonely place—Mark Havnes, SLT 9/19/09
25. Heal your mind in great outdoors: An earthy approach to psychotherapy—Laura Casey, Contra Costa Times, San Jose Mercury News 9/19/09
26. Meetings at coal conference focus on energy, environment—Rick Stouffer, Pittsburgh Tribune-Review 9/19/09
27. Danish conservative prepares for climate debate—Elisabeth Rosenthal, The New York Times 9/19/09
28. Study links distemper to Yellowstone wolf deaths—AP, SLT 9/18/09
29. Idaho mulls special wolf tag proposal—AP, SLT 9/18/09
30. Sheep herder recovering after grizzly attack—AP, SLT 9/18/09
31. Hunting: Deer, elk numbers up but success is weather-dependent—Brett Prettyman, SLT 9/18/09
32. Hunting: Sharing the wildlife wealth—Brett Prettyman, SLT 9/18/09
33. Wolf advocates won’t appeal ruling allowing hunts—AP SLT 9/18/09
34. Wyoming governor says Montana wolf order positive—Ben Neary, AP, SLT 9/18/09
35. Group tests composting of pooch poop—William Kates, AP, SLT 9/18/09
36. Utah’s Tracy to welcome finches rescued from suspected bird fighting setup—Matthew D. LaPlante, SLT 9/18/09
37. Testimony questions whether Canyonlands route is real road—Patty Henetz, SLT 9/18/09
38. Ag groups endorse proposed Monsanto mine—Mark Mendiola, Idaho Business Review 9/18/09
39. Solar energy firm drops plan for project in Mojave Desert—Louis Sahagun, Los Angeles Times 9/18/09
40. Feds to study Western river basins—Susan Montoya Bryan, AP, The Santa Fe New Mexican 9/18/09
41. Judge won’t block snowmobile limit—Ben Neary, AP, Casper Star-Tribune 9/18/09
42. Brazil eyes Amazon sugar cane ban—BBC News 9/18/09
43. Obama panel releases comprehensive ocean report—Kelly Zito, San Francisco Chronicle 9/18/09
44. Mercury mines are polluting California waterways—AP, Fox News 9/18/09
45. EPA to impose global warming regulations: Will Congress intervene?—Nick Loris, The Heritage Institute 9/18/09
46. Climate change is a poverty issue—Aiko Schaefer, Grist.org 9/18/09
47. Institute honors UDOT for its ‘green’ salt storage—Mike Gorrell, SLT 9/17/09
48. Utah geothermal plant runs into cold-water problem—Steven Oberbeck, SLT 9/17/09
49. GAO report chides BLM’s rush to drill—Patty Henetz, SLT 9/17/09
50. Drilling near parks opposed—Lee Davidson, Deseret News 9/17/09
51. Safflowers harvested for biofuels research—Joseph M. Dougherty, Deseret News 9/17/09
52. House panel to consider bill on Utah wilderness—Lee Davidson, Deseret News 9/17/09
53. Vital signs weak for climate bill—Lisa Lerer, Politico 9/17/09
54. Salazar to end federal oil and gas royalty-in-kind program—Nick Snow, Oil and Gas Journal 9/17/09
55. Health ills abound as farm runoff fouls wells—Charles Duhigg, New York Times 9/17/09
56. EPA to propose tightening limits on ozone pollution—Matthew Tresaugue, The Houston Chronicle 9/16/09