Environmental news from around the state and the West. Inversion season begins
December 7 marked the beginning of the winter inversion season for Salt Lake County with the first “red alert” bad air day of the season. On red days, burning wood or coal in stoves or fireplaces is prohibited. Children, the elderly and people with heart or lung disease are advised to avoid outdoor activities. Commuters should ride UTA and try to minimize use of motor vehicles.
Today’s air quality from the Utah Division of Air Quality: www.airquality.utah.gov/
Coal emissions of great public importance, court rules
Stating what should be obvious, the Utah Supreme Court ruled that toxic emissions from coal-fired power plants are a matter of great public importance, and the Sierra Club is an appropriate party to represent the health, environmental and economic interests of those living, working and playing near a coal-fired power plant.
After the Utah Division of Air Quality granted a permit to Intermountain Power for building a 950-megawatt coal-fired power plant near Delta, Utah, the Utah Chapter of the Sierra Club and the Grand Canyon Trust challenged the permit. They asked the Utah Air Quality Board to declare the air emissions permit illegal because the proposed plant fails to comply with the Federal Clean Air Act. However, the Board denied that environmental groups have legal standing to make such a challenge because concern for public health and global warming are general concerns, not specific to members. Noting that the power plant will be emitting hazardous chemicals near homes and national parks and that the Sierra Club and Grand Canyon Trust are the only citizen groups trying to assure that the proposed power plant complies with environmental laws, the court ruled that the Sierra Club does have standing to challenge the permit.
Yellowstone National Park has released a preliminary draft environmental impact statement for winter use planning, leaving the current rule for snowmobile use unchanged at 720 snowmobiles allowed into the park each day. During the past three years, snowmobiles have never reached the allowed capacity. A drastic increase in current levels of noise, pollution and effects on wildlife would still be allowable under this plan. A draft EIS for public comment is expected to be released in March 2007.
Yellowstone Winter Use Preliminary Draft EIS:
Washington County Land Use Bill
The Washington County Growth and Conservation Act of 2006 failed to come to a vote before the last day of the lame-duck 109th Congress. The legislation was strongly opposed by environmental groups nationwide because it would sell off public lands in order to finance local government projects and private development. Sen. Bob Bennett and Rep. Jim Matheson say they plan to continue working on the bill in the next Congress. However, Citizens for Dixie’s Future, a citizens’ coalition supporting smart growth planning in the Zion/Mojave region, says that the introduction of any land use legislation for Washington County is premature before the completion of Vision Dixie, a collaborative process for regional growth management which includes significant opportunities for citizen input.
Citizens for Dixie’s Future: www.citizensfordixie.org/
White River Oil & Gas
After the Southern Utah Wilderness Alliance posted a sample comment letter on their website opposing development of oil and gas wells near the White River, nearly 30,000 people signed it and sent it to the BLM Vernal Field Office. The White River, popular for canoeing and rafting, has been proposed for Wild and Scenic River designation. Environmental groups and river outfitters say no drilling or road building should be allowed without a comprehensive environmental impact statement.