Environews: Utah lawsuits undermine environmental protections

By Amy Brunvand

– By Amy Brunvand

Not only is the State of Utah preparing an expensive (and secret) lawsuit trying to grab control of federal public lands, Utah is also making a habit of suing the federal government in order to avoid complying with other environmental regulations.

• Sage grouse: Last September the U.S. Dept. of the Interior announced a new sage grouse conservation plan; Utah is suing to block the plan because it would stop new hardrock mining in important sage-grouse habitat.

• Clean air: Utah joined other states in a lawsuit to block the Obama Admin­i­stration’s Clean Power Plan which requires reduction of CO2 emissions from power plants. The U.S. Supreme Court has allowed states to delay CO2 reduction, which undermines the climate agreements made at the United Nations Conference on Climate Change in Paris.

• Toxic mine waste: Utah is suing the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) for the Gold King Mine spill that contaminated the Animas and San Juan rivers. Utah claims that the EPA failed to notify the state about contaminated water, but the lawsuit looks more like a tactic to divert attention from the real problem—a need for hardrock mining reform since hardrock mining is exempt from the Clean Water Act.

This article was originally published on March 4, 2016.