Environmental news from around the state and the West.
—by Amy Brunvand
Extra fee for rooftop solar?
One of the biggest obstacles to a clean energy future is that utility companies such as Rocky Mountain Power (RMP) make big bucks by selling energy from large centralized power plants and business-as-usual is big business. As more and more people in Utah have installed rooftop solar panels, it appears RMP finds the old business model threatened. As a result RMP has asked Utah Public Service Commission to implement a rooftop solar fee of $4.25 per month.
RMP says customers with solar panels need to help pay for the grid, but Utah Clean Energy says that’s nonsense. For one thing, rooftop solar panels offset dirty coal-powered energy with clean energy that doesn’t worsen air quality. What’s more, rooftop solar could actually help RMP save over $1.4 million per year in avoided energy and transmission costs for the utility.
Of course, rooftop solar also means fewer investments in power plants and other expensive infrastructure, and less reliance on fossil fuels. That’s apparently the part RMP doesn’t like. One alarming aspect of the RMP fee request is that it is based on model legislation from the American Legislative Exhange Council (ALEC). ALEC is a secretive group financed by fossil fuel interests including the billionaire Koch brothers which has an agenda of passing bills directly written by industry through state legislatures.
Utah Clean Energy: utahcleanenergy.org. If you live on the Wasatch Front and are interested in installing rooftop solar you can get a free quote from the Utah Chapter of the Sierra Club: sierraclubsolar.org/
This is how Utah manages public lands
Led by state legislator Ken Ivory (R-47, West Jordan), the State of Utah has been trying to grab control of federal public lands claiming that the state could manage these lands more efficiently, so it’s worth paying attention to how the State of Utah actually does manage public lands
In June, the Utah Division of Wildlife Resources announced they would auction off 1,070 acres of the (state-owned) Wildlife Management Unit located in Lake Canyon, Duchesne County. The property was acquired through efforts of The Nature Conservancy and Utah anglers with the help of federal grants in order to help protect native Colorado River Cutthroat trout.
The state planned to sell the property because Duschesne County has a policy requiring no net loss of private lands which generate tax revenue.
By contrast, the federal government makes payments in lieu of taxes on federal lands and in 2013 Duschesne County received $1,737,658 from the federal government to offset losses in property taxes.
As of this writing the sale has been deferred since the State of Utah may not have the legal right to sell the property.
Utah Stream Access Coalition: utahstreamaccess.org
Utah oil wells go unmonitored
Utah government officials continually gripe that federal environmental regulation stifles oil and gas development on federal public lands but AP news reporters found that that the Bureau of Land Management (BLM) is currently so overwhelmed by a drilling boom that only four out of 10 new oil and gas wells have been inspected. You may recall oil industry claims that federal environmental regulations are sufficient to protect watersheds and fragile environments from harmful side effects of oil and gas development. Well, not if BLM is so short-staffed that regulations aren’t enforced.
More drilling by Green and White Rivers? In Canyon Country?
The Bureau of Land Management is seeking public comment on plans to auction oil and gas leases on 74,000 acres near the Green and White rivers and near Nine Mile Canyon.
The BLM Canyon Country District has also released maps or proposed oil and gas leases in the area of Moab and Monticello.
Vernal/Price November 2014 Oil and Gas Lease Sale: blm.gov/ut/st/en/prog/energy/oil_and_gas/oil _and_gas_lease.html. Public Comments due by July 14.
Moab/Monticello Area February 2015 Oil and Gas Lease Sale: blm.gov/ut/st/en/info/newsroom/2014/ june/blm_seeks_public_comment.html Public comments due July 25, 2014
Tar sands resistance vigil
Three groups, Utah Tar Sands Resistance, Peaceful Uprising and Canyon Country Rising Tide, have set up a permanent protest camp at PR Springs in Utah’s Book Cliffs to keep an eye on the development of Utah’s first tar sands strip mine. U.S. Oil Sands, the Canadian company that is developing the mine, holds a lease on 32,000 acres of Utah State Lands.
Proponents say strip mining will not impair water quality or the mined area’s ecosystem. Opponents say Utah’s tar sands are a “climate bomb” that could undo all other efforts to limit or control global climate change.
Utah starts crow hunting
“Eating crow” is just a metaphor, right? Nobody really eats crows. Nonetheless, the Utah Wildlife Board has decided to start up crow hunting in Utah.
Blair Stringham of the Utah Division of Wildlife Resources says that since crows can damage crops, farmers should be able to shoot them. “Taking some crows will not hurt the overall population,” he claims.
Stringham also pooh-poohs the idea that Utah hunters might mistake crows for federally protected ravens even though hunters in other states have trouble telling the large black birds apart.
Scientists have found that crows are socially aware, highly intelligent birds. They are able to use tools, and have cognitive abilities similar to great apes.
Join the Clear the Air Challenge
This month, the State of Utah challenges drivers to help reduce air pollution by driving less and using “travelwise” strategies to drive smarter. On the website you can register as an individual or with your workplace as a team, and keep track of how many miles of car trips you save.