Environews, Regulars and Shorts

Environews: December 2008

By Amy Brunvand

Environmental news from around the state and the west.
by Amy Brunvand
Utah wildlandson Obama’s radar

John Podesta, head of the Obama transition team, indicated that Utah wildlands are on the president-elect’s radar screen during an interview with Chris Wallace on Fox News Sunday Nov 9.

In fact, the recent flurry of oil and gas leases is not the result of an executive order but because the Bush Administration has rushed to issue "records of decision" in order to implement six new BLM Resource Management Plans deliberately written to promote oil and gas development on public lands.

Now that Utah citizens are getting a taste of what "drill, baby, drill" means on the ground, they are outraged. Due to citizen outcry, the Bureau of Land Management has already withdrawn an oil-and-gas lease parcel that lay directly underneath a Moab neighborhood and golf course and which threatened to pollute the city’s drinking water. Another controversial lease sale scheduled for December 19 includes parcels right next to Dinosaur National Monument, Arches National Park and Canyonlands National Park. The National Park Service has asked the Bureau of Land Management to delay the lease sale. To date, BLM has refused.

The Southern Utah Wilderness Alliance is preparing legal challenges to the BLM plans. Thanks to a generous supporter, donations to SUWA before December 31, 2008, will be matched up to $100,000.


Report exposes Bush environmental assaults

"Over the last seven and half years, the Bush Administration has pushed a concerted strategy of reducing the protections for our public lands, parks and forests, and opening up these lands for every type of private, commercial and extractive industry possible," says a report issued on October 22 by U.S. Congressman Raúl Grijalva, chair of the House National Parks, Forests and Public Lands Subcommittee. The 23-page report describes a legacy of failure to protect National Parks, of pandering to OHV and energy industries, and of shutting the public out of public lands decisions. Utah figures prominently:

• BLM hired  "volunteer" consultants-employed by oil and gas companies-to process oil and gas drilling permits in Utah.

• Utah BLM Resource Management plans designated excessive off-road vehicle routes, many on lands with wilderness character.

• An agreement to settle RS2477 claims was secretly negotiated with the State of Utah.

• Under a "no-wilderness" policy, Utah public lands were stripped of interim protection as potential wilderness.

• The cultural treasures in Nine Mile Canyon were threatened by energy development.

_A Report on the Bush Administration Assaults on our National Parks, Forests And Public Lands (A Partial List): grijalva.house.gov/uploads/ Grijalva_Public_Lands_Report_10_22_2008.pdf

Is the air safe to breathe?

On the gunky bad-air days, the kids might be better off playing indoors. The Utah Department of Health has published "Recess Guidance for Schools," a handy chart that shows what levels of particulate matter in the air are not healthy for children and other living things.

_Recess Guidance for Schools: www.health. utah.gov/asthma/schools/aq_guidelines.html

Turn your key, be idle free

Did you know that more than 10 seconds of idling consumes more fuel than restarting your engine? You can help reduce air pollution simply by turning off your car’s engine while you wait. Modern engines need less than 30 seconds of idling before driving on winter days.

Idle-free Utah: www.idlefree.utah.gov/

Sevier County coal plant will require citizen vote

Thanks to a grassroots iniative on the November ballot, Sevier County citizens will have a say in whether a new coal-fired power plant is built near the town of Sigurd. 58.5% of Sevier County voters favored "Proposition 1" which requires voter approval in order to issue a permit to build a coal-fired power plant in the county.

The Sierra Club says coal-fired power plants are the country’s largest contributor of hazardous air pollutants and a major contributor of greenhouse gasses that cause global climate change, Utah citizen groups working towards a moratorium on new coal-fired power plants are: Citizens for Dixie’s Future, Sevier Citizens for Clean Air and Water, Sierra Club Utah Chapter, Utah Moms for Clean Air, and Utah Physicians for a Healthy Environment.

_Coal Moratorium Now! cmnow.org/. Sierra Club: Clean air/dirty power: www.sierraclub.org/cleanair/factsheets/power.asp

This article was originally published on December 1, 2008.