Environmental Politics, Think
Environews: December 2009
Environmental news from around the state and the west.
by Amy Brunvand
DeChristopher “necessity defense” rejected
A U.S. District Court has decided that Tim DeChristopher will not be allowed to defend himself by explaining why he thought it was necessary to break the law in order to block sales of improperly reviewed oil and gas leases likely to cause severe environmental damage to public lands near National Parks and wilderness. The court rejected the so-called “choice of evils” defense, a legal principle that accepts that breaking the law is sometimes necessary in order to avoid greater harm. An October document from the prosecution expressed fears that allowing DeChristopher to tell his story in court could open the door to other climate protests, since “the defendant’s hopes are to have a prominent platform for his global warming show; a platform from which he could educate the masses.” DeChristopher’s lawyers hoped to use the necessity defense since “a reasonable juror could find that global warming and climate change, and the other environmental and cultural results of the lease sale at issue, were greater evils than the offenses with which DeChristopher stands charged.”
Prominent activists take new roles
Some of Utah’s prominent environmental activists have taken on interesting new positions:
• Ted Wilson has been appointed to the Governor’s Balanced Resource Council. Wilson is a pioneering Utah rock climber and former Salt Lake City Mayor who has served as vice chair of the Southern Utah Wilderness Alliance and as executive director of the Utah Rivers Council.
• Patrick Shea has also been appointed to the Governor’s Balanced Resource Council. Shea was BLM director during the Clinton Administration and is currently one of the attorneys representing Tim DeChristopher.
• Brooke Williams, author of “Halflives: Reconciling Work and Wildness,” has joined the staff at the Moab office of the Southern Utah Wilderness Alliance.
Milford Wind Corridor Project now generating
The largest wind farm in Utah began operation in November near Milford, Utah. With 97 wind turbines, the First Wind project can power about 45,000 homes with clean, renewable energy. The Milford Wind Corridor is the first wind energy facility permitted under the Bureau of Land Management’s (BLM) Wind Energy Programmatic Environmental Impact Statement (EIS) for Western US states.
First Wind, Milford: www.milfordwind.com/milford/about.cfm
Wind Energy EIS Public information: windeis.anl.gov
FGRC’s Green Infrastructure Program a positive sign
A new Wasatch Front Regional Council (WFRC) program will document natural areas and features such as watersheds, wildlife corridors, nature trails, parks and working lands so that they can be considered in regional planning. WFRC is the multi-government association that plans regional transportation for the Wasatch Front. Long-range plans developed by WFRC have been at odds with the “transit first” strategy supported by environmental groups such as the Utah Sierra Club and Utahns for Better Transportation. The Green Infrastructure Program is a hopeful sign that Wasatch Front transportation planning is moving in a more sustainable direction.
Wasatch Front Regional Council: www.wfrc.org
U.S. Magnesium (MagCorp) on EPA Superfund list
In November, the EPA added U.S. Magnesium in Tooele County to the National Priorities List of Superfund sites—the nation’s most contaminated places that are priorities for cleanup. The EPA says MagCorp’s uncontrolled contaminants include metals, (arsenic, chromium, mercury, copper, zinc), acidic waste water, chlorinated organics, polychlorinated biphenyls (PCBs), dioxins/furans, hexachlorobenzene (HCB) and polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons (PAHs).
In a public comment supporting superfund listing, noted author Chip Ward wrote, “Consider this: As dioxins migrate into the lake and move up the food chain, first into brine shrimp that are commercially harvested and then into the prawns they are fed to, the last stop could be you as you eat that prawn in your favorite restaurant. In that sense, we all live next to MagCorp.”
Utah cleanup sites: www.epa.gov/Region8/superfund/ut/usmagnesium/index.html