Environews, Regulars and Shorts

Environews: October 2011

By Amy Brunvand

Tar sands protests; Rolling Stone says, “Pardon Tim”; solar Salt Lake; NW Quadrant news; rec industry decries anti-wilderness attitude.

D.C. tar sands protests: The Utah connection

More than 1,200 people, including some from Utah, were arrested during a two-week-long anti-tar sands protest that took place last month in front of the White House. In a call to action, Bill McKibben, founder of 350.org, wrote, “Tim DeChristopher acted for you. And it’s time for you to take the same kind of responsibility.” Another organization involved in organizing the protest was Peaceful Uprising, the group DeChristopher founded to combat climate change through empowering nonviolent action. DeChristopher is currently serving a two-year prison term for disrupting a 2008 Bureau of Land Management oil and gas lease auction to prevent drilling in pristine wilderness quality areas.

The focus of the D.C. protest was stopping construction of the Keystone XL pipeline that would carry oil from Alberta, Canada, across the continent to the Texas Gulf Coast. Canadian tar sands mining has already destroyed an ecosystem the size of Florida, but the climate impact of burning so much fossil fuel could be even worse. As climate scientist Jim Hansen says, “If emissions from coal are phased out over the next few decades and if unconventional fossil fuels are left in the ground, it is conceivable to stabilize Earth’s climate.”

Utahns have a personal interest in any national or international movement to oppose tar sands development since Bush-era energy policy prioritized development of U.S. oil shale and tar sands in Utah, Wyoming and Colorado. Many of these so-called “unconventional fuel” deposits lie under some of the most scenic parts of the state such as the San Rafael Swell, Desolation Canyon and near Canyonlands National Park. Utah Governor Gary Herbert has welcomed with open arms a mining company from the tiny Northern European country of Estonia that is set to start strip mining more than 30,000 acres in Utah. Oil Sands USA (a Canadian company) has so far failed to find enough water to commence mining at PR Springs in Grand County. (See what exploration looks like: www.youtube.com/watch?v=qMh-u-NPS0c.)

In the meantime, Tim DeChristopher’s original act of civil disobedience keeps snowballing. The U.S. tar sands protest inspired a similar Canadian protest in Ottowa. Tar sands protesters have been dogging Obama campaign events, and a renewed U.S. protest effort is scheduled for October 7 when the State Department has scheduled a hearing on the Keystone XL Pipeline.

tarsandsaction.org, 350.org, tinyurl.com/keystone-eis

Rolling Stone says, “Pardon Tim”

A Rolling Stone Magazine list of “Ten Things Obama Must Do” for the environment says “Pardon Tim DeChristopher.” Item number nine on the list reads, “Obama has since declared many of Bush’s last-minute leases invalid. Now he should make a small but important symbolic gesture by pardoning DeChristopher, sending a signal that a citizen-activist should not be singled out for punishment when the government itself disrespects the rule of law.”

Recreation industry decries anti-wilderness attitude

An open letter sent from Utah outdoor businesses to Utah’s congressional delegation decries a recent flurry of anti-wilderness bills, saying, “We urge you to not give away the places where we hike, hunt, fish, and recreate and instead protect our iconic landscapes, and support the parks and recreation areas that our businesses rely on.”

The letter refers specifically to the 2012 Interior Appro­priations Bill, which would cut funds for the Land and Water Conservation Fund and Antiquities Act designations (such as Escalante/Grand Staircase National Monument), and the Wilderness and Roadless Release Act, which would eliminate currently existing BLM wilderness study areas and Forest Service Roadless Areas and open them to mining and logging.

Instead of boosting Utah’s outdoor recreation economy, Utah politicians keep making false claims that wildlands protection is a job killer. At a recent congressional hearing, Utah Senator Orrin Hatch claimed that when Escalante/Grand Staircase National Monument was designated, “with the stroke of the pen, 500 high-paying jobs in a rural Utah county disappeared.” However, a report from the Headwaters Foundation shows that after the National Monument was formed the number of jobs in the area grew by 38% and income rose by 30%. A recent poll commissioned by Republicans for Environmental Protection found that 69% of Utahns agree that Grand Staircase Escalante National Monument is good for Utah.

tinyurl.com/escalantestudy, tinyurl.com/outdoorrecletter

Solar Salt Lake

Are you thinking of installing solar panels on your roof? You can find the solar potential of your property by using the Salt Lake City Solar Map. Kevin Bell, GIS coordinator for Salt Lake City, designed the program in which data obtained from laser scanning the city from an air plane was used to create a 3-D model of the city that shows exactly where the sun and shadows are.


Brand spankin’ new bikeways

In September, Becka Roolf, Salt Lake City Bicycle/ Pedestrian Coordinator, gave a tour to show off 50 miles of new on-road bikeways. The new bike lanes have innovative features: Lanes are wider so cyclists won’t get “doored” by people exiting cars. Uphill bike lanes combined with shared downhill lanes help cyclists get safely across the steep Wasatch fault scarp. Some business districts have added removable “bicycle corrals” that can be taken away for snow-plow season, and the new North Temple viaduct includes bike lanes so Eastsiders can safely cycle to the Red Iguana.

bikeslc@slcgov.com, slcgov.com/bike

What next for the Northwest Quadrant?

The LDS Church has traded 3,100 acres of land in the Northwest Quadrant near the Great Salt Lake to Kennecott Utah Copper. It is unclear what this means for the controversial Northwest Quadrant Master Plan, which proposes building a parallel city nearly half as large as existing Salt Lake City in the wetlands and open space west of the airport.

This article was originally published on September 30, 2011.