EnviroUpdate: April 2008

By Amy Brunvand

Environmental news from around the state and the west.
by Amy Brunvand
National Earth Day is Tuesday, April 22

The first Earth Day was celebrated April 22, 1970, which the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency describes as "a time when rivers caught fire and cities were hidden under dense clouds of smoke."

Happy Earth Day!

Tend your garden to help the earth

One way to celebrate Earth Day is by making your own lifestyle more sustainable, and the 2008 workshop schedule from Wasatch Community Gardens gives you a wide variety of environmentally beneficial (and aesthetically satisfying) ways to do exactly that. Most workshops are free, and you can learn about such topics as eating locally, composting, organic gardening, starting a school garden, keeping urban chickens, or "Rip Your Strip" (a hands-on workshop that shows you how to replace the water-wasting grass in your parking strip with attractive low-water landscaping).

Wasatch Community Gardens 2008 Workshop schedule: www.wasatchgardens.org/workshopschedule.html

Migratory birds return to Salt Lake

If you can’t afford a safari to the Serengeti, the spring migration at the Great Salt Lake is not a bad substitute. The Great Salt Lake is one of only 17 sites of Hemispheric Importance in the Western Hemispheric Shorebird Reserve Network. Millions of birds from over 250 species depend on its wetlands to make the journey from North to South America. Take a field trip to the Great Salt Lake Bird Festival to see the birds, or get involved with Friends of Great Salt Lake to help preserve the ecosystem.

Great Salt Lake Bird Festival, May 15-19: www.greatsaltlakebirdfest.com/

A joint conference of the International Society of Salt Lake Research and Friends of Great Salt Lake will take place at the University of Utah, May 11-16, 2008. The theme is "Saline Lakes Around the World: Unique Systems with Unique Values": www.isslr.org/gsl2008/in/

2007 environmental scorecard ranks Utah legislators

The League of Conservation Voters has published their 2007 National Environmental Scorecard which ranks the environmental voting record representatives and senators in the U.S. Congress. The scorecard considers twenty key environmental votes. A score of 100% means that the congressman voted pro-environment on all 20 bills, while a score of 0% means he voted against the environment every time.

• Senators

Robert Bennett (R) UT 7%

Orrin Hatch (R) UT 13%

• Representatives

Rob Bishop (R) UT-1 0%

Chris Cannon (R) UT-3 10%

Jim Matheson (D) UT-2 55%

One vote on the scorecard that particularly affects Utah has to do with oil shale and tar sands development: a 2005 law requires the Bureau of Land Management to prioritize commercial leasing of oil shale and tar sands on public lands over other uses-essentially this could mean strip-mining more than two million acres in Utah, Colorado and Wyoming including in wilderness-quality recreational areas like the San Rafael Swell and other areas. Representative Mark Udall (D-CO) introduced an amendment to delay the oil shale/tar sands program in order to do more complete studies of the true environmental and economic impacts. Disappointingly, Bishop, Cannon and Matheson all voted against the Udall amendment. The good news is the Udall amendment passed even without their support. In 2005, Mark Udall said of the oil shale plan, "I support responsible oil and gas development, but we should not do it in a way that sacrifices Western lands and our quality of life."

League of Conservation Voters 2007 Environmental Scorecard: www.lcv.org/scorecard/
Oil Shale and Tar Sands Programmatic EIS: ostseis.anl.gov/

Utah Legislature: Good & bad for the environment

The 2008 general session ended in March, and the Utah Legislature passed a number of laws and resolutions that affect the environment. The Utah Chapter of the Sierra Club provided the following summary of the good news and the bad news (hb means house bill; s means senate bill; jr means joint resolution).

Note that with hjr10 the threat of oil shale and tar sands development rears its ugly head once again. A resolution is not a law, but it does put the Utah legislature on record as favoring strip-mining as the best use of our public lands over wilderness conservation, recreation or any other use.

The good news:

hb106, s1 provides a tax credit for vehicles meeting higher air quality and fuel efficiency standards. Sponsor: Roz McGee (D-Salt Lake City)

hb303 limits dishwashing detergent to 0.5% phosphorus. Sponsor: Chistine Johnson (D-Salt Lake City)

sb205 allows customers to sell back excess electricity such as generated by a customer’s solar photo-voltaic panels. Sponsor: Kevin VanTassel (R-Vernal)

hb51, s2 protects cities and towns from losing water rights. Sponsor: Patrick Painter (R-Nephi)

hb104,s3 appropriates $500,000 for urban trails. Sponsor: Kory M. Holdaway (R-Taylorsville)

hb117 protects instream flow in rivers. Sponsor: Stephen E. Sandstrom (R-Orem)

The bad news:

sb245s5 prohibits using airport funds for light rail to the airport. Sponsor: Curtis Bramble (R-Provo)

sb181s1 allows off-road vehicles on two-lane highways. Sponsor: Scott Jenkins (R-Plain City)

hjr10 is a resolution to oppose congressional designation of wilderness on BLM lands and encourage oil shale and tar sands development. Sponsor: Aaron Tilton (R-Springville)

Utah Chapter Sierra Club bill tracker: utah.sierraclub.org/tracker/index.html

Utah Legislature: www.le.state.ut.us/

This article was originally published on April 1, 2008.