Tuesday, May 24, 2016
Gov. Gary Herbert said he spoke this month with Interior Secretary Sally Jewell, who assured him that "we are not the Clinton administration," he said, and a national monument will not be designated in Utah without local input. The focus of that and future meetings with Jewell, Herbert said, is inviting her and President Barack Obama to visit Utah and see the state's conservation efforts already going "over and above" the Bears Ears. "We are trying to be good stewards of the Earth, and I believe that we are, in fact, very responsible citizens of Utah," Herbert told the editorial board for the Deseret News and KSL on Monday. But Jewell has stopped short of saying what the president intends for Bears Ears, a 1.9 million-acre landscape in San Juan County held in historical and religious significance for Native American communities. The site has been the subject of speculation and debate, with some calling for its preservation under the Antiquities Act and others wanting to protect it without prescriptive mandates from the White House. Herbert last week signed a resolution that he asked the Utah Legislature to consider during a special legislative session, challenging the president's authority to create a monument and calling for the state to take "all legal options" to avoid such a designation...more
The Obama administration finalized new rules it says will improve drilling safety in the Gulf of Mexico, but some experts are saying the regulations will undermine safety. The Interior Department, which is responsible for licensing and regulating oil and gas production on the U.S. outer-continental shelf, unveiled the sweeping new regulations on April 14, 2016. The centerpiece of the new regulations is a plan to monitor the safety of offshore wells. Under the regulations, monitoring of well safety would shift from being located on-site—at the offshore drilling platform—to being stationed at onshore electronic observation centers. The regulations also strictly control the types and amounts of fluids pumped into wells, require redundant safety devices, increase the frequency of inspections of critical emergency equipment—known as blowout preventers—and require offshore operators to take steps to center pipes inside wells when pumping cement into them...more
U.S. Interior Secretary Sally Jewell is in Boise today to announce $10 million in funding for projects to help Western landscapes bounce back after a wildfire. The projects include about $500,000 for the Bureau of Land Management to remove invasive juniper trees that have grown after past years' major fires in the Bruneau-Owyhee area of Southwest Idaho and Eastern Oregon. Jonathan Oppenheimer, senior conservation associate with the Idaho Conservation League, explained the idea is to protect the fragile sage grouse. "The conifer trees can pose a risk to sage grouse in particular, because raptors and other birds of prey can roost in those trees and then kill the sage grouse," he said. "So, a lot of this is really targeted around restoration of sage-grouse habitat." Secretary Jewell is also touring the Soda Mountain Fire Rehabilitation site, where 280,000 acres of sage-grouse habitat burned in a wildfire last year. The new influx of money will fund the second year of fire resilience efforts in ten locations, mostly in Western states. Oppenheimer stressed that climate change means Idaho has to be prepared to fight more fires on public lands...more
"The most dangerous man, to any government, is the man who is able to think things out for himself, without regard to the prevailing superstitions and taboos. Almost invariably he comes to the conclusion that the government he lives under is dishonest, insane and intolerable, and so, if he is romantic, he tries to change it. And if he is not romantic personally, he is apt to spread discontent among those who are."
-- H. L. Mencken
-- H. L. Mencken
Monday, May 23, 2016
The European Union’s carbon dioxide (CO2) emissions rose in 2015 while American emissions fell, despite Europe’s environmentally conscious and progressive image, analysis by The Daily Caller News Foundation has found. The EU’s 2015 CO2 emissions increased by 0.7 percent relative to 2014, while U.S. emissions fell to its lowest level in two decades. The EU has spent an estimated $1.2 trillion financially supporting wind, solar and bio-energy and an incalculable amount on a cap-and-trade scheme to specifically lower CO2 emissions. TheDCNF analyzed the increased CO2 emissions data from the the European Commission through Eurostat and CO2 emissions from the Energy Information Administration (EIA) of the last full year of state-level data. The use of older U.S. data predates much of the fracking boom, meaning an updated result would likely be even more significant...more
corralling Bundy’s free-roaming “trespass” cattle from the Gold Butte range in 2014, agents were bracing for a violent confrontation. Some employees feared for their lives as suggestive threats surfaced and were circulated among Interior Department and law enforcement officials, according to emails obtained by the Las Vegas Review-Journal through a Freedom of Information Act request. After more than two years of gathering, redacting and delaying release of the documents, the Bureau of Land Management this week provided the newspaper with more than 400 pages of blacked-out emails and reports. The newspaper contends so much requested information is missing that the BLM response lacks the transparency required by the act. “ ‘Better late than never’ doesn’t cut it when it comes to the release of public records,” Review-Journal Editor Keith Moyer said. “But it’s especially intolerable when the government takes years to provide documents that can’t be read because they’re so heavily redacted. The Interior Department’s response in no way satisfies our FOIA request and leaves far too many questions about the 2014 Bunkerville standoff unanswered.” Review-Journal attorney Maggie McLetchie said, “FOIA was designed to ensure openness in government. We are studying the BLM’s response and considering future options.” The documents show the BLM was not only worried about 2,000 self-styled militia descending on a corral near Bunkerville, where about 350 head of Bundy’s cattle were impounded along the Virgin River, but bureau and National Park Service public affairs staff also were preparing now-censored scripts to deal with the media if something tragic happened...more
The Las Vegas Review-Journal was also seeking info on the cost of the operation:
The newspaper sought emails that were copied to BLM District Manager Tim Smith, BLM Director Neil Kornze and then-Clark County Sheriff Doug Gillespie. The FOIA request, which consolidated two previous requests received by the BLM on April 13, 2014, hours after the standoff ended, also sought documents about the cost of the failed $1 million effort to remove Bundy’s cattle from the range and sell them at auction. Those documents show the BLM reduced a fraction of the $966,000 contract for a helicopter-roundup outfit because the detail to impound and truck the Gold Butte range cattle north to Utah had been cut short “for safety reasons.” Not counting personnel costs or costs racked up by the FBI and other participating federal agencies, nearly $1 million was spent on the helicopter roundup and impoundment of Bundy’s cattle, including an invoice for more than $16,000 for command post trailers provided by Modular Space Corp. in Berwyn, Pennsylvania. The newspaper had sought credit card records, money transfer records and other charges that were paid through BLM and Interior Department accounts, but none were provided in the documents released by the BLM. An order for a helicopter company was placed Feb. 7, 2014, by the BLM’s Las Vegas Field Office. It called for a cost that “shall not exceed $966,000” based on a rate of $700 per head, or $770,000 for a possible 1,100 head; feed and care at $8 per head for $44,000; and transportation at $4.50 per mile. After the armed standoff ended April 12, 2014, when BLM agents allowed Bundy’s supporters to release all the cattle from the corral, the contract was partially terminated “for convenience … due to unsafe site conditions and …” The end of that sentence was blacked out. As a result, the order’s amount was reduced by about $126,767 to $839,233.
The remainder of this lengthy article has more info and a time line of the standoff.
Two internal Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) committees secretly control how billions of dollars are spent, a Daily Caller News Foundation investigation has found. Congress appropriates about $1 billion annually for EPA’s Superfund program, and the agency has accumulated nearly $6.8 billion in more than 1,300 slush fund-like accounts since 1990. Two committees consisting entirely of EPA officials meet behind closed doors twice annually to decide how the agency spends those funds on highly polluted – and often dangerous – Superfund sites. All reports to and from the groups, as well as the minutes of their meetings and all other details, are kept behind closed doors. “Established in January 2009, the Special Accounts Senior Management Committee … is responsible for EPA’s national oversight and management of special accounts,” the agency’s website says. The committee “ensures appropriate management, transparency, and accountability … with special accounts.” Yet, the committee’s work is kept secret from the public. Meanwhile, the agency has collected $6.3 billion in approximately 1,308 special accounts from lawsuits and settlements with parties responsible for polluting superfund sites, but details beyond regional balances are withheld from the public, the DCNF previously reported...more
Governor Gary Herbert told reporters today at his monthly news conference that he plans to sign the resolution against creating a Bears Ears National Monument. He also indicated he will continue working with the Obama Administration on the issue. The monument resolution is nonbinding and designed to express the will of the Legislature and the governor on the proposed Bears Ears National Monument in southeastern Utah. Herbert said Thursday that he prefers the approach in the Public Lands Initiative proposed by Rep. Rob Bishop that would designate 1.2 million acres as a national conservation area, which would impose fewer protections for the land. It would also create designations for more than 16 million acres of federal land across the state. “There really is a desire to find a resolution to this public lands conflict, and the Bears Ears is just one part of it,” Herbert said Thursday during his monthly KUED news conference. “The Bears Ears butte, I think, our native brothers and sisters would agree there needs to be some conservation, some protection there. The question is really what is the best vehicle to do that? And there is division on that even amongst the Indians.”...more
U.S. Sen. Jeff Merkley, D-Ore., said he has carried the message to Congress that the majority of people in Malheur County do not want a national monument, but that does not mean the conversation is not happening. The campaign by some environmental groups to have about 2.5 million acres in central and southern Malheur County designated by the president as a national monument under the Antiquities Act of 1906 was the dominant issue during Merkley’s town hall meeting at Treasure Valley Community College in Ontario, Friday. Like U.S. Sen. Ron Wyden, D-Ore., Merkley holds a town hall meeting in all 36 Oregon counties every year. Rancher Steve Russell was the first to bring up the issue, asking Oregon’s junior senator whether he supported a monument. Russell is president of the Owyhee Basin Stewardship Coalition, which was formed and is being led by ranchers who have grazing allotments that would be included in the proposed monument area. Merkley said he had opposed a move in Congress for a wilderness unless there was support from the community, but added that it was different for a monument because it is designated by the president. He had shared the concerns expressed to him by county residents to U.S. Interior Secretary Sally Jewell, Merkley said, and she had told him there was a process in place for monument designations and there have been no conversations at her department about the Owyhee Canyonlands. However, he is not able to stick his head in all the cubicles where those conversations may be happening, Merkley said...more
The nation’s largest reservoir has broken a record, declining to the lowest level since it was filled in the 1930s. Lake Mead reached the new all-time low on Wednesday night, slipping below a previous record set in June 2015. The downward march of the reservoir near Las Vegas reflects enormous strains on the over-allocated Colorado River. Its flows have decreased during 16 years of drought, and climate change is adding to the stresses on the river. As the levels of Lake Mead continue to fall, the odds are increasing for the federal government to declare a shortage in 2018, a step that would trigger cutbacks in the amounts flowing from the reservoir to Arizona and Nevada. With that threshold looming, political pressures are building for California, Arizona and Nevada to reach an agreement to share in the cutbacks in order to avert an even more severe shortage. As of Thursday afternoon, the lake’s level stood at an elevation of about 1,074.6 feet. The federal Bureau of Reclamation, which manages the reservoir and Hoover Dam, projects the level to decline a few feet more to an elevation of about 1,071 feet by the end of June, before the level begins to rise again with releases of water from Lake Powell...more
Idaho County Commission Chairman Jim Chmelik has traveled across the West, a pied piper seeking to get counties to follow him on his quest to get the federal government to transfer public lands to Western states. Chmelik tells anyone who’ll listen that a lawsuit could give the states the land and turn back the clock for rural counties, with prosperity from logging, mining, agriculture and energy development. He got the Idaho Association of Counties on board and almost got the Idaho Legislature to join Utah in 2014 in preparing for a lawsuit to go after those federal lands. But on Tuesday, Chmelik (pronounced SHMELL-lick) was defeated as Idaho County voters tired of his campaign and his unyielding support for a separate, unpopular local-federal land exchange. He was defeated 2,014 to 1,157 by Denis Duman, a former Cottonwood mayor opposed to the Lochsa land exchange and to spending county money to support Chmelik’s land-transfer efforts...more
Read more here: http://www.idahostatesman.com/news/local/news-columns-blogs/letters-from-the-west/article78731237.html#storylink=cpy
Read more here: http://www.idahostatesman.com/news/local/news-columns-blogs/letters-from-the-west/article78731237.html#storylink=cpy