Utah

7 Reasons Why Jeff Flake Is Awful on Climate Change and Energy Justice

Jeff Flake

This week, U.S. Sen. Jeff Flake (R-AZ) made national headlines by dramatically announcing his retirement on the U.S. Senate floor. Flake focused his speech on the erratic behavior of President Donald Trump and the nationalistic, anti-immigration turn taken by some Republican Party politicians in recent years. 

“I have decided that I will be better able to represent the people of Arizona and to better serve my country and my conscience by freeing myself from the political considerations that consume far too much bandwidth and would cause me to compromise far too many principles,” said Flake. “To that end, I am announcing today that my service in the Senate will conclude at the end of my term in early January 2019.”

Beyond taking a stance in favor of corporate-backed free trade and “limited government and free markets,” Flake's speech mostly stayed away from policy. But it did include the word “behavior” eight times, pointing to that of President Trump without explicitly mentioning the president by name.

Federal Research Has Been Stoking Oil, Gas Interest in Bears Ears Monument for Years

Bluff formations in Bears Ears Monument

Secretary of the Interior Ryan Zinke is considering revoking the protected status from Bears Ears National Monument, a culturally and archaeologically significant area spanning 1.35 million acres in Utah and protected by then-President Barack Obama under the Antiquities Act of 1906 during his last weeks in office.

While numerous Native American tribes claim ties and sacred sites within its borders, Bears Ears is also of considerable interest to the fossil fuel industry for its close proximity to oil and gas deposits, one of several reasons for pushback against the monument designation. According to a map published by WildEarth Guardians, a group calling for protection of Bears Ears, hydraulic fracturing (“fracking”) powerhouses EOG Resources and Whiting Petroleum are already drilling near the area. Soon, however, there may be much more activity.

A DeSmog review of Utah state records shows that the drilling company Wesco Operating has obtained permits to drill in oil fields near Bears Ears, fields which are part of a larger shale basin extending under the monument. Furthermore, the federal government has been stoking interest in developing that shale basin to the tune of nearly three quarters of a million dollars invested in feasibility research.

Warren Buffett's Quieter Quest to Kill Solar in the West

There are solar battles blazing all across the west right now, as utilities anchored to fossil fuel power plants strain to avoid the inevitable spread of solar across their areas of operation.

Not a month goes by without a story of some assault on solar-friendly policies by utilities, or by the Utility Commissions that are often in their pocket.

During the holidays at the end of 2015, it was Nevada’s utter dismembering of its net metering policy. Nevada is—or was—one of 42 states that offered net metering, a program through which customers with solar arrays are compensated for the energy they produce on their rooftops or in small installations connected to the electric grid.

NV Energy Inc. unleashed this full frontal attack on the program that—in one quick vote of three unelected commissioners—pulled the rug out from under 17,000 solar customers and eviscerated at least 8,000 solar jobs. And the Public Utilities Commission of Nevada (PUCN) was happy to oblige.

US Public Overwhelmingly Prefers To Protect Public Lands, Continue Developing Clean Energy

If Twitter is any indication, the court of public opinion has ruled against the armed “militiamen” who took over a wildlife refuge in Burns, Oregon.

They’ve been called #YallQueda, #VanillaISIS and #YeeHawdists, and they claim to have stormed the Malheur National Wildlife Refuge in response to the federal sentence handed down to convicted arsonist and rancher Dwight Hammond.

Hammond is considered a hero by right-wing movements in the Western United States that think it’s heroic to fight federal authorities who seek to protect lands that belong to all Americans. But, cruel hashtags notwithstanding, it wasn’t clear how much support the YeeHawdists and the pro-logging, pro-mining, pro-ranching movements that spawned them have among the general public.

Until now. Thanks to Colorado College’s sixth annual Conservation in the West Poll, we have the data.

Utah's Hopes For Oil Shale Bonanza Has A Public Relations Problem, Industry Symposium Hears

By Kaitlin Butler

The new U.S. oil and gas rush brings certain places to mind: the Midwest, California, the East Coast — Josh Fox’s Gasland, Governor Cuomo’s ban on fracking, the contentious battle over the Keystone XL pipeline.

Amidst mounting public controversy over fracking practices, pipeline spills and exploding oil trains, one corner of an often-overlooked state weighs heavily on our future. Utah: home to some of the most remote landscapes left in the lower 48 and a forgotten lynchpin to an all-out domestic energy bonanza.

Biggest Fracking Company in Utah Hires BP Executive Involved in Gulf Oil Disaster as CEO

Fidelity Exploration and Production Company, the largest hydraulic fracturing (“fracking”) operator in southeastern Utah, has chosen Patrick O'Bryan to replace its outgoing CEO, Kent Wells.

Both executives have ties to the 2010 BP Deepwater Horizon explosion and subsequent oil disaster in the Gulf of Mexico, and both have links to BP's questionable accountability structure, poor safety record and overall bungled responses to the oil disasters. 

O'Bryan was on the Deepwater Horizon rig on the day it exploded. His visit displaced key safety personnel that day, and delayed a key cement test that would have revealed faulty seals in the well. 
 

Subsidy Spotlight: Utah Land Defenders Stand Up To Dirty Politics

This is a guest post by Anna Simonton, on assignment with Oil Change International | Part 2 of 2

Lauren Wood grew up in a family of river guides in the Uinta Basin region of Utah. She navigates tributaries of the Colorado River like her urban counterparts navigate subway systems. She learned to ride a horse, and then drive a car, on the Tavaputs Plateau. And she can name most any gorge or gully in the place she calls home.

Subsidy Spotlight: Publicly Funding a Utah Disaster in the Making

This is a guest post by Anna Simonton, on assignment with Oil Change International | Part 1 of 2

A green stegosaurus graces the logo of Uintah County, Utah, a gateway to the famed Dinosaur National Monument, where breathtaking landscapes and fossils preserved in sandstone attract thousands of visitors every year.

That logo has taken on new meaning over the past decade as prehistoric remains have attracted a different crowd. Now oil and gas executives are flocking to the Uinta Basin in Eastern Utah, as new technologies––and support from the government––offer the dubious possibility of digging up the region’s vast deposits of oil shale and tar sands.

"I Hate That Oil's Dropping": Why Mississippi Governor Phil Bryant Wants High Oil Prices for Fracking

Outgoing Interstate Oil and Gas Compact Commission (IOGCC) chairman Phil Bryant — Mississippi's Republican Governor — started his farewell address with a college football joke at IOGCC's recent annual conference in Columbus, Ohio.

“As you know, I love SEC football. Number one in the nation Mississippi State, number three in the nation Ole Miss, got a lot of energy behind those two teams,” Bryant said in opening his October 21 speech. “I try to go to a lot of ball games. It's a tough job, but somebody's gotta do it and somebody's gotta be there.”

Seconds later, things got more serious, as Bryant spoke to an audience of oil and gas industry executives and lobbyists, as well as state-level regulators. 

At the industry-sponsored convening, which I attended on behalf of DeSmogBlog, it was hard to tell the difference between industry lobbyists and regulators. The more money pledged by corporations, the more lobbyists invited into IOGCC's meeting.

Perhaps this is why Bryant framed his presentation around “where we are headed as an industry,” even though officially a statesman and not an industrialist, before turning to his more stern remarks.

“I know it's a mixed blessing, but if you look at some of the pumps in Mississippi, gasoline is about $2.68 and people are amazed that it's below $3 per gallon,” he said.

“And it's a good thing for industry, it's a good thing for truckers, it's a good thing for those who move goods and services and products across the waters and across the lands and we're excited about where that's headed.”

Bryant then discussed the flip side of the “mixed blessing” coin.

“Of course the Tuscaloosa Marine Shale has a little problem with that, so as with most things in life, it's a give and take,” Bryant stated. “It's very good at one point and it's helping a lot of people, but on the other side there's a part of me that goes, 'Darn! I hate that oil's dropping, I hate that it's going down.' I don't say that out-loud, but just to those in this room.”

Tuscaloosa Marine Shale's “little problem” reflects a big problem the oil and gas industry faces — particularly smaller operators involved with hydraulic fracturing (“fracking”)  going forward.

That is, fracking is expensive and relies on a high global price of oil. A plummeting price of oil could portend the plummetting of many smaller oil and gas companies, particularly those of the sort operating in the Tuscaloosa Marine.

U.S. Tar Sands Action: Reports from the Front Lines in Utah

For the past five months, activists from the Utah Tar Sands Resistance have camped out on the sage-swept, high plateau lands known as PR Springs in eastern Utah. From the site—where the first tar sands mine in the United States is planned, and preliminary clearing work is already underway—you can’t miss the majestic Book Cliffs that tumble from the East Tavaputs Plateau and the canyons full of tall conifers. 

Book Cliffs is an area cherished by sportsmen and sportswomen—the public lands a place where Rocky Mountain Elk roam free, a place beloved by hunters and anglers and campers and backpackers.

Book Cliffs is also an area presently threatened by oil, gas, and tar sands development. Activists with Peaceful Uprising and the Utah Tar Sands Resistance are working to stop the tar sands projects in their tracks.

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