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Are radical environmentalists trying to dupe Sec. Jewell?

On Saturday, thousands gathered at the Bluff Community Center in Southeastern Utah to share their opinion on the proposed Bears Ears National Monument with Sec. Sally Jewell and other visiting federal officials. As local San Juan County residents arrived, they were met by 100-degree temperatures, signs for and against the monument and a large contingency of strangers wearing blue shirts. When I asked a local Navajo who these people were, she said, “I know a few of them, but I’ve never seen most in my life.”

Video footage and audio statements from monument supporters appear to show that the Sierra Club and other extreme environmental groups bussed large groups in from all across the West in an apparent attempt to hijack the meeting and drown out local voices. One of the bus drivers revealed that “seven or eight buses” brought in monument supporters from as far away as New Mexico, Arizona, and Colorado.

A monument supporter said, “This is a coalition of the Wilderness Society, Sierra Club, Wilderness Alliance. They brought in a bus from Flagstaff, from Durango, from Moab.”

What Sec. Jewell promised would be a community meeting intended to “learn from and listen to locals” was, instead, undermined by outsiders.

When given a chance to speak, the majority of San Juan County residents opposed the monument. However, comments made by out-of-staters could have given visiting officials the impression that the county is split on the issue because commenters were not required to provide their names or where they were from.

Under this anonymity, many monument supporters focused their comments on outdoor recreation and its importance in their lives. This was in stark contrast to locals who expressed fears over a monument prohibiting them from gathering wood to heat their homes in the winter, pushing cattle and ranching families off the range, and economically devastating their county. Monument advocates seemed to brush these concerns aside as they elevated their desire to hike, mountain bike and rock climb over the basic needs of San Juan County residents.

Once the meeting ended, the blue shirts filed one by one back onto the buses and made the long trek home. For them, their job was done and they could move on with their lives. But for locals, who are reliant on the land, they have to live with the decisions made by Sec. Jewell (who enthusiastically expressed a desire to vacation in the area) and the Obama administration. Southeastern Utah isn’t a vacation spot for local residents. It’s their home, their heritage and a place where their families have lived for generations.

Sec. Jewell, you came to Utah seeking local input. Unfortunately, what you saw and heard was theater staged by radical environmentalist outsiders intent on smothering local voices. This wasn’t local grassroots. This was astroturf.

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Expensive EPA measures will do little to reduce Southwest haze

Last month the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) only partially accepted Utah’s regional plan for reducing haze in the Southwest’s national parks. Deeming the state’s plan insufficient, the EPA plans to impose its own measures aimed at reducing nitrogen oxide emitted from Utah’s coal plants.

“We are disappointed with the decision,” said Bryce Bird, director of the Utah Division of Air Quality, “because the Utah plan relied on sound science and common sense, improving visibility at a reasonable cost to Utah ratepayers.” Bird is right. Not only does this new federal plan do little to improve visibility, but it will come at a huge cost.

Utah has been at the forefront of pollution reduction efforts in the Western United States, with emission reduction milestones from coal plants achieved seven years ahead of the EPA’s schedule, and completion of the Regional Haze State Implementation Plan five years earlier than most states.

The most recent five-year average indicates that visibility at Utah’s national parks and wilderness areas is improving on both the 20 percent worst and 20 percent best days, and the state has already achieved better visibility improvement than the preliminary reasonable progress projections for 2018.

Despite these great strides, the EPA is requiring central Utah’s coal plants to install selective catalytic reduction (SCR) technology in an attempt to reduce nitrogen oxide emissions. The cost estimate to install SCR at the Hunter and Huntington coal plants is $580 million, and it would require the demolition and reconstruction of much of the facilities. Utah’s decision not to require SCR on its coal plants is based more on limited benefit than on high cost.

A decade of research conducted by the Utah Department of Environmental Quality in collaboration with the EPA’s own technical staff has demonstrated why reductions in nitrogen oxide have not resulted in a corresponding reduction in visibility impairment in the Southwest’s national parks: The region has low levels of ammonia, a chemical compound that reacts with nitrogen oxide to produce ammonium nitrate – a significant cause of visibility impairment.

In other words, while SCR has been successful in other parts of the country, our climate and geography are such that the technology will do little to improve visibility.

The impacts of SCR on the Intermountain West’s haze issues is negligible. However, its effects on the economies of our rural counties are substantial. Carbon County officials say power plants and mineral extraction support 80 percent of the local economy, and for every power plant job that goes away, five other jobs are jeopardized or vanquished. The EPA’s SCR requirement threatens to shut down the lifeblood of Emery and Carbon Counties, which already struggle to keep up economically with the rest of the state.

The fact that air pollution exists in the Southwest’s national parks isn’t in question, and we ought to take measures that preserve the scenic beauty these places provide. But the measures being imposed by the EPA will do almost nothing to “de-haze” the region, and they slap a huge burden on rural Utahns. Let’s do something that would actually clean up the haze instead of needlessly sacrificing a thriving local industry, the economy it supports, and the families of central Utah.

EPA’s proposed carbon rule hits Utah’s most vulnerable hardest

Carl Graham – The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency’s (EPA) proposed carbon rule is the latest in a series of regulations that will increase the cost of electricity and natural gas at a time when wages are stagnant and a lot of people are struggling to get by.

According to a recently released study, if this new carbon rule is imposed, the average Utah family’s electric bill will go up by $124 and their gas bill will increase by $266 annually, for a total of $32.50 per month. If you don’t think that’s a meaningful amount, then you’re out of touch with a lot of Utah families that are living paycheck to paycheck and are all too often faced with a choice between heating their houses or buying groceries for their children.

These regulations are a backdoor tax plain and simple, and the most regressive and punishing kind possible. It may not hurt you or me to pay an extra few bucks a month to satisfy an environmental feel-good agenda, the results of which will have absolutely no measurable impact on the global climate. But it does hurt the most vulnerable among us. It forces them to pay a larger percentage of their paycheck for everyday needs like heat and electricity, cutting into what disposable income they may have and harming not just their quality of life but also their ability to live. It’s despicable and the height of hypocrisy for ivory tower do-gooders to inflict real pain and suffering on others so that they can enjoy a clear global warming conscience in the comfort of their beautiful homes and SUVs.

This new rule, if it survives the legal and political challenges that are sure to come, also tips the balance of power from Utah’s government and agencies to bureaucrats in Washington, D.C.

Under the tenets of cooperative federalism, D.C. regulators have traditionally offered states the opportunity to meet federal standards, and even to have inputs into the making of those standards. Not so with the carbon rule. The EPA is presenting a ‘my way or the highway’ approach that offers states a rope with which to hang themselves and a threat to shoot them if they don’t cooperate. That’s not how it’s supposed to work, and it’s insulting that they think they know what’s best for each state and community at any rate.

The Utah Public Service Commission and its antecedents has had sole jurisdiction to oversee the state’s electricity retail electricity market since 1917—more than a half century before the EPA was formed. But apparently they don’t believe Utah’s regulators learned anything in that period and so now must be told how to do their jobs.

In truth, D.C. bureaucrats don’t know (or care) what’s best for Utah. They answer to a different master. And if we don’t push back against their overreaching control, we’ll find our state government is just a branch office of the for-profit environmental industry and their federal employees.

If you’d like to make a comment to the EPA about this proposed regulation, the deadline is Dec. 1st, 2014. You can find some pretty good ideas on how this rule would harm Utahns and impinge on our ability to govern ourselves from this document. And then you can take what’s most important to you and tell the EPA what you think here.

Good Intentions, ESA Won’t Save the Sage Grouse

CSG-W Director Carl Graham and Reason’s Brian Seasholes co-authored an opinion piece for The Hill explaining why states and landowners should be allowed to manage threatened species like the sage grouse.