nWhile Utah legislators ready the Beehive State for nuclear power (and, presumably, make plans to rope off of chunks of Utah for millennia’s worth of nuclear-waste storage), Peter Corroon sees a sunnier future. The Salt Lake County mayor’s just-announced solar plan calls for leasing the tops of county buildings to solar-power companies that would coat the roofs with solar panels, then sell resulting power back to the county. To make it happen, the county paid for a study of county roofs, then lobbied Utah’s Legislature to undo a law that blocked large solar projects. Next, Corroon hopes to talk lawmakers into creating tax breaks that make solar a more attractive investment. The county already has solar panels on Clark Planetarium and the Salt Palace. n
nThe federal Environmental Protection Agency has officially informed Utah’s governor what we all already knew: Most people in the populated valleys of Utah breathe dangerous air. The EPA has lowered its estimate of the amount of microscopic soot from car tailpipes and industry that people can healthily breathe. Salt Lake and Davis counties fail, as do parts of Weber, Box Elder and Tooele counties. The state has until 2014 to clean up its act or lose federal highway money. Between now and then, the sooty air will be causing wheezing, heart attacks, strokes and lung cancer. And in the meantime, the EPA warns a bigger threat to Beehive State breathing is likely to come from thousands of new oil wells authorized without regard to impact on air quality.
nIf Utah enviros and their friends in other states can keep fingers in the dike for a few more days, they just might be able to stop the George W. Bush administration’s final act: selling Utah to the highest bidder. Fifty-eight members of Congress have written president-elect Barack Obama asking him to make protecting Utah his first job by canceling oil and gas leases recently auctioned on Utah land otherwise proposed for wilderness protection. Also fighting is the Utah Rivers Council, now appealing a U.S. Forest Service decision that left most Utah rivers off of lists of “wild and scenic” rivers to be protected. Portions of the Colorado and Green were included, but they make up just one-eighth of waterways initially proposed for protection. (Disclosure: CW Editor Holly Mullen’s husband Ted Wilson is executive director of the URC.)