Salt Lake City, Utah - Hundreds of local activists and concerned residents gathered at the foot of the Utah State Capitol building Jan. 14, three days before the 2023 state legislative session began, during a rally to “save our Great Salt Lake.” Between chants and songs, speakers addressed the crowd in an effort to raise awareness about the multiple crises facing Great Salt Lake. While some appealed to law makers to implement reforms, others took aim at the root causes of the catastrophes threatening the existence of the lake and its ecosystem. Great Salt Lake is at risk of ecological collapse. As of January, the lake has lost 60% of its historical surface area and 73% of its water, according to a collaborative report released by the Brigham Young University College of Life Sciences earlier this month. That report says, if current conditions persist and emergency measures aren’t taken, the lake could be completely dry in as little as five years.
Salt Lake City, UT - Some Black Lives Matter protesters in Salt Lake City could face up to life in prison if they’re convicted of splashing red paint and smashing windows during a protest, a potential punishment that stands out among demonstrators arrested around the country and one that critics say doesn’t fit the alleged crime. The felony criminal mischief charges are more serious because they carry a gang enhancement. Prosecutors said Wednesday that’s justified because the protesters worked together to cause thousands of dollars in damage, but watchdogs called the use of the 1990s-era law troubling, especially in the context of criminal justice reform and minority communities.
An affordable housing crisis is sweeping across the country, putting the squeeze on millions of people with modest incomes. I was one of the many older Americans whose retirement security was threatened by skyrocketing rents. But after a long, hard battle, my neighbors and I managed to beat back a redevelopment proposal that would’ve displaced our senior community. Our story might help others do the same. My community, Applewood Homeowners Cooperative, Inc., in Midvale, Utah, has long played an important role as an affordable housing option for many seniors on fixed incomes. Things started to change in 2013, when our community was purchased by a construction corporation called Ivory Homes.
By Staff of The Associated Press - State Rep. Patrice Arent, a Democrat from Millcreek, accused Trump of coming to “wreak destruction on a land he knows basically nothing about,” the Salt Lake Tribune reported. Navajo Nation Attorney General Ethel Branch vowed said the president should see these monuments for himself. “I want him to visit Bears Ears before he takes any action,” Branch said. Roughly 5,000 people showed up to the rally, according to the Utah Highway Patrol. The demonstration remained relatively peaceful. Trump is scheduled to visit the state on Monday, when he will announce a plan to reduce the size of Bears Ears and Staircase-Escalante National Monuments by nearly two-thirds. Those monuments were designated by former presidents Barack Obama and Bill Clinton, respectively. Trump’s move would be the first such act by a president in half a century. Environmentalists and tribal leaders have decried the decision as illegal and an affront to Native Americans. Leaked documents obtained by The Associated Press show that Trump plans to shrink Bears Ears National Monument by nearly 85 percent and reduce Grand Staircase-Escalante National Monument by almost half. The plan would cut the total amount of land in the state’s red rock country protected under monument status from more than 3.2 million acres (5,000 square miles) to about 1.2 million acres (1,875 square miles).
By Staff of Common Dreams - On Saturday, thousands of protesters angered by Trump's expected Monday attack on two national monuments in Utah rallied in Salt Lake City, just two days ahead of his visit. “Go Home Trump,” was the message spelled out by 113 protesters dressed in white jumpsuits. Artist Cat Palmer organized the protest Sunday on the south lawn of the Utah Capitol ahead of President Donald Trump’s Monday visit, in which he is expected to dramatically reduce the sizes of Bears Ears and Grand Escalante national monuments. “We don’t have somebody representing our voices right now, right? That’s a problem. Sometimes when we feel helpless we make art hoping our voices will be heard,” Palmer said. “It’s an outlet for people. It’s therapeutic, .... because we are feeling lost right now,” the Salt Lake City Tribune reports. On Saturday, thousands of protesters angered by Trump's expected Monday attack on two national monuments in Utah rallied in Salt Lake City, just two days ahead of his visit. The demonstrators denounced Trump's expected action, many chanting and holding signs with messages such as "Protect Wild Utah." Native American groups danced or formed drum circles.
By Mark Hand for Think Progress - Utah’s largest electric utility company wants to place new charges on rooftop solar customers, a proposal that critics say would unfairly penalize the customers; in addition, they fear it could lead to a scenario similar to the one that recently played out in Nevada, with rooftop solar companies abandoning the state after policymakers weakened the net metering system. Rocky Mountain Power’s plan would nearly triple monthly customer charges and peak-time usage charges for rooftop solar customers, although the company says the new charges are necessary to create an equitable system between solar and non-solar customers. The Utah Public Service Commission is holding a hearing on Wednesday to get public input on the company’s controversial proposal. Next week, the commission plans to hold a multi-day hearing where Rocky Mountain Power, solar companies, and other official intervenors in the case will get to state their positions. Under Rocky Mountain Power’s proposal, new solar customers would pay a $15 per month service charge, compared to $6 per month now; a $9.02 per kilowatt demand charge for “on-peak” demand; and a 3.81 cents per kilowatt hour charge for electricity. From May to September, on-peak periods occur from 3 p.m. to 8 p.m. From October to April, on peak occurs from 8 a.m. to 10 a.m. and 3 p.m. to 8 p.m.
By Staff of Indianz - In the next few weeks Congressman Rob Bishop will attempt to push through the U.S. House of Representatives the first Indian land grab in over 100 years. H.R. 5780, the Utah Public Lands Initiative, proposes to rollback federal policy to the late 1800’s when Indian lands and resources where taken for the benefit of others. In a startling lack of transparency, Congressman Bishop plans only one hearing on this 215-page bill with about 129 other land management proposals in the obscure Subcommittee on Federal Lands.
By M. David for The Free Thought Project - Tremonton, UT — Bear River, Utah resident Rex Iverson, 45, died in the Box Elder County Jail on January 23 after being incarcerated for his failure to pay an ambulance bill. A deputy arrested him on a $350 bench warrant issued by the justice court on December 29. He was found unresponsive in his cell by a detention deputy a few hours after being arrested. “We go to great lengths to never arrest anybody on these warrants,” Box Elder County Chief Deputy Sheriff Dale Ward told the Ogden Standard-Examiner.
By Kaitlin Butler for Desmog. Salt Lake City, UT - 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 spillsand 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. The course our energy future, and to some extent our climate future, takes could be determined by what happens in this remote desert basin. Earlier this month, Salt Lake City, Utah housed the 35th annual Oil Shale Symposium to discuss this future.
By Michael McFall in The St. Louis Tribune - Cathy Garber still gets emotional when she remembers how badly she wanted to leave her nursing home. Garber had just finished her master's degree in social work at the University of Utah in 2011 when she needed major surgery. When the procedure was over, her physicians decided she wasn't healing fast enough and put her in a nursing home. But she didn't want to be there. She wanted to be in her own home. "I had to be there for six months. I missed Christmas, New Year's, Valentine's Day," Garber said to a crowd of about 150 at the Utah State Capitol, protesting Sunday what they said is Utah's lack of home and community-based services for people with disabilities. That deficiency forces people to move into nursing homes and other institutions, according to the Americans Disabled for Attendant Programs Today (ADAPT) organization, which organized Sunday's rally.
By Jennifer Dobner in The Salt Lake Tribune - Four activists reportedly were arrested in Utah's Book Cliffs on Monday during a protest against the planned expansion of a tar sands mine, which the group argues could do significant damage to regional water resources in the Colorado River watershed area. Peaceful Uprising announced the arrests on its website and through Twitter on Monday and said police officers from two state agencies and sheriff's offices in Grand and Uintah counties were involved in the arrests. It wasn't immediately clear if the individuals were taken into custody or cited and released by police. On Monday, protesters suspended themselves from metal tripods to block site-clearing work underway at PR Spring, where the East Tavaputs Plateau straddles the Grand and Uintah county lines. Officers reportedly used a cherry picker to remove them.
Uintah County prosecutors have filed felony and misdemeanor charges against 21 people from 10 states who were arrested during a summer protest at the site of a controversial tar sands mine. he charges stem from a July 21 protest at the U.S. Oil Sands mine site, which sits on land leased to the Canadian energy firm by the state School and Institutional Trust Lands Administration. During the protest, 12 environmental activists climbed an 8-foot-tall, chain-link fence topped with barbed wire and entered the mine site, according to court records. Five of the activists chained themselves to heavy equipment inside the fenced area, deputies said. About 30 protesters outside the fenced area were told to leave the mine site or face arrest, according to court records. Only one of the 30 failed to follow that order and was arrested. In July, Utah Tar Sands Resistance spokeswoman Jessica Lee said deputies treated the protesters so roughly during the arrests that it amounted to police brutality. "This is a clear example of the Uintah County sheriff escalating things," Lee said at the time, noting that protesters were "grabbed in an aggressive manner" and some were "thrown to the ground."
Protesters again stopped work at the construction site of the first tar sands mine in the US. Five people were later arrested and jailed but the campaign to stop the mine said the resistance will not relent until all tar sands plans are canceled. By moving quickly through the site to obstruct numerous construction vehicles, just a handful of speedy protesters were able to shut down the enormous construction project on a sprawling 213 acres in Utah’s Book Cliffs. “Direct, physical intervention is necessary to halt the completion of this toxic project,” said one protester.
The guises were defenses not against the weather, but against the cops and a security camera trained on a test pit for what could soon become the first commercial tar sands mine in the U.S. Tar sands contain an unconventional crude called bitumen, that with a great deal of water and energy can be extracted from sand and rock, and refined into fuel. The industry is big business in Alberta, Canada, and one of the most carbon-intense fossil fuels. U.S. environmentalists have fiercely opposed the Keystone XL pipeline, which would transport Canadian tar sands crude to U.S. refineries, in a bid to influence further development to the north. Less known, and less opposed nationally, is the push to develop Utah's own tar sands deposits.
Land defenders in Utah locked themselves to equipment being used to clear-cut and grade an area designated for the tar sands’ companies processing plant, as well as a fenced “cage” used to store the equipment. Others formed a physical blockade with their bodies to keep work from happening, and to protect those locked-down to the equipment. Banners were also hung off the cage that read: “You are trespassing on Ute land” and “Respect Existence or Expect Resistance.” 13 people were arrested for locking to equipment. An additional six people were arrested after sitting in the road to prevent the removal of those being taken away in two police vans. Two of the protesters arrested were injured. One was taken a nearby hospital to be treated, while the other is being treated at the Uintah County Jail. The nature of their injuries is not being disclosed by the county sheriffs. A media representative from Unedited Media was also arrested. Two additional people were arrested when they arrived at Uintah Country Jail to provide support to the land defenders inside. An estimated 10 armed deputies with police dogs were standing outside the jail wearing bullet proof vests.