Short takes on issues
A flawed plan • Gov. Gary Herbert doesn't want the federal government getting between energy developers and sage grouse in Utah. So he has come up with a plan to protect sage grouse habitat that he says should satisfy the feds and prevent them from adding the unique bird to its endangered species list. But the plan has serious flaws. It designates 11 sage grouse conservation areas covering about 7.5 million acres. That's good. But it would set up a "mitigation bank" to allow developers to purchase the privilege to "disturb" habitat including leks, where each spring males congregate to perform spectacular "strutting displays" by providing four times the amount of habitat elsewhere. And it ignores existing habitat in the energy-rich Uinta Basin. That's bad. The plan would let developers trade land anywhere, whether adequate for the grouse or not, for existing habitat. The lack of proper habitat is what's putting the birds at risk in the first place. Herbert and his chief public-lands adviser Kathleen Clarke should look more closely at the science.
Self-serving senators • Mitigate sequester hits on disadvantaged children and the poor? Can't do it. Address cuts in Medicare spending that are forcing many Utah cancer patients to get treatments at hospitals instead of at nearby, less-expensive clinics? Nope. Adjust draconian cuts so national parks can open on time? Are you kidding? All these hits on Americans are beyond the ability of Congress to fix. But when it comes to delays in air travel caused by sequester-mandated air traffic controller furloughs that have more well-heeled constituents howling, the Senate was able in a matter of days to engineer an adjustment to the sequester and pass it by unanimous consent. Oh, and just coincidentally, members of Congress are about to travel home, mostly by air, for a week's vacation, where they would have been available to hear vociferous complaints from voters. And we can't have senators waiting hours, or days, in airports, now can we?
Cleaner air • Los Angeles and five other California cities, which buy 75 percent of the power produced by Intermountain Power Agency's coal-fired electricity plant in Delta, could push the agency to, finally, clean up its act. The cities must, by state law, quit using power produced by burning coal, one of the biggest culprits in greenhouse-gas emissions and global warming, by 2025. LA is proposing the Utah plant convert to natural gas beginning in 2020. That's good news for Utahns, who just last week got an "F" for air quality from the American Lung Association.