Monday, April 27, 2009

Sevier Power Co. Withdraws Ripcord Request

Sevier County, Utah --

The developer whose eight-year effort to build a coal-fired power plant in Sigurd, Utah has withdrawn the legal action to force a permit decision by the Sevier County commissioners. Known as the state's "ripcord" law, the statute was enacted by state lawmakers to avoid delays to developers that receive opposition to their plans. Sevier Power Company invoked the statute in November of last year and the matter was scheduled for the commission agenda this coming Monday, May 4.

Sevier Power Company's plans have received considerable opposition since announced in the fall of 2000 by Commissioner Gary Mason as a boon to the county's economic development efforts. As more and more of the developer's plans became known to the public, opposition mounted, including two actions that have been presented to the Utah State Supreme Court and at least one in Utah's sixth district. Meanwhile, the county's population and median income numbers have modestly increased, along with most of the state of Utah.

"This takes some of the heat off of the commissioners," said Dick Cumiskey, a "non-lawyer" activist who presented oral arguments along with Jim Kennon, the president of Sevier Citizen's for Clean Air and Water, to the state's highest court. "The county commissioners won't feel compelled to act one way or the other on the permit until some of the courts can rule."

Late last year, the Sevier County commissioners authorized their county attorney, Dale Eyre, to hire additional legal resources in anticipation of even more court entanglement. With several aspects of the permitting process presently being litigated, the recent action by Sevier Power Company allows time for the respective courts to act on motions and arguments already presented.

Also in 2008, the Utah Chapter of the Sierra Club joined the Sevier Citizen's for Clean Air and Water, asking the Utah Supreme Court to rule on carbon-dioxide emissions as a polluting "greenhouse gas" that should be regulated. Sevier Power Company's design plans do not include the sequestration of carbon-dioxide which the federal Environmental Protection Agency recently ruled is a pollutant. Plans also include an exhaust stack in excess of four hundred feet which the citizen's group says if built, will be the tallest man-made structure in the state.


One of the nation's chief climate scientists addressed an audience at the University of Utah earlier today. (see comment update)

Saturday, April 25, 2009

Utah National Guard Colonel (ret) Laid to Rest


Several hundred heard Major General Pat Wilson of Utah's National Guard offer remarks at the funeral of Richfield's Mark Fullenbach, a former commander of the locally-manned 222nd Field Artillery Battalion. As a civilian, Fullenbach also published the Richfield Reaper, a weekly newspaper covering central Utah. Attenders included many of Utah's National Guard and Highway Patrol, to which Fullenbach lent his support and leadership.

In addition to Wilson, Fullenbach's son Shawn, also a National Guard officer, offered some personal comments about the lifelong resident of Sevier County, who died in Price, Utah on Wednesday of an apparent heart attack. Mark Fullenbach was 59. (see obituary posted prior)

All three men had served in the same unit throughout the years and had trained prior to deployment in overseas missions, the latest in Afghanistan forward operating bases near the Pakistan border. During Wilson's remarks, numerous anecdotes of a friendship spanning decades were offered to the congregation assembled in the historic Richfield tabernacle of the Church of Jesus Christ, of Latter-Day Saints. Wilson is the chief financial officer of the Sevier School District when he is not working for the state's National Guard. The following story was a report from a Richfield Chamber of Commerce meeting where Wilson explained the duties being performed by local guardsmen in a typical deployment.

Brigadier General Briefs the Community
originally written on October 21, 2006
by Michael Orton

(by way of Afghanistan)

He apologized and said he couldn't read the entire recent e-mails from his men in Afghanistan because his wife was seated next to him, and he didn't want to scare her.

Brig. Gen. Pat Wilson offered a briefing last week about the service of the Utah National Guardsmen under his command, and specifically those who live in Sevier County or in Central Utah. He began by showing images from their deployment in support of Katrina Relief in the gulf states, in ravaged New Orleans. They were the first help that some families received. When asked if those mobilized knew how long they would be gone from their homes, families and workplaces when they were ordered to leave, Gen. Wilson responded, "No... they seldom do."

He then went on to offer non-classified information about the "Forward Operating Bases" where his personnel support the mission in Afghanistan, at several locations but principally in the east, near the Pakistani border.

"Some of the ANA (Afghan National Army) regulars would give their lives for my soldiers," said Wilson. He also indicated that there are plenty of cultural difficulties which make devoted service to the Afghan's national army more challenging.

"You have to understand that Afghanistan is a country that has been traditionally governed by warlords. This means that the strongest guy in the region calls all the shots. We enter that situation in an attempt to change that scenario so that a fledgling democracy can have a chance."

Does it have a chance?

"Yes," says Wilson, "I think so, but that won't happen overnight. One of the most crucial things they need is an economy. Economic development is not a reality there." In a region of the world where the greatest export is opium which may contribute as much as 80% of the Afghan economy, there is little promise of a revitalzed GNP. Hence the warlords and tough guys as shot-callers. In a vacuum, they return and rule once again.

"Do you know that ALL of the cooking done in Afghanistan is done on wooden fires? And do you know that for all of the time I was there, I didn't see one tree." Wilson mentioned that all of the firewood is brought in from the mountains of Pakistan, often many miles away.
Other challenges in getting a fledgling democracy to defend itself?

"For instance, if they have a bad day, they go home and don't return for sometimes weeks." Wilson continued, "One of my soldiers reports that recently, when the ANA members learned that the Afghan Police had received new uniforms, the ANA regulars left to become policemen so that they could have the new uniforms."

There are other problems. A returning, soldier (not from the Utah National Guard, but a resident of Utah) had this perspective under condition of anonimity: "It's time for us to get out of Afghansitan."

When pressed as to why this serviceman felt that way, he continued, "For example, on my tour, we [the USA] spent more than a million dollars to build a schoolhouse for women and young girls. A noble and praiseworthy gesture. Computers, furniture, everything to our own standards. The villagers were pleased. The women and young girls attended school for the first time in their lives."

"Then the Taliban got involved. A few weeks later, the husbands and fathers of the women and young girls attending our school were found dead, bodies left on the outskirts of town, women and young girls left as widows and orphans. Guess what? The next week, no one came to use the brand new school."

This serviceman noted that in the weeks that followed, the Taliban looted and ransacked the million dollar facility which now stands in ruin, empty.

A guest at General Wilson's briefing asked if any of the fighters working with our National Guard had experience with the famed "mujahadin," the fiercest fighters of the Soviet invasion years ago. "Not too many," was Wilson's reply. "Perhaps some in the south and along the Pakistan border." He acknowledged that this could be a generational distinction, that the Soviets have been gone from that region for more than ten years.

At Brig. Gen Wilson's luncheon briefing, the resolution was palpable. At the end of his remarks, this big, tough warrior became noticably moved when describing the kind of men under his command, those from central Utah where, for that moment, his eyes were welling up.

"It was my distinct privilege to take some fathers to meet their sons at 'the crossing.'" The civilians in the room were largely uninformed about this term. "It means when a generation is coming home, and another is leaving to replace them in their service." Wilson said that at an air base in Mississippi, he witnessed fathers as the first to greet their sons as the sons set foot on American soil for the first time since deploying to Afghanistan. Then, with hugs replaced by salutes, the fathers boarded the planes to begin their own tours in a country in need of an economy, a half a world away.

Friday, April 24, 2009

Richfield Reaper Publisher, Mark Fullenbach Dies at Age 59

Richfield, Utah --

The publisher of the Richfield Reaper, one of central Utah's weekly print newspapers, died Wednesday in Price, Utah while attending publisher meetings. Mark Fullenbach represented the third generation of his family's ownership of the paper, which serves several rural counties in that state.

The Richfield Reaper as Gull Communications, Inc., is aligned with Brehm Communications, Inc., of San Diego, a corporate syndicate of several rural weekly newspapers. It is uncertain what changes Fullenbach's passing will have on the paper's management, which relies heavily on advertising inserts for current revenue.

A retired colonel and former commander of the Utah National Guard's 222 F.A. Battalion where his son Shawn also served, Fullenbach was a lifetime resident of Richfield, the seat of Sevier County. A vacancy on Zion Bank's local board of directors is created by his passing, as well as Richfield's Rotary where Mr. Fullenbach was a long-time contributor.

Fullenbach was 59 years old and is survived by his mother, Marge, his current wife Mari, children Shawn, Lisa and Heidi, step-children and grandchildren, all from Utah. Funeral services begin with viewing gatherings at Magleby Mortuary in Richfield on Friday evening, April 24 and will include formal services at the Richfield tabernacle of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints on Saturday, April 25th beginning at 11am.

Wednesday, March 25, 2009

Chaffetz Labels Global Warming "A Farce"

Richfield -

In his recent "town hall meeting" held in three central Utah towns within his district, Congressman Jason Chaffetz (R-Utah 3rd) has leveled a lot of criticism on the gathering forces behind clean energy and the philosophy of new cabinet secretary, Nobel laureate Steven Chu. In addition, Chaffetz extended his concern to Nancy Pelosi and Harry Reid who are going to "plow right over us because they have the numbers," said Chaffetz.

photo courtesy of the Deseret News

Chaffetz seemed comfortable with mixing some oranges with his apples when criticising taxation floated by the democratically-controlled White House and congress. One of his oft-repeated attacks is that the Obama administration "spends too much, borrows too much and taxes too much." But as he cites the apparent disparity where "the President of the United States has looked everyone in the eye and promised that 95% of Americans will not have any tax increase," Chaffetz immediately cites a different tax proposal (on tobacco) that has nothing to do with income taxes or the White House.

Admitting that the republicans "blew it," during the Bush 43 administration when congressional numbers favored his party, Chaffetz has charmed some Washington insiders, including the media (Stephen Cobert, Fox News and others) with his "cot-side chats" and vocal admonishments of "business as usual."

In his recent appearance in his district's coal-rich Sevier County, Chaffetz warned the predominantly fifty-and-sixty-something crowd that "cap and trade" would be a tax on everyone. "Regular-ol' households, you could see as much as a 65% increase in your energy costs. If you're a business," Chaffetz exhorts, "your energy costs are going to go up 100%," offering an atypical pause for emphasis. "As far as I'm concerned, so-called 'global warming' is a farce."

Chaffetz' congressional assignments include the "Energy and Minerals" subcommittee. He told his constituents to "take whatever you spend on energy and double it. This is not the time, when we are struggling with our economy, to be increasing this tax," prompting the clean energy proponents in his audience to observe that "cap and trade" is not a tax at all but rather a more honest way of describing and offsetting the real costs of doing "business as usual."

Steven Chu (left) in Stockholm, Sweden

Nobel laureate and cabinet Secretary of Energy Steven Chu maintains that he is not in favor of a "carbon tax," and that the "cap and trade" system currently being examined in congress may shed light on the true cost of "business as usual" when intangibles like health care (for those living near coal-fired power generation facilities) and the increase of collected mercury (and other) toxins in lakes, streams and the fish that inhabit them are accounted for. From this point of view, "cap and trade" is not seen as a tax at all, but in Sec. Chu's words, it is a way that America can take conventional power sources and "use them more wisely."

After Chaffetz' presentation, local AM radio KSVC's Bruce Mayhew posed what some thought to be a "nerf ball" soft question, asking what had been the most important part of his visit to Central Utah. Chaffetz reasserted that it was being in contact with the people and that they "have the chance to looking me in the eyes and ask me about what is going on in Washington D.C. and how it impacts our community." Congressman Chaffetz is featured on CNN's "Freshman Year," along with Colorado's newly-elected Jared Polis (D-Colorado 2nd).

Included in last Saturday's Richfield audience was cooperative energy operator Carl Albrecht, Six County Association of Governments chief Russ Cowley and Sevier county commissioner Gordon Topham, a former republican party leader in central Utah.

Wednesday, March 11, 2009

Utah Energy Policy Gets Wiggle Room

Utah State Capitol –

With the state’s legislative session winding down (less than 24 hours to go), and with Utah’s budget complete and ready for formal adoption, last-minute lawmaking put some serious amendments into new state energy policy. SB 412 seemed to provide ample wiggle room for doing things the old way and to allow Utah’s industries to ignore global-warming concerns from the world scientific community. The law would require a taxpayer-funded, comprehensive economic analysis before the state’s new energy policy could even be debated, defined and/or adopted. Supporters believe that it will ease the impact of climate change regulations issued by the federal government. Under SB-412, an economic impact study involving extraction industries and proposed power generating facilities would be mandatory.

In an interview on Wednesday, SB 412 was described by Senator Ralph Okerland (r, Monroe, Sevier County) as an effort to assess impacts of alternative energy development to existing industries. Some of his constituents say that it could actually restrict the state from adopting newer, emerging technologies and provide "startup setbacks" or barriers to the entry of new Utah green businesses.

Utah State Senator Ralph Okerland

"When the wind isn't blowing and the sun isn't shining, I have 600 coal miners in my district who provide base-load power to the grid. We are interested in the economic impacts of policies issued by the federal government which may adversely impact existing industry and families in Utah," said Sen. Okerland. Critics of the bill wonder why climate change is the only subject requiring “special handling” prior to the debate and the adoption of a state energy policy.

The bill’s sponsors say that “global warming is not proven” while on the same day, scientists convening in Copenhagen indicated that the world's sea levels could rise substantially in the near future as a result of unchecked climate change.

Arch Coal in Salina, Utah (Senator Okerland's district) is a provider of coal which is trucked to power generating plants in several states throughout the intermountain West. The present policy discussion in Washington, D.C. involves the mandated recapture of "greenhouse gases" such as carbon dioxide, emitted from older coal combustion generation facilities. Nobel laureate and Energy Secretary Steven Chu has not ignored the fact that America has a lot of coal, and that it is an inexpensive source of power for the country. His emphasis is on using it more wisely.

During the last days the lawmakers are at work in the state capitol, some laws, appropriations and amendments are introduced immediately prior to the session's adjournment. Sen. Okerland's SB412 calls for Utah to use "alternative compliance methods" to anticipated federal regulations "which would temper the effect of future climate change legislation" from the federal government. The Utah house of representatives will receive the bill today, the last day of the legislative session.


SB412 has died a technical death. (see comment update)

Utah New Media Conference at State Capitol

Utah State Capitol --

Ric Cantrell and the senate majority leadership will host a new media press event at the Senate President's office in Salt Lake City at 6pm tonight, March 11, 2009. Traditional media along with the blogging community and local lobbyists will attend and hear conversations on public policy and mass communications. Earlier today, "The Senate Site" streamed live video from the capitol, covering a press event that was on the capitol's schedule.

Utah state government has consistently won acclaim for the access it provides to its residents via new media and the internet.