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Brian Maffly
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Brian Maffly, Salt Lake Tribune staff writer, covering public lands, environment and the landscapes of the West.
Brian Maffly, Salt Lake Tribune staff writer, covering public lands, environment and the landscapes of the West.

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Is renewable energy development in Utah entering a bubble? The state's largest utility thinks so.
To avoid getting overcommitted to wind and solar, Rocky Mountain Power is asking regulators to shorten required contract terms with green-energy producers from 20 years to just three. Critics have blasted the idea as "a radical shift in policy" aimed at thwarting competition from renewable sources.
RMP contends the long-term fixed-price contracts required under the 1978 federal statute known as PURPA amount to subsidies to alternative generators that will ultimately be borne by ratepayers.
"The company has no need for resources for the next decade," Paul Clements, RMP's director of commercial services, wrote in testimony to the Utah Public Service Commission.
Pictured here is the new 27-turbine Latigo Wind Farm in Monticello, which will sell its power to RMP through a PURPA contract. Utility critics argue shortening contracts to just three years will prevent new proposals for wind and solar projects from obtaining financing.
--Brian Maffly

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Will Utah's most popular park see energy development at its door step along the Kolob Terrace road?

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The PR Spring in Utah is about ready to produce oil, but neighboring ranchers wonder if the mine is to blame for reduced flows at their springs.

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The closure of the Deer Creek coal mine has been beset with costly problems associated with the millions of gallons of groundwater piling up in the Utah mine's chambers. PacifiCorp proposes piping this iron-laced wastewater to a pond at its Huntington Power Plant where it would then by applied to a "research farm" on Huntington Creek. Brian Maffly reports in the Salt Lake Tribune.

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How vulnerable are President Obama's monument designations? Donald Trump is asked to invalidate some.

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Utah's Bluff Bench is too rich in scenery and archaeology for drilling, local officials and conservationists say. State trust lands  holds 15,000-acre block outside historic town and within proposed national monument. Administrators hope to tap its hydrocarbon potential.

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Monumental Decisions

Photographer Chris Detrick and I visited the northern New Mexico village of Questa, exploring how this community is adjusting to the Rio Grande del Norte National Monument--President Obama's first of many large designations in the American southwest under the Antiquities Act. Why do some Western rural areas embrace monuments while Utahns revile them?

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Utah researchers discover bristlecones' secrets for long life also ward off mountain pine beetle attacks.

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http://www.sltrib.com/news/3633616-155/southern-utah-county-says-closed-off-road


Utah's Garfield County want to open hundreds of miles of roads on the Dixie National Forest. The Forest Service is in the process of retiring old routes that serve little purpose or are damaging the land, like this rutted user-created track near Bryce Canyon National Park. Powell District Ranger Paul Hancock says this area called Dave's Hollow is laced with such routes.
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Who else wants to invest in proposed coal-export terminal besides four central Utah counties? No one can say, although proponents have had nearly a year to get pension funds to kick in $200 million. Meanwhile, elected California offiicals, like Sen. Loni Hancock, a Democrat representing the East Bay, hope to erect new hurdles to plans to move Utah coal through deep-water port under development on the former Oakland Army Base.
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