UTAH

UTAH

Somewhat more than 3.2 million people live in Utah — spread out across approximately 82,000 square miles of desert, forest, alpine regions, and surprisingly, a bit of wetlands. Most of the state is desert, with very hot days and very cold nights; about 25% of Utah is temperate forest with both deciduous and coniferous trees, and less than 1% of Utah is a wetland with about 75% of those wetlands located near the Great Salt Lake. On land 10,000 feet above sea level lies the alpine region with short, hardy plants that can survive high wind speeds and extreme cold. Utah mountain peaks, on average, are the tallest in the US with an average elevation — in each of Utah’s counties — 11,222 feet higher than any other state

Utah has not been spared the effects of climate change. Warming about 2°F in the last century climate change is diminishing the flow of water in Utah’s rivers and escalating the frequency and intensity of wildfires.

As the state warms, less precipitation falls as snow, and more snow melts during the winter months. The Utah snowpack has been shrinking since the 1950s, shortening the season for skiing and other forms of winter tourism and recreation as well as altering the way snow melts into the Green and Colorado rivers. As the amount of water from the heat is diminished, the need for it, because of the heat, increases. This has many negative effects on the ecosystems and human populations depending on the rivers.

Those rising temperatures are particularly harmful to agriculture in the state, which uses 80% of its water. In addition to reducing the amount of water flow available through its rivers, the heat increases the amount of water evaporating from the soil, making it harder to irrigate fields and keep livestock. Heat also threatens the health of cows, causing them to eat less, grow more slowly, and produce less milk.

Higher temperatures and resulting drought are also likely to increase the severity, frequency, and extent of wildfires. As of Oct. 4, 2020, with the third driest spring in its history and extreme and exceptional drought across the state,  Utah has seen 294,930 acres burned. Along with burning down towns and ecosystems, wildfire smoke can reduce air quality and increase medical visits for chest pains, respiratory problems, and heart problems.

One of the reddest states in the nation, in 2019 Utah created a long-term comprehensive plan to address climate change. At the request of the state legislature, the Kem C.Gardner Policy Institute produced the “Utah Roadmap: Positive Solutions to Climate and Air Quality” with the intention of reducing greenhouse gas emissions affecting both the local air quality and the global climate. The plan includes cutting CO2 emissions statewide 25% below 2005 levels by 2025, 50% by 2030, and 80% by 2050. It focuses on a market-based approach to combating climate change, dealing with transportation, infrastructure, housing options, energy efficiency, and electric vehicles. The plan gives special attention to Utahns who live in rural areas. This past October, 2020 more than 100 mayors (including Logan’s Mayor Daines and Salt Lake City’s Mayor Wilson), business, and academic leaders from throughout the state signed Utah’s first Climate and Clean Air Compact committing their support of the Roadmap.

This is a huge shift from the Utah of just a few years ago, when its legislature passed a resolution urging the EPA to “cease its carbon dioxide reduction policies, programs, and regulations until climate data and global warming science are substantiated.” Utah’s change of heart and business-friendly approach have caused it to rise as a model for other red states on the issue of climate change.

Although, as of 2018,  just 11% of Utah’s energy comes from renewable resources, the state holds huge potential for green power generation, especially solar power generation. As Elon Musk said back in 2015, “you could take a corner of Utah and Nevada and power the entire United States with solar power.”

So, although not exactly a green state, it is moving in the right direction. Around two-thirds of Utah’s electricity comes from coal-fired power plants, down from 81% in 2013 with most of the rest of its energy coming from natural gas. In 2018, it was the 12th-largest coal producing state in the US, the lowest level in 33 years and down by almost half from production a decade earlier. Utah does still account for about 1 in every 100 barrels of crude oil produced in the United States, and 1 of every 9 barrels produced in the Rocky Mountain states. Utah also has the nation’s only operating uranium ore mill, which processes uranium ore from mines in other states, as there has been no active uranium mine production in Utah since late 2012.

The majority of energy consumption in Utah comes from the transportation sector, which accounts for almost one-third of the state’s total, followed closely by the industrial sector at about one-fourth. The residential sector and the commercial sector each account for about one-fifth of the state’s energy consumption, mostly due to energy spent on warming and cooling homes, responding to the hugely varying desert temperatures. Energy consumption per capita in Utah is, nonetheless, below the national average and lower than two-thirds of the states.

Effects of Climate Change and Drought in Utah

CURRENT NEWS

PLANS TO ACCELERATE RENEWABLES

Utah Communities Moving Forward With Plans For Clean Energy Transition

07/30/21
At the end of 2019, 23 cities and counties in Utah made an ambitious pledge to transition to 100% net renewable energy by the end of the decade.

Climate Positive 2040

05/04/20
Salt Lake City is committed to protecting the public health and safety of its residents, including ensuring access to clean air, clean water and a livable environment.​

Preparing for Climate Change in Utah

05/04/20
Utah has not developed a statewide adaptation plan. Other resources from the Adaptation Clearinghouse, which have been developed by the state and localities to help communities prepare for climate change, are highlighted below.

Climate Change

05/04/20
The Earth’s climate is changing rapidly in response to anthropogenic emissions of greenhouse gases. The University recognizes that climate change is one of the most pressing issues of our time, and has committed to a…

Crossroads Utah

04/30/20
Utah’s Climate Future.

20 Utah Communities Commit To 100% Renewable Energy Goals

By Jon Reed 12/23/19
Coalville and West Valley City are the latest Utah communities to commit to transitioning to 100% net-renewable energy use by 2030. There are now 20 local governments participating in the statewide effort.  

KEY RESOURCES

Utah Solar Panels: Pricing and Incentives

02/11/22
Residential solar panels are quickly growing in popularity in Utah. The state is among the top 10 in the nation for solar capacity, with enough Utah solar panels installed to power 442,889 homes with solar…

Utah State Profile and Energy Estimates

10/26/21
Utah is a state of contrasts, from flat salt desert to rugged canyons, and from mountains soaring more than 13,000 feet above sea level in the northeast to the desert floor 9,000 feet lower in…

Energy State Bill Tracking Database

09/10/21
The searchable Energy Storage Legislation Database displays information in interactive maps and charts, tracking state activity from 2017 to the present.

Environment and Natural Resources State Bill Tracking Database

09/01/21
The National Conference of State Legislatures tracks environment and natural resources bills that have been introduced in the 50 states, territories and Washington, D.C.

The First National Flood Risk Assessment

10/06/20
The First Street Foundation Flood Model represents the culmination of decades of research and development made possible by building upon existing knowledge and frameworks regularly referenced in the identification of flood risk.

The Impacts of Climate Change and the Trump Administration’s Anti-Environmental Agenda in Utah

09/19/20
Between 2017 and 2019, Utah experienced one wildfire, one drought, and one severe storm. The damages of each event led to losses of at least $1 billion.

State-by-State: Climate Change in Utah

08/06/20
Utah is vulnerable to increasing heat, melting snowpack, droughts, and wildfires

Utah

05/05/20
By 2100, Summers In Bryce Canyon National Park Are Projected To Be 11 Degrees Hotter.

The Utah Climate Action Network Is Ensuring A Collaborative Response To These Questions.

05/05/20
Human civilization continues to emit greenhouse gases by burning fossil fuels at record levels, causing global warming and therefore disrupting the entire planetary climate system. In fact, the State of Utah is warming twice as…

Utah Climate Action Network plans as Utah warms at twice global rate

05/05/20
Utah is warming at twice the global rate, and a new climate coalition is forming to stop it.

What Climate Change Means for Utah

05/05/20
Utah’s climate is changing. The state has warmed about two degrees (F) in the last century. Throughout the western United States, heat waves are becoming more common, and snow is melting earlier in spring.

Climate Change In the West: What It Means for Utah Wilderness

05/05/20
Climate change is affecting the health of our public lands. Already we are seeing an overall increase in temperatures, and scientists from the U.S. Geological Survey predict an increase of 4-6 degrees celsius during this…

MORE NEWS

Utah’s Great Salt Lake Expected to Hit Record Low Levels Again This Year (PHOTOS)

By Nicole Bonaccorso  Photo: Rick Bowmer , AP Photo   05/06/22  
Great Salt Lake in Utah is projected to drop to a new record low this year, after hitting a record low last year. Political leaders are feeling the pressure to do what they can to…

As drought crisis deepens, government will release less water from Colorado River reservoir

By Ian James  Photo : Luis Sinco , Los Angeles Times   05/03/22  
After years of severe drought compounded by climate change, the water level in Lake Powell, the second-largest reservoir on the Colorado River, has dropped to just 24% of full capacity and is continuing to decline…

As Utah’s drought persists, clean energy advocates say it’s time to power down water-guzzling coal plants

By Leia Larsen  Photo: Brian Maffly   05/01/22  
Utah is under yet another drought emergency declaration, with farmers facing more shortages and homeowners bracing for another season of restrictions. As the West faces a drier future fueled by climate change, some green technology…

Ski Utah to Combat Climate Change by Becoming Climate Neutral Certified

By Aunika Skogen   04/29/22  
If there’s one thing that’s instrumental to the ski industry it’s snow. After this past season, it’s no secret that many mountainous regions have experienced warmer weather and less snow. In an effort to combat…

BLM Utah leases eight parcels in geothermal lease sale

By Carlo Cariaga   04/29/22  
The geothermal lease sale was held on 12 April 2022 through a purely online platform as we reported. An additional three parcels, roughly 9,791 acres, in Fillmore and Millard counties have been leased by non-competitive…

Plan to fill giant Utah caves with hydrogen gets $504M federal boost

By Tim Fitzpatrick  Photo: Steve Griffin   04/29/22  
The U.S. Department of Energy has given conditional approval for a half-billion-dollar loan to a project to generate hydrogen from clean sources and pump it into two caves as tall as the Empire State Building…

EPA plan would force Utah, Wyoming, Nevada and California to cut harmful air emissions drifting into Colorado

By Noelle Phillips   04/24/22  
The federal agency estimates that forcing those states to reduce nitrogen oxide emissions at power plants and industrial sites would, by 2026, improve the health of more than a million Americans who suffer from asthma,…

Why Cox got fired up over fossil fuel development and climate change

By Amy Joi O' Donoghue  Photo: Laura Seitz , Desert News   04/22/22  
Gov. Spencer Cox defended supporting new oil and gas leases slated to be offered on federal public lands in Utah this summer, even as the state is grappling with the effects of an unprecedented drought…

Shrinking glaciers and melting ice: Mountain guides have a front-row seat to winter’s woes

By Kyle Dunphey  Photo: Laura Seitz , Desert News   04/16/22  
“Take the glaciers in the Himalayas as an example,” said Haugen, whose 20-year guiding resumé includes iconic mountains like Everest, Denali and even Antarctica’s Vinson Massif. “It’s a fact that those glaciers are disappearing, and…

Lake Powell in Utah hits historic low, raising hydropower concerns

By Sam Metz & Others   03/17/22  
Lake Powell’s fall to below 3,525 feet (1,075 meters) puts it at its lowest level since the lake filled after the federal government dammed the Colorado River at Glen Canyon more than a half-century ago…

Lake Powell Is in Big Trouble

By Molly Taft   03/09/22  
Lake Powell, on the border of Utah and Arizona, is a crucial reservoir along the Colorado River, part of a system that supplies water for 40 million people in multiple states across the West. As…

Utah advocates push for US energy independence through renewable energy

By Lena Takada   03/02/22  
“We’re seeing higher oil and gas prices and these are exasperated now by Putin’s actions,” said Sarah Wright, the Executive Director of Utah Clean Energy. “That really underscores the need to get off of oil…

Do you wish Utah utilities used more solar energy? Here’s what’s holding us back.

By Luke Peterson  Photo: Trent Nelson , The Salt Lake Tribune   01/22/22  
Nielsen has experienced his share of economic hardship over the years, working multiple jobs to support his family of five. For the shift to renewable energy finance was promising, but not easy.

Why the Second-Driest State Rejects Water Conservation

By Mark Olalde   12/16/21  
With rising temperatures and two decades of drought depleting the Colorado River, some Southwestern states are spending hundreds of millions of dollars to pay homeowners to tear out their lawns and farmers to fallow their…

Salt Lake City looks to shade trees to mitigate its ‘urban heat island’ effect

By Shelly K. Mesch  Photo: Sara Diggins , The Tribune   09/12/21  
This story is part of The Salt Lake Tribune’s ongoing commitment to identify solutions to Utah’s biggest challenges through the work of the Innovation Lab.

Weber State wants to preserve Great Salt Lake during record decline

By Vivian Chow   09/12/21  
As Utah continues facing an unprecedented drought, one Utah university is hoping to better understand and preserve the shrinking Great Salt Lake.

What is carbon pricing? Could it clean Utah’s air?

By Amy Joi O'Donoghue  Photo: Kristin Murphy , Desert News   09/11/21  
Taxing polluters as a way to drive clean energy solutions in Utah was explored in a roundtable discussion Tuesday involving both Republican supporters and their Democratic counterparts in the state Legislature.

Salt Lake City is getting a ton of high-rise buildings

By Jennifer Alsever   09/10/21  
Cranes and construction vehicles have taken to the city streets as myriad developers embark on 24 large urban buildings that will remake the skyline of a city that, up until recently, has been described as…

Bureau of Land Management offers over 4,800 for solar energy development in Utah

By Shad Snell  Photo: Mark Lennihan , AP   09/09/21  
On Thursday, September 9, the Bureau of Land Management’s Cedar City Field Office began a 60-day bidding period to lease more than 4,800 acres in the Milford Flats South Solar Energy Zone, in Beaver County,…

Booming Utah’s Weak Link: Surging Air Pollution

By Simon Romero  Photo: Lindsay D' Addato , The New York Times   09/07/21  
 Kevin Perry had just begun his morning routine, stepping outside to get the newspaper, when he noticed something was wrong with the sky.

Taxing Carbon Emissions Has Bipartisan Support In Utah, But Lawmakers Seem Unlikely To Do It

By John Reed  Photo: Brian Albers , Kuer   09/07/21  
As the impacts of climate change become increasingly apparent across the country — from devastating wildfires to historic drought — the need to act is becoming more urgent every day.

A Utah company wants to turn your food scraps into energy and fertilizer

By Shelly K. Mesch  Photo: Leah Hogsten , The Salt Lake Tribune   09/04/21  
This story is part of The Salt Lake Tribune’s ongoing commitment to identify solutions to Utah’s biggest challenges through the work of the Innovation Lab.

As the West bakes, Utah forges ahead with water pipeline

By Jeremy P.Jacobs  Photo: Justin Sullivan , Getty Images   08/23/21  
As drought and climate change strangle the Colorado River, a small county in Utah nevertheless continues forging ahead with a billion-dollar pipeline to suck more water from it to sustain its growing population.

Breaking ground: drill bits and the Utah FORGE geothermal project

By Alexander Richter   08/23/21  
Drilling deep at the the Utah FORGE project requires developing the right tools for the job, such as strong drill bits.

Ogden leaders still seeking answers about renewable energy initiative

By Tim Vandenack   08/18/21  
OGDEN — Ogden leaders have taken the steps required, so far, to take part in a renewable energy program meant to bolster use of sun and wind power and reduce reliance on carbon-based energy.

USU researcher explains how Utah is affected by climate change

By John Franchi   08/10/21  
A study published by the United Nations Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change is raising an alarm about the impact of climate change.

The Lost Canyon Under Lake Powell

By Elizabeth Kolbert   08/09/21  
The scope of the spending outlined by Democrats is vast, reflecting the party’s grand ambitions to grow the size and reach of the federal government to a level not seen in decades. The measure paves…

Project in rural Utah aims to tap into a limitless supply of clean, reliable energy

By John Reed  Photo: Rick Allis , Utah Geographical Survey   07/12/21  
 Just outside Milford, a town of about 1,400 people in southwest Utah, researchers behind a major energy project are hoping to tap into a limitless supply of clean, reliable power.

Wind and solar electricity free up needed Utah water

By Edwin R. Stafford   06/29/21  
Governor Spencer Cox is pleading with Utahns to conserve water and pray for rain as the state faces what some are calling a worst-in-a-lifetime drought.  Sadly, climate scientists predict that Utah will become even hotter…

UTA’s S-Line now runs on 100% renewable energy after investments

By Carter Williams  Photo: Carter Williams , ksl.com   06/10/21  
Utah Transit Authority leaders say they now have invested in enough renewable energy resources to cover the entire power grid needs for a streetcar that runs through South Salt Lake and Salt Lake City after…

Mitigating Climate Change in the American Southwest Includes Draining Lake Powell

By Craig Axford  Photo by Breanna Klemm   04/24/21  
The American Southwest (consisting of all or part of Arizona, California, Nevada, New Mexico, and Utah) receives less precipitation than any other region in the United States. In his 1986 book Cadillac Desert, the environmental…

VMT tax: Two states tax some drivers by the mile. More want to give it a try

By Ian Duncan   03/12/21  
Bruce Starr spotted the problem right away: The hydrogen-powered cars General Motors was showing off on the Oregon Capitol grounds wouldn’t need gas. And if they didn’t need gas, drivers wouldn’t be paying gas taxes…
AP

Biden to pause oil and gas sales on public lands

By Matthew Daly   01/27/21  
President Joe Biden is set to announce a wide-ranging moratorium on new oil and gas leasing on U.S. lands and waters, as his administration moves quickly to reverse Trump administration policies on energy and the…

Biden wants to triple protected lands

By Lili Pike   01/27/21  
Biden took the next leap in pursuing his climate agenda Wednesday, signing the latest in a spate of environment-focused executive orders. One of the most ambitious goals buried in the order he put forward is to conserve…

President Joe Biden halts federal oil and gas leasing to review the program

By Brian Maffly  Photo by Trent Nelson   01/27/21  
In a sweeping move to confront the global climate crisis head on, President Joe Biden on Wednesday signed executive orders aimed at establishing American leadership in the effort to reduce greenhouse gas emissions. Central to this campaign…

Deeda Seed and John Weisheit: Railway for oil diverts millions from Utah communities

By Deeda Seed And John Weisheit   01/23/21  
A state fund that is supposed to clean up the mess from fossil fuels should not be used to do more damage.

Tribune Editorial: Spencer Cox’s Roadmap would put rural Utah in the ditch

By The Salt Lake Tribune Board  Photo by Trent Nelson   01/23/21  
Spencer Cox calls his plan for the first 500 days of his new administration the One Utah Roadmap. Most of it is admirably aspirational, devoted to improved education, health care access, equality and sustainability.

Utah politicians criticize Biden decision to suspend energy leases on federal lands

By Melanie Porter  Photo by Susan Walsh   01/22/21  
SALT LAKE CITY — In a group letter, Utah politicians criticized President Biden's decision to suspend oil and gas leases on public lands.

These 3 US cities, all in red states, are green energy leaders

By Michelle Lewis   01/18/21  
Texas, Utah, and Iowa may have cast their 2020 presidential electoral votes for fossil-fuel champion Donald Trump, but Irving, Salt Lake City, and Des Moines are implementing ambitious green energy plans to reach net zero – and…

What Will A Biden Presidency Mean For Outdoors, Environment Issues in Utah

By Carter Williams  Photo by Andrew Murphy   01/13/21  
SALT LAKE CITY — President-elect Joe Biden will officially take office next week, and with that comes expected shifts in how the U.S. deals with environmental and outdoors issues.

What will Utah’s energy landscape look like under Biden?

By Amy Joi O' Donoghue  Photo by Jeffrey D. Allred   01/11/21  
Under President-elect Joe Biden, will Utah’s air get cleaner, its public lands stay more pristine and its waterways be filled with fewer contaminants?

Utah is suing a California city over its coal ban

By Brian Maffly  Photo by Francisco Kjolseth   01/11/21  
Utah has fully joined the latest round of lawsuits over exporting coal through West Coast ports, this one brought by Utah coal-producer Wolverine Fuels fighting one city’s coal ban that threatens to disrupt an export program that…

It’s not just you. Utah’s winters are getting warmer

By Robert J. DeBry   01/11/21  
It's not just a license plate slogan; Utah really may have the greatest snow on earth. According to The Leonardo Museum in Salt Lake City, there's actually a science to the snow. The climate conditions specific to…

Future of Utah’s rooftop solar industry at stake in utility rate case starting Tuesday

By Brian Maffly  Photo by Chris Detrick   11/03/20  
A two-week hearing starting Tuesday before the Utah Public Service Commission could result in a “make-or-break” ruling for the rooftop solar industry in one of the nation’s sunniest states.

Fossil fuels are bridge to a carbon-free world

By LaVarr Webb   10/23/20  
Pres. Trump and Joe Biden clashed vigorously over climate change and fossil fuels in the presidential debate Thursday evening. Trump defended the oil and gas industries, while Biden said he would phase out fossil fuels.…

How this proposed constitutional amendment — Amendment D — protects water users

By Brian Maffly  Photo by Rick Bowme   10/22/20  
For decades, some of Utah’s larger cities have been in the retail water delivery business, building service areas that stretch far outside their municipal boundaries.

DOE Approves $1.35 Billion Cost Share Award For CFPP

By Kirsten Laskey   10/22/20  
Electricity provided to Los Alamos County could be generated through cutting-edge technology. The probability of this happening significantly increased recently after the Department of Energy approved a $1.35 billion cost share award to the Carbon…

Wildfire risks may instigate power blackouts in 2 Utah communities

By Amy Joi O'Donoghue   10/21/20  
Rocky Mountain Power initiated protocols a couple of years ago on what conditions would prompt it to cut off power to neighborhoods because of the risk of power lines sparking wildfires.

Small Nuclear Reactors Would Provide Carbon-Free Energy, but Would They Be Safe?

By Jonathan Moens   10/21/20  
Regulators have approved designs for 12 small reactors to be built in Idaho, but opponents say the project is dangerous and too late to fight climate change.

Utah coop gets $1.4B to build mini-nuclear power plants

By Keith Ridler   10/19/20  
The U.S. Department of Energy on Friday awarded a Utah energy cooperative about $1.4 billion to help build a dozen small nuclear reactors in eastern Idaho. The money spread over 10 years will pay for…