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New West Daily Roundup for Aug. 1, 2016

Today in New West news: environmentalists to sue EPA over Utah’s air quality, Crow immersion camp in Montana, CU-Boulder’s BioFrontiers Institute receives large donation, and asset sale underway at Denver-based SM Energy Co.

Back in December, we reported that Utah could become the first state to have a “serious” air pollution problem, according to standards promulgated by the Environmental Protection Agency under the Clean Air Act. In the intervening months, not much has changed, with no designation announced—and no plans made to combat air pollution. According to the Salt Lake Tribune, some environmental advocacy groups have gotten impatient, and have announced plans to sue the EPA over failure to review Utah’s air quality proposal:

Two national organizations, the Center for Biological Diversity and the Center for Environmental Health, intend to sue the EPA for its failure to “perform multiple mandatory duties” required of it by the Clean Air Act, with the agency missing deadlines established in federal legislation on more than 50 occasions in 38 states.

In Utah, according to the groups’ notice of intent, the EPA missed its July 1 deadline to take action after the state itself missed a deadline for bringing air quality up to federal standards.

Under the Clean Air Act, when a geographic area doesn’t meet federal standards for certain pollutants, such as PM 2.5 and ozone, it’s determined to be a “nonattainment” area. Once a nonattainment area is designated, states have a period of time to bring the air quality in that area into compliance with the standard. Missing such a deadline sets into motion a series of steps, beginning with the EPA’s reclassification of the nonattainment area as a “serious” nonattainment area. That designation requires the state to make a new, more stringent plan to address air quality.

Utah’s deadline for its PM 2.5 nonattainment areas — Salt Lake City, Provo and Logan — was Dec. 31, 2015. But it became evident earlier that year that Utah would not make the deadline, so in November the EPA proposed to reclassify Utah’s nonattainment areas early, in exchange for granting the state more time to draft its implementation plan.

However, the EPA “was unable to finalize its November proposal” and has yet to declare Utah’s new PM 2.5 status, according to agency spokeswoman Lisa McClain-Vanderpool.

Utah areas that did not meet the Dec. 31 deadline will be reclassified as serious when the EPA issues its final determinations of attainment, she said.

Jonathan Evans, senior attorney for the Center, told the Tribune he believes the EPA needs to have their feet held “to the fire,” as it were, in order to avoid turning air quality and public health into another political football.

Down in Montana, according to NPR, a new immersion camp in southeast Montana is looking to preserve and expand the number of speakers fluent in the Crow language. The Crow Summer Institute, located on the Crow Reservation, hosts seminars and classes for indigenous youth, in an effort to keep the language alive. You can listen to the story, which is embedded above, but we have some of the transcript below. From NPR:

AMY MARTIN, BYLINE: When Tylis Bad Bear was growing up, speaking Crow wasn’t cool. Even though his peers made fun of him for speaking their native language, he was determined.

TYLIS BEAR: What really pushed me to want to learn it was that, you know, my grandpa always told me that culture and language is something that nobody can take away from you.


JOHN BOYLE: We’re really lucky to have people like Tylis, who’s in his early 20s.

MARTIN: John Boyle is with The Language Conservancy, a national organization that wants to preserve indigenous languages. He says young speakers like Bad Bear are crucial.

BOYLE: And there are a number of other people like that who are fluent speakers who are into the schools now, speaking, working with children.

MARTIN: Boyle says Navajo has the highest number of fluent speakers at about 150,000. In contrast, there are only about 1,500 Crow speakers, but that still puts Crow among the most spoken native languages in the country.

BOYLE: Whereas a lot of other Native American languages are down to having one, two or maybe 10 speakers. So Crow’s in a good position. But we really need to work hard to bring it back so the kids are speaking it, feel proud about speaking it again.

Over in Colorado, according to the Denver Business Journal, CU-Boulder’s BioFrontiers Institute has received a $1 million gift from a prominent pharmaceutical exec, in order to establish a fund for bioscience graduate students. John F. Milligan, CEO of Gilead Sciences Inc., as well as his wife Kathryn Bradford-Milligan, said they wanted to name the fund after a former professor of John’s, Olke C. Uhlenbeck. “I really value the time I spent at CU Boulder with Olke. I appreciate the conversations we had as I developed into a scientist,” Milligan said in a statement.

Keeping with Colorado, according to the Denver Business Journal, Denver-based SM Energy Co. has announced it is selling some of its oil and natural gas fields to an undisclosed buyer. The assets, comprising approximately 79,000 net acres, are spread across New Mexico, North Dakota, and Montana.

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