Monday, October 24, 1994

The Changing Face of the West

SEJ Journal
By Terri C. Hansen

With a population of only 800, Escalante is small, but the environmental issues surrounding this town form a fitting composite of the larger picture taking place throughout the West.

The focus on these issues was through the story of this canyon in southern Utah, called "one of the most spectacular landscapes in the world" by panelist Jon Christensen, Great Basin regional editor of High Country News.

The town also has had the distinction of being named twice as one of "The nation's ten most endangered communities," by the National Association of Counties.

Moderator Howard Berkes, Rocky Mountain correspondent for National Public Radio, described Escalante as a place that visitors come to care deeply about. It is those visitors who are now fighting hard to preserve it.

Berkes described bitter battles "right on Main Street," where an environmentalist was hung in effigy. Another environmentalist had his well salted. Yet another had dynamite thrown into his home.

Residents who can trace their roots back to Mormon pioneers raise hay in the valley, and cut timber from the mountains above the town. They say they want to mine carbon dioxide and coal from the ridges above their town. Their cattle are free to run just about everywhere, including the canyons.

Some of these same cattle have been shot, execution-style. It is not clear who is responsible. Each side wants to blame the other.

Berkes used a question and answer format to frame these issues to panelists Joseph Chapman, dean of the College of Natural Resources at Utah State University, Scott Groene, staff attorney for Southern Utah Wilderness Alliance, Louise Liston, a native of Escalante and currently a Garfield County commissioner, Brooke Williams, an economic and environmental consultant, and Christensen. In this framework the panelists neatly illustrated many of the issues and changes taking place over the last 10 to 15 years in Escalante, providing an overview of the many dissimilar voices demanding a say in the future of the West.

Tuesday, October 4, 1994

Chlorine Ban: To Be or Not to Be?

By Terri C. Hansen

PROVO, Utah — The question, to ban or not to ban chlorine, has produced considerable debate. USA Today environmental reporter and editor Rae Tyson summarized a 1987 chlorine phase-out recommendation by the International Joint Commission of the United States and Canada, and asked a panel during SEJ's fourth annual conference, "Is a chlorine phase-out necessary?"

"Why are we giving chemicals constitutional rights?" askeded Greenpeace campaigner Bonnie Rice, basing her support of a ban on research studies including the recently issued EPA report that links dioxin, a chlorinated hydrocarbon, with immune system damage to humans and animals.

Attorney Gordon Durnil, chairman of the IJC at the time of its recommendation, said commission members studied the process for two years before recommending a phase-out, based on solid scientific evidence. The chlorine industry responded with a 30-year timetable, he said.

But the industry opposes a phase-out, responded scientist Bill Carroll, a chemical company executive on loan to the Chlorine Chemical Council. Carroll used PVC compounds — used extensively in plumbing and sewer lines — to illustrate the negative economic and ecological impact of a phase-out. 96 percent of pesticides are chlorine-based, Carroll said, and almost all water disinfection relies on chlorine.