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AM News Brief: Park E-Bike Regulations, Solar Advocates Push Back & Forecasting Fires

Photo of bike trail sign.
iStock.com / jonathange
The National Park Service has announced final regulations for electronic bikes in parks. This story and more in the Tuesday morning news brief.

Tuesday morning, October 6, 2020

State

Troubled Teen Industry Investigation

Utah’s “troubled teen industry” will soon see more scrutiny. The Disability Law Center announced last week that it has launched an investigation into Utah’s wide array of private programs providing behavioral treatment to minors. Those include therapeutic boarding schools, wilderness therapy programs, residential treatment centers and intermediate secure care facilities. Read the full story. — David Fuchs

Solar Advocates Push Back Against Rate Change

Utahns are speaking out against a proposal from Rocky Mountain Power to reduce the amount it pays rooftop solar owners for the energy they generate and send back to the grid. The utility said it can buy energy on the market for cheaper than it pays solar owners and is asking to cut the current rate it pays — 9.2 cents — to about 1.5 cents per unit of energy. During a hearing Monday, most of the nearly eight hours of public comments voiced concerns that a lower lower rate would slow down solar adoption in the state and efforts to improve air quality. The Public Service Commission is expected to make a final decision on the new rate by the end of the year, and comments can be submitted online until that happens. — Jon Reed

Region And Beyond

Navajo Nation Parks To Remain Closed

Tourist sites on the Navajo Nation will be closed through at least the rest of the year. The Navajo Parks and Recreation Department cited the coronavirus pandemic as a reason for the public health order, saying they'll reassess the situation in January. The closure includes tribal parks such as the Four Corners Monument, Lake Powell Navajo Tribal Park and Lower Antelope Canyon. It also extends to rivers, trails, canyons and roads that lead to those sites. The tribe reported 11 new cases of COVID-19 Monday and no additional deaths. — Diane Maggipinto

National Parks Finalize E-Bike Rules

The National Park Service has announced final regulations for electronic bikes in parks. The regulations first issued last year by the Secretary of the Interior treat e-bikes as non-motorized vehicles. But some environmental groups are currently suing, saying these bikes will disturb wildlife and degrade visitors’ experiences at national parks. The Park Service said allowing e-bikes increases people’s ability to access the outdoors. Local leaders and communities though will make the decisions on specific rules for the vehicles. — Lexi Peery, St. George

Forecasting Fires

Firefighters have long studied how fires behave to figure out where they’re going and how to keep people safe. But decades of poor forest management, more houses and climate change is changing those fires, making them larger and more destructive. Now a fire-science consortium called Pyregence has gathered top fire researchers to help forecast where and when these fires could happen in the near future and what they might look like in the long-term. Its models already helped in California this last year, and the group plans to expand its work nationwide. — Madelyn Beck, Mountain West News Bureau

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