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AM Brief: DUI blitz, Utah's electricity prices & Lake Powell reaches critical low

Downriver view of a large dam with power plant.
U.S. Bureau of Reclamation
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Lake Powell has fallen to a record low water level, and that could prevent the turbines at Glen Canyon Dam from generating power.

Thursday, Mar. 17, 2022

State

Young Utahns sue state over fossil fuel-friendly policies

Seven young Utahns filed a lawsuit this week against the state because of its policies related to fossil fuel development. They’re arguing that it’s hurting their rights to life, health and safety. Natalie Roberts, a 15-year-old living in Salt Lake City, is a plaintiff in the case being brought against the state. She said it’s a problem that Utah is continuing exploration, extraction and exploitation of fossil fuels — especially since it’s leading to problems with air quality, drought and extreme heat. Andrew Welle, an attorney with Our Children’s Trust, which is working with the youth on the case, said they’re asking the court to declare some of Utah’s laws unconstitutional. Representatives for the defendants declined to comment. Read the full story.Lexi Peery

Rocky Mountain Power asks to raise prices

Rocky Mountain Power has asked Utah to approve about a 2% increase to customer’s bills, which would go into effect May 1. The company said it’s because severe drought and heat last summer led to higher actual power costs than what was collected from customers. The utility company says a typical customer using 775 kilowatt-hours per month would see an increase of $1.40 on their bills. The increase is expected to last 14 months. This is part of an annual adjustment for Rocky Mountain Power, when they try to balance forecasted and actual costs. — Lexi Peery

Law enforcement cracks down on drunk driving

Law enforcement across the state is ramping up enforcement of DUI’s from Thursday through the weekend as Utahns celebrate St. Patrick's Day. That’s according to a statement from Utah’s Department of Public Safety. The department said St. Patrick’s Day is one of the biggest drinking nights of the year — and that means more drunk drivers on the road. Officials said nearly 60 people were killed in drunk-driving crashes over St. Patrick’s Day and weekend in 2019. This year, officers from 15 agencies will work an extra 50 DUI shifts from Thursday through the weekend, and the Utah Highway Patrol will hold a DUI blitz Thursday night. — Leah Treidler

Southern Utah

Lake Powell water levels fall below key threshold

Lake Powell has fallen to a record low water level, and that’s raising new concerns about a power source for millions of people in the West. Federal water officials said Lake Powell fell below 3,525 feet Tuesday. Western states had set that as a key threshold, because levels below 3,525 feet could prevent the turbines at Glen Canyon Dam from generating power. Federal officials are confident Lake Powell will rise quickly with springtime snowmelt and Glen Canyon Dam will stay productive. But the new low marks another sobering realization of the impacts of climate change and the consequences of Utah’s megadrought. — Associated Press

Region/Nation

Escalating election security measures in the West

Some Republicans in the Mountain West are trying to change the way elections are held. On Tuesday, Commissioners in Nye County, Nevada, asked election officials to switch to hand-counted paper ballots. They said residents are concerned about election integrity, though there is no credible evidence of widespread fraud in the last election. Emily Persaud-Zamora, of the Silver State Voices coalition, said voting rights shouldn't be politicized. “We want Republicans, we want non-partisans, we want Democrats and anybody of any other political affiliation to have the same access in their right to vote,” she said. Here in Utah, a bill to eliminate vote by mail failed this year. The Utah Legislature did pass some election security measures like video surveillance of ballot boxes. — Bert Johnson, Mountain West News Bureau

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