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AM News Brief: Cannabis Licensing Board, Threat Of Monuments Lawsuit & Controversy Over Bagley Cartoon

Photo of Bears Ears Buttes.
Erik Neumann
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Gov. Spencer Cox said Thursday the state of Utah will likely sue the Biden Administration if it enlarges Bears Ears National Monument. This story and more in the Friday morning news brief.

Friday morning, April 16, 2021

State

Mitigating Orphan Oil Wells

There are around 70 orphan wells in Utah, which release greenhouse gases and can also contaminate groundwater. That number is fairly low, said Rikki Hrenko-Browning, with the Utah Petroleum Association, but it’s likely to go up as green energy replaces oil and gas. Rob Schuwerk is with a non-profit called the Carbon Tracker Initiative. His group found it will cost around $4 billion to plug all the wells in Utah, but oil and gas companies have put up less than $20 million in bonds. There are a few bills in Congress right now that would help fix the issue by providing funding for orphan well clean up and raising bonding requirements. Read the full story. — Kate Groetzinger, Bluff

Utah Delegation Decries Local Editorial Cartoon

A cartoon published by the Salt Lake Tribune has angered Utah lawmakers. It draws a comparison between the Ku Klux Klan and Rep. Burgess Owens, R-Utah, who is black. Utah Sens. Mike Lee and Mitt Romney called the cartoon insulting, as do Utah Reps. Chris Stewart, John Curtis and Blake Moore. They called on the Tribune to take down the Pat Bagley cartoon and issue a formal apology. The cartoon is influenced by a visit that Owens made to the border early this month. According to the Tribune, in his remarks, Owen said that migrants are, quote, "coming to your neighborhoods." Bagley has been a cartoonist with the Tribune since 1979. — Pamela McCall

Editor’s Note: KUER and the Salt Lake Tribune are reporting partners on an investigation into Utah's troubled teen treatment industry.

Cannabis Licensing Board Call For Applications

State officials are setting up an advisory board on cannabis production and licensing. The Utah Department of Agriculture and Food is now accepting applications from people who want to take part. There will be six people on the board with various credentials, including a general member of the public, someone in law enforcement and a chemist, among others. The department says the board will be responsible for reviewing cannabis license applications. Once the board is established, meetings are expected to begin in May. — Pamela McCall

Southern Utah

Utah Threatens Lawsuit Over National Monuments

Gov. Spencer Cox said Thursday the state of Utah will likely sue the Biden Administration if it enlarges Bears Ears National Monument. He and Utah’s representatives in Washington are pushing for a legislative solution, and he said they want to compromise with tribes, some of which are urging the president to increase the monument’s boundaries. The Interior Department is currently reviewing the boundaries of Bears Ears and Grand Staircase national monuments. President Joe Biden promised to restore both during his campaign. — Kate Groetzinger, Bluff

Region/Nation

Five Days, No Reported COVID-19 Deaths On Navajo Nation

For the fifth day in a row, there have been no COVID-19 deaths on the Navajo Nation. There have been 125 new cases detected on the reservation over the past week, bringing the total number to 30,338. There have been 1,262 known deaths since the beginning of the pandemic. Tribal officials had ordered a lockdown last weekend over concern that a new variant could increase the death toll. — Pamela McCall