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AM News Brief: Salt Lake City Fireworks Ban, Extreme Heat In Zion & Arrest In Biodiesel Fraud Scheme

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Ikluft via wikimedia commons
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Salt Lake City officials have banned personal fireworks citywide until further notice. This story and more in the Wednesday morning news brief.

Wednesday morning, June 23, 2021

State

Lawmaker Proposes Plan For De-Escalation Training

Rep. Kera Birkeland, R-Morgan, recently joined members of Utah law enforcement agencies for a de-escalation training that focuses on building relationships with communities. Now, she’s proposing a bill for the 2022 General Session to fund and mandate that training statewide. She said it will save money in the long run because she believes it would lead to fewer use-of-force incidents. Birkeland views it as a follow-up to a new state law that requires 16 out of 40 hours of annual police training to be dedicated to de-escalation and crisis response. Read the full story. — Emily Means

Northern Utah

No Personal Fireworks In Salt Lake

Salt Lake City officials have banned personal fireworks citywide until further notice. The fire marshal determined the restriction was needed because of “extreme hazardous conditions” due to Utah’s historic drought. State statute generally doesn’t allow for an all-out ban unless fire officials find dangerous environmental conditions. Salt Lake Mayor Erin Mendenhall said any open space, including yards and park strips, pose a risk because of how dry vegetation is. Residents are encouraged to watch public firework shows at Jordan Park on the Fourth and Liberty Park on Pioneer Day. — Lexi Peery, St. George

Arrest In Fraud Scheme Tied To Utah Polygamists

A Turkish businessman has been arrested in a biodiesel fraud scheme involving Utah polygamists. The U.S. Justice Department said the scheme was operated by a Utah business that stole nearly $500 million in government funds. Federal prosecutors say Sezgin Baran Korkmas was arrested in Austria Saturday. He's suspected of laundering over $133 million through bank accounts he controlled in Turkey and Luxembourg. Prosecutors maintain Korkmaz was connected to a biodiesel fraud scheme run by Utah polygamists, Jacob and Isaiah Kingston. It's alleged a gas station owner was also involved too in the plan to defraud the U.S. Treasury. One of Korkmaz's attorneys tweeted his client will appear before a judge in Austria in two weeks. — Associated Press

Southern Utah

Zion Officials Warn Of Extreme Heat Dangers

With temperatures soaring into the triple digits across Southwest Utah, Zion National Park officials said they’ve seen an uptick in heat-related illnesses. Now, they’re warning people to be prepared for high temperatures when visiting the canyon. Daniel Fagergren, the chief ranger at the park, said they’ve been responding to multiple calls a day for help because it’s just so hot. He said visitors should wear sunglasses, hats, light-weight clothing and bring plenty of water. People are also encouraged to know their limits and pace themselves when recreating in the park. — Lexi Peery, St. George

Region/Nation

New Legislation Focuses On Orphan Wells

Two new bills were introduced in Congress Tuesday to address orphan gas wells that dot land across the country.Sen. Michael Bennet, D-CO, sponsored two similar bills last year. The goal is to clean up thousands of abandoned oil and gas wells that threaten the health of people and the environment and to ensure oil and gas companies are paying their share. This time, Bennet’s bills have high level support. President Joe Biden is proposing billions to plug orphan gas wells and clean up abandoned mines in the American Jobs Plan. Other similar bills are making their way through Congress, but Bennet’s are likely more comprehensive. — Robyn Vincent, Mountain West News Bureau