Out West Roundup: Utah Republicans rally for Romney after Bannon remark on his Mormon faith

Author: Associated Press - December 15, 2017 - Updated: March 28, 2018

Former White House strategist Steve Bannon speaks during a rally for U.S. Senate hopeful Roy Moore on Tuesday, Dec. 5, 2017, in Fairhope Alabama. (AP Photo/Brynn Anderson)Former White House strategist Steve Bannon speaks during a rally for U.S. Senate hopeful Roy Moore on Tuesday, Dec. 5, 2017, in Fairhope Alabama. (AP Photo/Brynn Anderson)


Utah Republicans rally for Romney after Bannon remark on his Mormon faith

Mitt Romney’s allies lashed out at former White House strategist Steve Bannon last week after he said at an Alabama rally that Romney and his family “hid behind” their Mormon religion to avoid military service.

Sen. Orrin Hatch and other prominent Utah Republicans criticized Bannon for comments they said amounted to an ill-informed attack on the Mormon faith. Romney received a draft deferment during the Vietnam War while doing missionary work, which The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints strongly encourages for young men.

“I’d be more than happy to sit down with Mr. Bannon and help him understand more about the LDS Church at his convenience. I’ve got a copy of the Book of Mormon with his name on it,” Hatch, a Mormon, said in a statement.

The dispute was tied to the nest of politics entangling the Utah and Alabama Senate seats and the larger GOP civil war.

Hatch, 83, is believed to be considering retirement, and Romney, the former Massachusetts governor who now lives in Utah, is eyeing a run. That makes him a target for Bannon, an anti-establishment firebrand who has vowed to defeat several Republican Senate incumbents in next year’s midterm elections because, in his view, they haven’t done enough to support President Donald Trump’s policies.

Romney recently said that electing Alabama GOP candidate Roy Moore, who is accused of molesting two girls decades ago when he was a deputy district attorney in his 30s, would be “a stain on the GOP and on the nation.” Moore has denied the women’s accusations and rejected calls to leave the race before the Dec. 12 election.

Utah Gov. Gary Herbert, a Republican, tweeted that Romney and his family “represent the best of Utah values.”

“Utahns rejects the ugly politics and tactics” of Bannon, he added.

The state’s junior Republican senator, Mike Lee, said, “You can’t credibly call into question (Romney’s) patriotism or moral character — especially on the basis of his religious beliefs or his outstanding service as a missionary.”

New Mexico

Removal process of feral hogs in New Mexico continues

CARLSBAD, New Mexico — The U.S. Department of Agriculture is nearing the end of an eradication program targeting feral hogs that have been rooting up New Mexico and other parts of the country.

The program is set to end in September 2018 and more funding will be needed to continue fighting the pests, USDA District Supervisor for Wildlife Services Brian Archuleta said.

Officials say about 1,620 invasive feral hogs were removed from New Mexico in the five years since eradication began.

The pigs dig up $1.5 billion in damage each year across the country, according to USDA records.

“They’re just mean animals,” said Woods Houghton, Eddy County agriculture extension agent with New Mexico State University. “They can sure eat up a freshly planted field easily. They get everything you planted. It’s unbelievable what they can do to an alfalfa field.”

Not native to New Mexico, the hogs are believed to have been first brought over from Europe in the 1500s when explorers were setting up future food sources in what was a desolate, untamed wilderness.

The pigs can grow to more than 1,000 pounds and as long as 6 feet, the Carlsbad Current-Argus reported.

The project started out with an annual budget of $1 million, but today, funding has dropped to about $400,000 per year.

“We need to do more eradication efforts,” Archuleta said. “We’re trying to find these little needles in a haystack. They are scattered.”


Nebraska to build wind farm to power Facebook data center

WAKEFIELD, Nebraska — Utility officials say a new wind farm being built in northeastern Nebraska will provide 200 megawatts of power to a planned Facebook data center.

The Rattlesnake Creek Wind Project will be built between the towns of Allen, Emerson and Wakefield, the Sioux City Journal reported. Demand for power from Facebook helped resurrect the project that had been at a standstill since 2013 after its former owners, Trade Winds, couldn’t find buyers for the energy the farm.

More than 100 landowners are involved in the project. The wind farm will distribute $80 million in property tax and landowners payments in its first 20 years.

The Andover, Massachusetts-based Enel Green Power North America Inc. is spending $430 million on the project. The farm will cover 32,000 acres and generate up to 320 megawatts of power, making it the second largest wind farm in the state.

The project is expected to employ about 300 people during the construction phase and establish up to 16 full-time jobs.

Facebook’s data center, which will be located 100 miles away in Papillion, will receive 200 megawatts from the farm. The rest of the power will be available for other buyers.


Bill Gates just bought a huge chunk of land — he wants to build his own ‘smart city’

The richest man in the United States wants to build his own city.

Microsoft co-founder and billionaire philanthropist Bill Gates put down $80 million for a massive swath of land in Arizona, about 45 minutes west of downtown Phoenix, KPNX reports.

His goal? Developing 25,000 acres of land into a ‘smart city’ that will be called “Belmont,” a name stemming from a local real estate investment group.

The vision? Transforming a raw, blank slate into a futuristic city filled with driverless cars, endless data centers and buildings totally designed around technology and high-speed internet.

According to Belmont Partners, the city will have space for about 80,000 residential units. In addition, about 3,800 acres will go toward commercial, retail and office space and roughly 470 acres will be used for schools.

“The experimentation that takes place in this new community has the potential to demonstrate the viability of new smart city concepts and serve as an example for cities nationwide and globally,” Brooks Rainwater, director of the City Solutions and Applied Research Center at the National League of Cities, told Business Insider.

The city would have a population of about 182,000, fairly comparable to that of nearby Tempe, Arizona.


U.S. restarts nuclear testing facility in Idaho after 23 years

BOISE — Federal officials have restarted an eastern Idaho nuclear fuel testing facility amid efforts to boost the nation’s nuclear power generating capacity and possibly reduce concerns about nuclear power safety.

The U.S. Department of Energy said the facility at the Idaho National Laboratory about 50 miles west of Idaho Falls began operating last week for the first time since it went on standby status in 1994.

“It went well,” John Bumgardner, director of the laboratory’s Transient Testing Program said Wednesday. “The reactor and the facility as a whole, as well as our trained personnel, all performed as expected.”

Nuclear fuel testing is expected to begin next year.

The Energy Department proposed resuming operations at the Transient Reactor Test Facility in 2013 as part of former President Barack Obama’s plan to reduce greenhouse gas emissions by generating carbon-free electricity with nuclear power. Nuclear power currently produces about 19 percent of the nation’s energy.

Energy department officials hope the testing facility will help researchers create fuels that leave behind less nuclear waste, that are harder to turn into weapons and that are less likely to lead to a reactor core meltdown.

“Trying to save the nuclear industry is sort of a fool’s errand,” said Wendy Wilson, executive director of the Idaho-based Snake River Alliance, a nuclear watchdog group. “We’re going to spend taxpayer money to save an industry that is dying due to economic reasons.”

The facility shut down in part, said Harold Blackman, associate vice president for research and economic development at Boise State University, from reduced funding in research and development at a time when federal officials were moving away from nuclear power. But with global warming and a desire for non-carbon sources of energy, nuclear power has become for some an attractive alternative.

“One of the major reasons is that nuclear is so environmentally friendly on the carbon side of things,” he said.

Associated Press

Associated Press