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The Environmental Protection Agency in December issued a new standard, citing "hundreds of studies" that have linked the tiny particulates in the air to an estimated 40,000 premature deaths in the United States as the result of heart attack, strokes and other illnesses.

The Salt Lake Tribune explains that Salt Lake City is among the most polluted areas in the nation at times between November and February, the result of high-pressure systems creating a seal over the valley.

This year, an inversion began in late December, continuing into the past week. It had been predicted a month before, explains the newspaper, based on weather in the Pacific Ocean.

When Salt Lake City's PM 2.5 count reached 90 last week, it was just 20 to 25 in Summit County, reports The Park Record.

Privatizing operations of Canada's hot springs

JASPER, Alberta — In an effort to reduce subsidies needed to operate its hot springs at Banff, Jasper and Radium, Parks Canada plans to privatize their operations. But the Public Service Alliance of Canada, one of the country's largest unions, is fighting the privatization effort, calling it a "reckless cut" to public services.

A representative of Parks Canada reassured Jasper's Fitzhugh that privatization would be nothing of the sort.

"Shifting their operation to the private sector will provide greater capacity and flexibility to respond to the demands of the tourism market and will maximize opportunities for enhancing the facilities, operations, and marketing," said Alisson Ogle, public relations and communications representative for Parks Canada.

She also said that the hot springs would not be sold. "No individual or corporate entity can buy ownership of land in national parks," she said.

Kyoto deadline passed, but who has noticed?

JASPER, Alberta — The Kyoto Protocol adopted in 1998 by many nations, including Canada (but not the United States), has now come to its first milestone. The deadline set in the agreement called for significant reductions of greenhouse gases by 2012.

While the official carbon accounting has not been done in most cases, it was clear enough years ago that most of the nations that did sign it wouldn't come even close. Canada, for its part, withdrew from the agreement in December.

"Whenever targets are placed out of reach and are not applied to all those involved (including China and India), the result is frustration," says the Jasper Fitzhugh. "It should not be surprising that Canada opted out of the treaty."

"Unfortunately, we still have a large problem. Climate change looms over us all and will have a lasting negative effect on future generations. How do we balance the need to feed our families and pay our bills with the need to reduce greenhouse gas emissions?"