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Backcountry fumes and fuming

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Teachers get pay hike

JACKSON HOLE, Wyo. – Teachers in Jackson Hole this year got a whopping increase in salaries. Starting salaries are now at $50,000, nearly double. Average increases were 32 per cent.

The intent was to give teachers enough money to allow them to buy single-family homes, reducing the turnover in the school district.

In fact, teachers are now paid so well that some no longer can qualify for government-subsidized housing, but still earn too little to be able to afford the free-market housing.

Something similar is found at the hospital, St. John’s Medical Center, where 161 staff members make between $60,000 and $120,000.

These statistics mirror a widening gap. Wages have increased 22 per cent during the last seven years, but average home-sale prices 79 per cent.

 

Jackson Hole says no to coal

JACKSON HOLE, Wyo. – Early this winter, residents of Truckee debated loudly whether to contract for electricity from a coal-fired power plant being built southwest of Salt Lake City, near Delta, Utah. They finally said no — although without knowing where electricity for a growing population will come from and at what cost.

Now, directors of Lower Valley Energy, a co-operative that serves Jackson Hole and several other valleys along the Idaho-Wyoming border, have also rejected participation in that Utah power plant. It was, said Fred Borg, a director of the rural cooperative, “what our owner-members want.

“If there is any possible way we can go green, then we have got to go green,” he told the Jackson Hole News & Guide. “No matter how clean coal gets, you’ve still got CO2 (carbon dioxide, the most common greenhouse gas) and you’ve still got mercury.”

During the next quarter-century the region expects to see demand grow from 80 megawatt-hours annually to 123 megawatt hours.

If electricity made from burning coal is cheap and dependable, it may not remain cheap. In Wyoming, and across much of the country, people are talking about the possibility of a tax on carbon, including coal. Ted Ladd, another director of Lower Valley Energy, said consultants warned of a potential tax of $12 per ton of coal, but he’s heard estimates range to $60 per ton.

“Even if we see a low tax in the near future, it could change dramatically in 2009 (after the next national election) if there is a shift in the national and political landscape.”