Judy Fahys


Judy Fahys has reported in Utah for two decades, covering politics, government and business before taking on environmental issues. She loves covering Utah, where petroleum-pipeline spills, the nation’s radioactive legacy and other types of pollution provide endless fodder for stories. Previously, she worked for the Salt Lake Tribune in Utah, and reported on the nation’s capital for States News Service and the Scripps League newspaper chain. She is a longtime member of the Society of Environmental Journalists and Investigative Reporters and Editors. She also spent an academic year as a research fellow in the Knight Science Journalism program at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology. In her spare time, she enjoys being out in the environment, especially hiking, gardening and watercolor painting.


Local Politics
4:12 pm
Fri July 11, 2014

Rural Commissioner Returns to Office -- Thanks to 3 Votes

Uintah County Commissioner Mike McKee
Credit Judy Fahys / KUER News


Republicans dominate politics in eastern Utah’s conservative Uintah County. So, a vote recount and long wait for a winner in the county commission primary was unusual and tense. Mike McKee will keep his seat for a fourth term because there is no Democratic challenger. KUER’s Judy Fahys reports.

Incumbent County Commissioner Mike McKee sat in on the final tally of nearly 4,300 votes.

“This was a nail-biter: I won by three votes,” he said Wednesday.

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Public Lands
5:52 pm
Thu July 10, 2014

BLM Investigation Goes to Justice Department

ATV drivers get ready to enter the area of Recapture Canyon in San Juan County that is closed to motorized travel under a federal order. The land agency says it has forwarded its investigation report to prosecutors in the U.S. Attorney's office.
Credit Judy Fahys / KUER News

A new report says antigovernment groups are gaining steam after last spring’s standoff between federal authorities and Nevada rancher Cliven Bundy. Some say Utah people and events are part of the trend. KUER’s Judy Fahys reports.

The federal Bureau of Land Management says it has sent its investigation report on last spring’s Recapture Canyon protest ride to the U.S. Justice Department.

A Utah-based good-government group applauds the move, saying the BLM should hold the protestors accountable for breaking the law.

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Air Quality
4:04 pm
Thu July 3, 2014

Breathtaking Fireworks Have Health Impacts, Too

One side effect of fireworks is particulate pollution. Many years the Utah Division of Air Quality sees spikes of PM 2.5 pollution that can be traced to fireworks on the 4th of July and Pioneer Day.
Credit Mike Renlund / Flickr Creative Commons


Fireworks are already exploding in neighborhoods throughout Utah. KUER’s Judy Fahys reports report on the potentially unhealthy side affects of this pastime.

Many enjoy the colorful spectacle of a fireworks display. But the pollution caused by fireworks makes others sick.

Just like the stuff that causes Utah’s winter smog, the smoke from fireworks is particle pollution.

“Any kind of pollution makes me cough,” says Richard Keene, a Salt Lake City resident whose lung problems are aggravated by fireworks smoke.

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Air Quality
3:00 pm
Wed July 2, 2014

Ozone Rising Throughout Utah

Things people do -- like law mowing and other activities that create pollution from exhaust -- have an impact on ozone pollution levels. By minimizing heavy exertion and other activities outdoors between lunchtime and dinnertime, people can limit their exposure to harmful ozone.
Credit woodleywonderworks / Flickr Creative Commons


Forecasters are predicting nice weather for the holiday weekend. But clear, quiet skies also mean higher ozone pollution that can cause health problems.

Ozone is Utah’s “other” pollution. It’s odorless and colorless. But this summertime pollutant still poses a hazard to health. Bo Call supervises pollution monitoring for the Utah Division of Air Quality.

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Air Quality
4:55 pm
Fri June 27, 2014

Clear the Air Challenge Begins Tuesday

The idea of Utah's Clear the Air Challenge is to get more people on TRAX light rail, to bike and to do whatever else they can to use cars and trucks less. This year there will be a big push to get use social media to get the word out.
Credit Steven Vance / Flickr Creative Commons


The sixth annual Clear the Air Challenge begins on Tuesday.  The idea is to help people learn what they can do to help protect the air from pollution. 

July is a big month for Jonathan Johnson. He’s chairman of the board of Overstock.com and he leads the Salt Lake Chamber’s clean-air committee. The pressure’s on because his company edged out perennial rivals Fidelity Investments and ADP to clinch last year’s Clear the Air Challenge in the corporation category.

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Energy & Environment
6:10 pm
Thu June 26, 2014

Agency Extends Deadine for Water Pipeline

Federal regulators have extended the state's water-resources office two more years to submit its application for the 139-mile Lake Powell Pipeline. Supporters say getting the water is essential to address growth in southwestern Utah. But opponents say conservation and using the water already available will cover the region's needs.
Credit Chris James / Flickr Creative Commons


Communities in the Southwestern part of the state want to develop Utah’s unused share of Colorado River water.  A federal agency is now putting pressure on the state’s water office to hand in its application for that development.

The Federal Energy Regulatory Commission is giving Utah two more years to put together a workable plan for the 139-mile Lake Powell Pipeline. The state’s already had six years to complete its application, and the agency hinted last month it might not extend the deadline again.

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Energy & Environment
6:00 pm
Tue June 24, 2014

Utah High Court Clears Way for Tar Sands Mine

The Utah Supreme Court on Tuesday nixed the latest challenge to the PR Springs mine in eastern Utah.
Credit Courtesy: / U.S. Oil Sands


The nation’s first tar sands mine has been planned for the wild Book Cliffs in eastern Utah. But was stuck in legal limbo until a ruling Tuesday from the Utah Supreme Court.

The justices opted against allowing an environmental group to challenge a state water pollution permit for the project.

“We’ve made plans this year to commence with construction out at the site,” said Barclay Cuthbert, vice president for operations at U.S. Oil Sands Inc.

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Energy & Environment
5:18 pm
Mon June 23, 2014

Global Warming Prompts Local Lobbyists

Global warming is already having an impact on snowpack in Utah, says Salt Lake City Mayor Ralph Becker. The U.S. Conference of Mayors backed his resolution this weekend on finding local solutions to climate change.
Credit Don Sharaf / American Avalanche Institute


Decision makers are hearing a lot about global warming this week.

The nation’s mayors backed a climate change resolution on Sunday. And, on Monday, the U.S. Supreme Court issued a ruling on the government’s power to regulate greenhouse gases, as citizen activists prepared to press Congress to deal with climate change.

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Energy & Environment
6:31 pm
Fri June 20, 2014

Bipartisan Bill Simplifies Land Swaps

Streamlining -- and speeding up -- the government land-exchange process will help get more land into conservation and more funds into schools. That's what the Bishop-DeFazio bill intends to do.
Credit Utah School and Institutional Trust Lands Administration


New, bipartisan legislation in Congress would advance public education and conserve important landscapes by making it easier to transfer lands between government agencies.

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State Government
3:40 pm
Thu June 19, 2014

State Fair Park's Future Remains Uncertain

A scenario consultants are assessing for the future of the state Fair Park and associated properties.
Credit Courtesy: / CRSA Architects


Attendance keeps declining at the State Fair Park in Salt Lake City -- at least partly because the grounds are so run down, and lawmakers are grappling with what to do next.

Around the country, attendance has trended up at state fairs, but that’s not been the case in Utah. About 20 percent fewer people visited last year than just five years earlier.

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Energy & Environment
5:03 pm
Wed June 18, 2014

Lawmakers Spar With Feds Over Policing Public Lands

The standoff in April between federal law enforcement agents and Nevada rancher Cliven Bundy and his supporters has rekindled a discussion about policing in and around Utah's federal lands.


There’s been debate all over the West for years about who’s best to police federal lands. On Wednesday, leaders from local, state and federal government agreed the best way to resolve the disputes is to keep talking.

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Energy & Environment
4:00 pm
Tue June 17, 2014

Fire Season Pauses For Now Thanks to El Nino

Firefighters were tackling this early season blaze in Toquerville two years ago. This year cold, wet spells have delayed the start of the fire busy season.
Credit U.S Bureau of Land Management


Utah’s cold, wet spell is expected to continue through Wednesday, and that could cause a welcomed pause in the fire danger.

The long-term forecast projects a 70 to 80 percent likelihood of El Nino weather conditions for the rest of the year. And that could ease the drought in Utah.

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Air Quality
5:04 pm
Mon June 16, 2014

Lawmakers Question Emission Tests

Vehicle safety and emissions programs in northern Utah came under scrutiny by a legislative committee on Monday. Lawmakers wonder if they are consistent between counties and effective.
Credit Flickr Creative Commons


Lawmakers wonder if the safety and emissions programs in place in northern Utah need to be updated. Legislators considered the question on Monday during a meeting of Administrative Rules Review Committee.

Vehicle owners in northern Utah counties are required to have their vehicles inspected periodically for safety and emissions. The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency requires it as part of a statewide plan to protect the air from pollution, especially exhaust from dirty old cars.

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Energy & Environment
4:40 pm
Thu June 12, 2014

San Juan County Tries to Assume Control of Recapture Canyon; BLM Still Investigating ATV Protest

An ATV protest last month has prompted a new, non-binding resolution from the San Juan County Commission. The U.S. Bureau of Land Management says it's still investigating crimes associated with the ride on a trail through Recapture Canyon that is closed to motorized vehicles.
Credit Judy Fahys / KUER News

Dozens of all-terrain-vehicle riders drove into San Juan County’s Recapture Canyon a month ago. Federal authorities say that ride into off-limits territory was illegal, but they haven’t filed any charges yet.

Now, the San Juan County Commission is asserting authority over the scenic trail in a non-binding resolution. Recapture is filled with ancient burial sites and antiquities, and county leaders say the U.S. Bureau of Land Management is taking too long to decide how to safeguard them.

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Energy & Environment
5:40 pm
Wed June 11, 2014

Colorado River Roars While Southern Utah Withers

Southern Utah could use more storms like this one at Hite on Lake Powell. Runoff was poor to nonexistent, and that's left ranches and farms that rely on reservoirs to look forward to a dry summer.
Credit Wolfgang Staudt / Flickr Creative Commons


The runoff will start tapering to an end soon in northern Utah after near normal flows. But southern parts of the state are still starved for moisture.

Brian McInerney, a hydrologist with the National Weather Service in Salt Lake City, says many of the reservoirs in northern Utah are doing alright even though it’s been a pretty dry spring. Meanwhile, big storms have been drenching Colorado and making the Green and Colorado Rivers roar.

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Air Quality
6:00 pm
Tue June 10, 2014

Hazardous Air Pollutants: Initial State Study Finds Low Levels

Utah's Division of Air Quality is wrapping up a report on hazardous air pollutants. Plans are to continue the monitoring to identify significant risks to health.
Credit Mark Schoneveld / Flickr Creative Commons

Utah’s air-quality scientists continue to piece together the puzzle of the state’s pollution problem. Recently, they’ve been studying a new piece of it, the toxic components that might be tied to cancer and other severe health conditions

The state Division of Air Quality began to look at toxic chemicals in the Salt Lake Valley’s air pollution after an outcry from clean air advocates last winter.

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Energy & Environment
8:30 am
Mon June 9, 2014

High Pollution Triggers New Regulations for Utah Drillling

An aerial view of oil and gas wells in the Uinta Basin. High winter ozone threatens to bring these areas under Environmental Protection Agency oversight. The state of Utah is proposing regulations that are out for public comment.
Credit Flickr Creative Commons


The energy boom in eastern Utah has brought with it a big pollution problem.

The Utah Division of Air Quality has been studying it, and its now implementing new regulations to cut emissions.

The agency didn’t even know there was a pollution problem in the Uinta Basin until a few years ago. After millions of dollars of studies, the agency is now putting new rules in place to rein in emissions produced by oil and gas development.

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Energy & Environment
6:19 pm
Wed June 4, 2014

Energy Summit Considers All-of-the-Above Options

The Gadsby power plant in Salt Lake City is an example of the nation's transition from coal to natural gas. Environmental Policy Expert Ted Nordhaus said the shift is happening primarily because natural gas is cheap -- not because of Environmental Protection Agency regulations.
Credit Flickr Creative Commons


Utah's energy community met Wednesday at Gov. Gary Herbert’s 3rd annual Energy Development Summit to talk about the state's all-of-the-above approach to powering everyday life.

The Republican governor reminded his audience that energy is one of his administration’s top four priorities. He said energy pumps around $5 billion into Utah’s economy each year.

But Herbert said good jobs and a high standard of living have to be balanced with conserving the environment.

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Energy & Environment
6:00 pm
Tue June 3, 2014

Utah Prepares for New Climate Plan

Rocky Mountain Power's Carbon Plant near Helper is scheduled to retire next year. New climate pollution regulations from the Obama administration require states to find ways to reduce the pollution blamed for global warming, and power plants are responsible for a more than one-third of that pollution nationwide.
Credit Flickr Creative Commons

The Environmental Protection Agency released an ambitious plan Monday to reduce the pollution blamed for global warming. Several Utahns are already working on next steps.

David Folland, a leader of the grass roots Citizens Climate Lobby in Utah, is pleased to see progress finally being made on the issue.

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Air Quality
5:10 pm
Mon June 2, 2014

New Wood-Burning Curbs Considered for Business

State air-quality regulators are considering expanding the wood- and stove-burning bans to include businesses and industrial facilities.
Credit Erik Crosman / University of Utah

Burning wood in fireplaces and stoves has been forbidden for years whenever air quality gets bad in parts of northern Utah.

Now the Division of Air Quality is considering similar regulations for businesses.

The idea first came up when regulators were brainstorming in a public workshop last winter: Why not make commercial and industrial facilities comply with the same no-burn standards that homeowners do?

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Energy & Environment
6:00 pm
Fri May 30, 2014

Utah Braces for New Power Plant Regulations

Rocky Mountain Power Spokesman Paul Murphy stands in front of the Gadsby plant in Salt Lake City. The plant used to be powered by coal, but in the 90's the company converted it to natural gas.
Credit Judy Fahys / KUER News

 The Obama administration promised last year to crack down on the pollution blamed for climate change, and now the Environmental Protection Agency is getting ready to take a big step in carrying out that pledge.

On Monday, EPA is expected to roll out new regulations on existing power plants. Those plants are the nation’s largest source of carbon dioxide emissions associated with global warming.

And a new report by a think tank called Ceres says Utah has a relatively high output of CO2.

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Energy & Environment
6:00 pm
Wed May 28, 2014

Utah Strategy on Sage Grouse Advances

Leaders in Utah and other Western states want to delay the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service's decision on whether the Greater Sage Grouse deserves federal protections under the Endangered Species Act. Conservation advocates say the iconic bird needs those federal protections.
Credit Gail L. Patricelli

Utah leaders are pressing forward with their aggressive campaign to keep the Greater Sage Grouse off the endangered species list.

Republican Utah Congressman Rob Bishop is co-sponsoring a new bill to block the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service from adding the sage grouse to the federal list of Endangered and Threatened Species.

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Environment & Public Lands
6:00 pm
Tue May 27, 2014

Green River Leak Prompts Call for Prevention

Cleanup crews with absorbent boom at Salt Wash, just east of Labyrinth Canyon. Vacuum trucks removed some of the petroleum-tainted water.
Credit U.S. Bureau of Land Management


A cleanup is still underway nearly a week after authorities learned that an oil well was spewing contaminated water near the Green River. Over the weekend, the petroleum reached the river, and now some observers want to focus on preventing future accidents.

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Environment & Public Lands
8:00 am
Mon May 26, 2014

Pricey Lands Study Overlooks Economic Value of Conserved Lands

Allison Jones fears that lawmakers are pumping lot of money into a report that gives skimpy treatment to the economic values of the environment, like the important role the Cottonwood Canyons play in providing drinking water to Utah's most populated valley.
Credit Judy Fahys / KUER News

State lands officials gave a status report to lawmakers last week on the potential costs of taking over federal lands within Utah. What the report didn’t talk about – environmental costs -- is raising concerns for conservation advocates.

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Environment & Public Lands
6:15 pm
Thu May 22, 2014

Emergency Crews Near Green River Stop Well Leak

An oil well gushed an oil-water mix for more than a day. Emergency crews repaired the leak Thursday afternoon, but the petroleum-contaminated water traveled about halfway down the three-mile wast toward the Green River. This map shows the well's approximate location.
Credit Division of Environmental Response and Remediation / Utah Department of Environmental Quality



Local, state and federal emergency officials have plugged an oil well spill near Green River after the well gushed out of control for more than a day.

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Fourth Debate
5:48 pm
Tue May 20, 2014

Love, Owens Spar in 4th District Debate

Republican Mia Love and Democrat Doug Owens debate key issues Tuesday at the Utah Taxpayers Association conference.
Credit Judy Fahys / KUER News

Utah’s 4th Congressional District race is expected to be one of the hottest in the November elections, and the top candidates met Tuesday for their first debate at a Utah Taxpayers Association conference.

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Environment & Public Lands
6:00 pm
Mon May 19, 2014

Drought Forces Southern Utah Communities to Cope

Monticello usually relies on runoff from the Abajo Mountains for much of its water, but this warm, dry year the runoff has been weak -- and it's the third year in a row. City leaders are hoping to get two new wells online, plus they've instituted a new conservation program.
Credit Crazy Sally / Flickr Creative Commons

Springtime is runoff time in Utah, and peak runoff is expected in the Cottonwood canyons in the next week or two. But mountains in southern parts of the state have already shed what little moisture they had.

In southeastern Utah, the town of Monticello is looking for ways to cope as it heads into its third year of drought.

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Environment & Public Lands
8:00 am
Mon May 19, 2014

Willard Bay Spill Money Earmarked for Eco-Projects

Sheida Hajarian and her team from Desert Water Garden want to use native plants to help heal Willard Bay after the 2013 Chevron pipeline diesel spill.
Credit Judy Fahys / KUER News

Chevron Pipe Line Co.’s cleanup crews have packed up and moved out of the Willard Bay State Park. They occupied the parking lot for much of last year after a split pipe leaked more than 20,000 gallons of diesel fuel into the nearby wetlands.

But, as the park’s fans plan a May 24 party to celebrate its reopening, state officials are asking for advice on how to spend a big impact fund. But there’s still more left to do.

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Environment & Public Lands
8:00 am
Thu May 15, 2014

Public Lands Debate Finds New Venue at City Library

People gathered for a law-school-style debate on public lands policy at the Salt Lake City library.
Credit Judy Fahys / KUER News


The fight over federal control of public lands shifted from the West’s deserts to an urban library Wednesday in a law-school style debate that took place in downtown Salt Lake City.

Arguing for state control of federal lands were Utah House Speaker Becky Lockhart and State Representative Ken Ivory.

Former Bureau of Land Management Director Pat Shea and University of Utah Professor Dan McCool to made the case that the federal government is the better manager for six hundred million acres.

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Environment & Public Lands
5:17 pm
Wed May 14, 2014

Remembrance: Missile, Conservation Activist Cecil Garland

Cecil Garland in Callao, with the Deep Creek Mountains in the background. Garland was known for his straight-talking and incisive observations. He fought the placement of MX missiles in the Great Basin and, more recently, to conserve underground water along the Utah-Nevada line.
Credit WGBH Boston

The West lost a legendary figure over the weekend, when Cecil Garland died.

Garland was a Callao rancher known for his passion to conserve the land he loved and for being plainspoken and eloquent at the same time. In Montana, he led the fight for the nation’s first citizen’s wilderness area, the Scapegoat Wilderness.

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