Judy Fahys

Reporter

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.

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Public Safety
4:06 pm
Fri August 29, 2014

Deadly-100 Driving Days Ends After Labor Day

When Labor Day ends, so does the traffic fatality busy season.
Credit LongSkull / Flickr Creative Commons

    

AAA is projecting that 34.7 million Americans will travel 50 miles or more this weekend to celebrate the holiday that marks the end of summer.

Around 2.5 million people in the Mountain West are planning to travel, according to AAA spokeswoman Rolayne Fairclough. And about 2.1 million are going to drive.

Leisure travel has steadily increased each holiday through the summer leading up to the busiest Labor Day travel weekend since the beginning of the recession in 2008. Fairclough says that’s a positive sign about their standard of living.

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Energy & Environment
5:07 pm
Wed August 27, 2014

August Climate Eases Drought; Grows Record Tomato

Dale Thurber's giant tomato -- a Michael's Portuguese Monster -- weighed in this month at 3.754 pounds, breaking the state record. Favorable summer weather helped his giant tomato achieve its size.
Credit Courtesy: / Dale Thurber

Most of Utah continues to struggle with drought. But an especially cool and rainy August has eased the dryness and triggered other consequences, too, including a monster tomato.

National Weather Service Meteorologist Mike Seaman’s put some numbers to the climate trends that Utahns have been living firsthand this August.

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Energy & Environment
4:20 pm
Wed August 20, 2014

Salt Lake City: A "Heat Island" with Health Consequences

Salt Lake City, like other cities, captures heat and holds onto it much longer than surrounding communities in rural Utah, because it is a "Heat Island."
Credit Garrett / Flickr Creative Commons

Cities are getting hotter thanks to climate change. And the heat in cities is rising faster than rural America. It’s a trend playing out in Utah.

Eric Pardyjak is a University of Utah mechanical engineering professor who studies what are called “heat islands,” which generally make summer nights hotter in cities than in rural communities.

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Energy & Environment
5:30 pm
Tue August 12, 2014

Clinton Continues Chlorination after Drinking Water Contamination

The Davis County community of Clinton has been working all week to get rid of the drinking-water contamination that was caused when someone illegally connected the secondary water supply to culinary water pipes. By Monday, all water advisories were lifted and the city continued investigating the problem's cause.
Credit Judy Fahys / KUER News

Drinking water advisories have been lifted in the Davis County community of Clinton, but the weeklong ordeal caused by bacterial contamination isn’t quite over yet

The problem started when someone illegally connected the irrigation water system to the separate system of drinking water pipes.  

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Health Care
4:40 pm
Mon August 11, 2014

Utahn Tests Smaller, Wireless Pacemakers

Susan Thomas, 72, of Logan looks on as her doctor, Jared Bunch, talks to reporters about the implantation two weeks ago of a cutting-edge, wireless pacemaker.
Credit Judy Fahys / KUER News

Intermountain Medical Center in Murray is one of 50 hospitals nationwide involved in a research trial for next-generation pacemakers.  Last month one of its doctors implanted the new, wireless device in a grandmother from Logan.

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Energy & Environment
4:57 pm
Wed August 6, 2014

Business Leaders Launch New Initiative on Water

Examining Utah's water -- in the environment, homes and at work -- is the idea behind a new initiative by the Salt Lake Chamber.
Credit Clint Losee / Flickr Creative Commons

Utah’s business community is launching a new initiative this week focusing on water. Business leaders say protecting current water supplies and developing new ones is essential if the state is going to continue to operate smoothly and to grow.

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Energy & Environment
2:00 pm
Wed August 6, 2014

Drought Cuts Season Short for Great Salt Lake Boaters

A crane lifts a sailboat out of the Great Salt Lake Marina this week. Drought has dropped the lake level about 5 feet, leaving boat keels stuck in the mud and unable to get in and out of the marina. Scientists don't think the lake levels will be rebounding anytime soon.
Credit Judy Fahys / KUER News

Drought is shrinking the Great Salt Lake. So, boat owners enlisted a big crane this week to haul their boats out of the water.

Brad Silver’s bonds with the Great Salt Lake go deep. His family actually built the Great Salt Lake Marina in the 1960s, and his bedroom was a boat here when he was a teen. He can’t recall the last time the lake was this low -- he was just a tot. But lately the bottom of his sailboat’s been digging into the floor of the harbor where so many family adventures began.

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Energy & Environment
6:00 pm
Tue July 29, 2014

National "Sun Tax" Debate Lands in Utah

Utah's Public Service Commission finds itself in the middle of a national discussion about the community costs and benefits of residential rooftop solar power. It's decision is expected by Sept. 2.
Credit Judy Fahys / KUER News

Hearings in downtown Salt Lake City this week put Utah at the center of a national controversy over solar power.

Electric companies in 43 states allow homes with solar panels to put unused electricity back on the power grid. Utah is one of those states. But it is deciding on becoming one of the first states to charge solar customers a monthly service fee.

Environmentalists call it a “sun tax.”

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Public Lands
5:15 pm
Mon July 28, 2014

Utah Congressman Wants to Revamp Recreation Fees

Ranger-led programs, including interpretative talks about geology, astronomy and history, are funded by public land user fees. These fees are the subject of a bill by U.S. Rep. Rob Bishop, R-Utah, and supported by a coalition of conservation and recreation groups.
Credit National Park Service

Recreation fees provide money for campfire talks and other visitor programs that take place on public lands. Utah Congressman Rob Bishop wants to update those user fees, and he’s got backing from some unlikely supporters.

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Air Quality
4:56 pm
Fri July 25, 2014

Pollution Spikes: A New Holiday Tradition

Smoke from fireworks makes pollution counts skyrocket during Utah's 4th of July and Pioneer Day celebrations.
Credit Sarah Sammis / Flickr Creative Commons

Families all over Utah celebrated Pioneer Day with fireworks. The festivities also pumped lots of unhealthy smoke into the air that spiked air pollution. KUER’s Judy Fahys reports on the trend and Salt Lake City’s plan to deal with it.

Polluted air has become a kind of day-after tradition for Independence Day and Pioneer Day in Utah. Monitors at the state Department of Environmental Quality show those pretty pyrotechnics created enough smoke to top federal health standards in Salt Lake, Utah, Weber, Cache and Tooele counties Thursday night.

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Energy & Environment
4:56 pm
Thu July 24, 2014

Panel Accuses Forest Service of Water Grab

Utah's forested mountains are the starting points for 70 percent of the water that serves Utahns. A new U.S. Forest Service plan for including groundwater in decision-making nationwide has been panned by the State Water Development Commission.
Credit U.S. Forest Service

 

The U.S. Forest Service says it wants to do a better job safeguarding the nation’s groundwater. But its initiative to protect that vital resource is coming under attack in Utah and elsewhere. KUER’s Judy Fahys reports.

Utah’s State Water Development Commission has a simple message for the Forest Service and its new groundwater directive.

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Politics
6:10 pm
Mon July 21, 2014

Teachers Back McAleer in 1st District; Both Candidates Raise Campaign Cash

Democrat is expected to announce two, big endorsements on Tuesday -- from the National Education Association and the Utah Education Association -- in her campaign to unseat Rep. Rob Bishop, R-1st District.
Credit Courtesy: / Donna McAleer

The democratic challenger vying for Utah’s 1st district congressional seat hopes two big endorsements will help her unseat the incumbent in November. KUER’s Judy Fahys reports.

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Energy & Environment
4:45 pm
Fri July 18, 2014

State Sets Water Priorities On Virgin River Tributaries

Washington County Water Conservancy District is concerned that unauthorized users are jumping their place in line and taking water they need for their reservoirs. Sand Hollow Reservoir is one of the district's storage sites.
Credit Judy Fahys / KUER News

    

A drought in southwestern Utah means there’s not enough water to fulfill the needs of all property owners in the area. KUER’s Judy Fahys reports on the priority list that’s leaving some Washington County water users dry this year.

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Energy & Environment
5:52 pm
Mon July 14, 2014

Rail Line Would Deliver Uinta Basin Energy to Markets

A proposed rail line would cover rugged territory in central eastern Utah to transport energy products from the Uinta Basin to Price.
Credit a4gpa / Flickr Creative Commons

Plans are moving forward to build a 100-mile rail line from Duchesne, through the wild Uinta Basin, and into Price. KUER’s Judy Fahys reports on the ambitious and expensive proposal to move Utah energy products into the market.

The Uinta Basin rail project is a big idea. And its price tag is big, too – as much as $4 billion. But state transportation officials estimate an even bigger financial cost if Uinta Basin oil can’t get to Wasatch Front refineries and buyers outside the state.

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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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