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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Air Quality
6:00 pm
Wed November 26, 2014

EPA Tightens Ozone Pollution Limits

Utah's 29 counties just barely meet the current standard, and state leaders have complained that stricter standards that have been rumored for years would push virtually all Utah counties out of compliance. But EPA says regulations that are already in place will go a long way toward reducing ozone pollution.
Credit Utah Department of Transportation

Environmental Protection Agency Administrator Gina McCarthy announced plans Wednesday to tighten limits on ground-level ozone pollution.

“The science clearly tells us that ozone poses a real threat to our health,” said McCarthy in a conference call with reporters, “especially to growing children and older Americans and those of us with heart or lung conditions and those who are active or who work outside.”

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Energy & Environment
4:51 pm
Wed November 19, 2014

Lands-Transfer Report, Decisions Delayed

A view from Josie Morris Cabin Road in the Uintas. Lawmakers continue to debate the fate of public lands that are currently in federal hands. Lawmakers have demanded that the federal agencies turn over control of that land to the state. About 2/3 of the lands in Utah are controlled by the federal government.
Credit Courtesy: / Utah Public Lands Policy Coordinating Office

Utah lawmakers will have to wait a little longer for an analysis of a federal lands transfer.

The state public lands policy coordinating office told them Wednesday a report on transferring federal lands to state hands still needs finishing touches.

Assistant Attorney General Tony Rampton said the analysis is clear-eyed, scrupulously objective and exhaustive at nearly 800 pages.

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Energy & Environment
6:00 pm
Tue November 18, 2014

Proposal Melds State Environment Agencies

The Radiation Control Division would be folded into the Solid and Hazardous Waste Division, under a proposal being discussed at the Utah Department of Environmental Quality. The Utah Legislature is expected to have a bill in the upcoming session.
Credit EnergySolutions

The Utah Department of Environmental Quality is planning to consolidate two state agencies to improve efficiency.

Utah’s Radiation Control Division oversees everything from dental X-ray machines to a massive radioactive waste site, and the proposal has scientists and engineers joining the state’s solid and hazardous waste program. DEQ Director Amanda Smith says the plan retains staff expertise and institutional knowledge.

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Energy & Environment
6:06 pm
Fri November 14, 2014

Utah Uses More Water As National Use Dips

Water from Utah's mountain serves homes, businesses, agriculture, mining and other uses.
Credit Arby Reed / Flickr Creative Commons

A new snapshot of the nation’s water use shows a downward trend.

But Utah is using more water, according to the

U.S. Geological Survey’s five-year study,  based on 2010 data,  shows the nation’s homes, farms, industry and power plants are using significantly less water than they have in more than four decades.

Utah bucked that trend, using 7 percent more water than in 2005.

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Air Quality
6:00 pm
Thu November 6, 2014

'Leaky' Energy Industry Prompts Regulations

With the improved scientific understanding of air pollution in energy fields of eastern Utah, new regulations are coming online to stop leaks from energy-related facilities like this dehydrator.
Credit Utah Department of Environmental Quality

    

Regulators are relying on a growing body of scientific information to craft better pollution controls for the energy industry. They’re drawing on some of the results that scientists have gathered on the Uinta Basin’s ozone pollution problem.

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Mid-Term Elections 2014
2:25 am
Wed November 5, 2014

Republican Bishop Returns to Congress in 1st District

Rob Bishop won reelection. The Republican from Brigham City will serve a seventh term after defeating Democrat Donna McAleer in this rematch.
Credit Andrea Smardon / KUER News

Democrat Donna McAleer took a second run this year at unseating Republican Rob Bishop in this First Congressional District rematch. But voters opted once again to return the incumbent to Congress.

Rob Bishop asked voters to send him back to Washington for a seventh term so he can lead the House Natural Resources Committee. He won with 64 percent of the vote.

At the Republican election night party, Bishop reminded the crowd that the GOP will control both the House and the Senate during his next term.

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Energy & Environment
5:30 pm
Mon November 3, 2014

Climate Change Strategies Already At Work In Salt Lake City

Utah National Guard members work to repair a flood-damaged highway. Climate change is expected to mean more erratic weather that can lead floods as well as droughts and heat waves.
Credit Maj. D.J. Gibb / Utah Army National Guard

    

The UN climate change panel issued its latest status report this weekend. The group says the world must act swiftly to avert the risks in a rapidly warming planet. IN Utah, local efforts are already underway.

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Air Quality
5:00 pm
Fri October 31, 2014

Scientific Sleuthing Begins on Utah's Pollution Problem

Credit Erik Crosman / University of Utah

Utah’s winter pollution season officially gets underway this weekend, and thanks to $1 million from the Legislature, new research is focusing on what causes the state’s air-quality problems and how to solve them.

A dozen studies will look hard at what makes sooty winter pollution so nasty in Utah and why ground level ozone gets so high. They also will zero in on air chemistry and the weather’s role.

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Energy & Environment
5:10 pm
Fri October 24, 2014

Odds Are Dry Spell Might End This Winter

The National Weather Service is forecasting that most of Utah has even chances of having a normal year for precipitation.
Credit Courtesy: / National Weather Service

October’s been warmer and drier than usual so far in Utah. The warm trend is expected to continue into winter, but forecasters can’t say how much rain and snow will fall in the coming months.

The National Weather Service’s long-term outlook says normal precipitation is just as likely this winter as especially wet -- or dry --weather.  But the state’s had three extra dry years in a row, and that might be the single most important factor ahead.

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Energy & Environment
5:10 pm
Thu October 23, 2014

Coalition Vote Could Reshape Grand County Council

The Grand County Council voted Tuesday to join a coalition that wants to build a road, a pipeline and a rail line for eastern Utah energy. The upcoming election could prove to be a referendum on that decision.

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Air Quality
6:13 pm
Wed October 15, 2014

Utah's Trying to Fast-Track Clean Car, Clean Fuel

Supporters say federal Tier 3 standards will go a long way toward cleaning up Wasatch Front air pollution. They say the clean car and clean fuel rules will be like getting the pollution from 4 of every 5 cars off the road.
Utah Department of Transportation

State air-quality officials are still trying to bring next-generation clean cars and clean fuel to Utah. They told lawmakers Wednesday they are making headway.

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Air Quality
7:30 am
Mon October 13, 2014

Utah Hasn't Seen Much Ozone Pollution this Year

Downtown Salt Lake City normally has days and even weeks worth of smoggy summer days. But favorable weather this summer kept the skies scrubbed pretty clean of ozone pollution.
Credit Paul Sableman / Flickr Creative Commons

    

Ozone pollution in Utah barely reached unhealthy levels this year. The summer smog season ended Oct. 1, and the Utah Division of Air Quality reports none of its 15 sampling sites statewide exceeded the federal cap.

Kevin Seely sometimes gets lunch with his coworkers at downtown Salt Lake City taco cart that’s just a few blocks from where state air regulators monitor ozone pollution. He’s not surprised to learn regulators recorded so few smoggy days this summer, because that’s what Seely saw with his at-home pollution indicator: his four-year-old.

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Energy & Environment
5:47 pm
Thu October 9, 2014

Utah Lake 'Pond Scum" Is Toxic, State Finds

A view of the microsystin, a toxic bacteria that has made parts of Utah Lake unhealthy, especially for dogs and other animals.
Credit Courtesy: / Utah Division of Wildlife Resources

Environmental officials have confirmed that levels of toxic algae are elevated at Utah Lake. But they say ordinary activities are fine as long as people steer clear of the bright blue-ish green blooms.

Water tests came back on Thursday showing some of the pond scum on Utah Lake has reached worrisome levels. Environmental officials tested the blue green algae near the Lindon Marina on Monday, after they heard that a dog that had been playing in it died Sunday.

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Mid-Term Elections 2014
9:00 am
Thu October 9, 2014

Incumbent Bishop, Challenger McAleer Face off in First District Rematch

The candidates, Republican incumbent Rep. Rob Bishop and Democratic challenger Donna McAleer, make their cases to 1st Congressional District voters, thanks to the Utah Debate Commission last month.
Credit Tom Smart / Utah Debate Commission Pool

    

News Director's Note: Throughout this month, KUER reporters will profile the five major mid-term election races leading up to Election Day. This is the first.

Utah’s First Congressional District includes all or part of 10 northern counties, and Rob Bishop, the Republican congressman who’s represented it for six terms, wants the voters to send him back to Washington. Donna McAleer, the Democrat challenging him for a second time, finds herself on a steep path to unseat him.

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Mid-Term Elections 2014
12:08 am
Wed September 24, 2014

Bishop and McAleer Meet in 1st District Debate

Republican Congressman Rob Bishop and Democratic challenger Donna McAleer met in debate in Ogden at Weber State University on Tuesday night.
Credit Tom Smart

Candidates vying to represent Utah’s first congressional district met in a debate Tuesday night.  Republican Congressman Rob Bishop and Democratic challenger Donna McAleer squared off in front of a live audience at Weber State University in Ogden.  

Donna McAleer wasted little time before criticizing Rob Bishop’s voting record in the U.S. House.  She called him the guardian of gridlock and blamed him for helping shut down the federal government last year.

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Energy & Environment
5:49 pm
Wed September 17, 2014

Lawmakers Hear from Critics of Federal Land Oversight

The U.S. Bureau of Land Management's handling of the West wild horse herds was one of the complaints aired Wednesday at a legislative hearing.
Credit U.S. Bureau of Land Management

State lawmakers hosted a freewheeling discussion Wednesday on the impact of federal land ownership and policies on Utahns. But their hearing focused almost exclusively on criticizing the federal government.

For more than two years state lawmakers have had an eye on transferring the control of federal lands to Utah. On Wednesday, a House-Senate panel heard more than a dozen witnesses describe their frustrations with feds.

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Energy & Environment
5:01 pm
Mon September 8, 2014

August Rains Ease Drought

August rains turned much of drought-stricken Utah green. Pictured here is Lakefork Basin from Porcupine Pass.
Credit Beau Uriona / Courtesy: NCRS

Ranchers throughout Utah feared at the beginning of this summer that the drought would be sticking around. But a remarkably wet August has transformed the landscape.

Parts of Northern Utah received almost 4 times as much water as the 30-year average. And, in southern parts of the state, the skies blessed the parched landscape with up to twice as much rain as usual.

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Energy & Environment
6:02 pm
Tue September 2, 2014

Wilderness Act Turns 50, Prompts Reflection in Utah

Utah has about 1.1 million acres of federally designated wilderness so far. The discussion about what acreage should be added rages on.
Credit U.S. Bureau of Land Management

The Wilderness Act turns 50 on Wednesday, and the anniversary has some Utahns thinking about the value of wild places

Congress created the formal system for protecting the nation’s wild places. It’s designated more than 107 million acres as wilderness. In Utah, 1.1 million acres of federal land has earned wilderness protection so far.

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Local Government
4:52 pm
Mon September 1, 2014

Miner's Day: Park City's End of Summer Celebration

The Park City High School marching band heads down Main Street during the 117th annual Miner's Day Parade.
Credit Judy Fahys / KUER News

Americans celebrate Labor Day with picnics and barbecues.  But Park City has its own, quirky way of marking the national holiday.

The Summit County community dedicates its end-of-summer celebration each year to its history as a silver-mining town

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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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