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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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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Environment & Public Lands
5:50 pm
Tue May 13, 2014

Protest Ride Complicates BLM Trail Study

A rally at Blanding's Centennial Park before the ATV ride. County Commissioner Phil Lyman (center, wearing the light-colored shirt) led the drive on a closed BLM road in Recapture Canyon
Credit Judy Fahys / KUER News

Federal investigators are continuing their probe into a protest ride Saturday through Recapture Canyon. And that includes sizing up the impact that the all-terrain vehicles might have had on the canyon's archaeological sites.

Some people regard Recapture Canyon as a mini-Mesa Verde National Park. Both contain prehistoric ruins, religious kivas and ancient burial grounds that make them world famous. But over the weekend more than 60 protestors drove ATVs into those sensitive areas.

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Environment & Public Lands
12:08 am
Mon May 12, 2014

Land Agency Investigates ATV Ride In Utah Canyon

ATV riders ready to drive onto a trail that the U.S. Bureau of Land Management closed to motorized vehicles to protect its archaeological resources. Local law enforcement were on hand to keep the peace, but not to uphold the federal law. Meanwhile, the BLM says it is investigating.
Credit Judy Fahys / KUER News

A protest in Utah’s San Juan County ended without violence on Saturday. But the conflict between a federal government agency and its critics is expected to continue.

San Juan County Commissioner Phil Lyman organized the ride into Recapture Canyon, where the U.S. Bureau of Land Management banned motorized vehicles 7 years ago. Lyman urged protesters at a morning rally on Saturday to steer clear of the closed areas because of the risk to the archaeology and to their reputations.

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Environment & Public Lands
3:21 pm
Sat May 10, 2014

ATV Protest on Federal Land Peaceful So Far

Protesters ride all-terrain vehicles into Recapture Canyon.
Judy Fahys/KUER

A local public official in southeastern Utah led a protest on federal land today against the Bureau of Land Management. 

The group rode all-terrain-vehicles into Recapture Canyon located in Utah’s four corners region. The BLM closed off access to the canyon about seven years ago to protect Native American burial sites.  San Juan County Commissioner Phil Lyman led the group into the canyon.  He says protesters don’t recognize the authority of the federal government.

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

Provocative Clean-Air Advocate Boosts Utah Debate

Brian Moench speaks at a news conference in the State Capitol. The anesthesiologist's style is provocative and -- to some -- polarizing.
Credit Andrea Smardon / KUER News

For years, Utah’s air pollution problem was virtually ignored by policy makers -- even when the air was foul for weeks at a time. But a growing activist movement has made the issue a top priority for a majority of Utahns, thanks in large part to Moench.

He stood on the State Capitol steps last January in front of thousands of people. Winter smog surrounded them.

Moench, the leader and founder of Utah Physicians for a Healthy Environment, called on the crowd to continue prodding Utah lawmakers to clear the skies.

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Environment & Public Lands
2:25 pm
Fri May 2, 2014

Utah's Summer Smog Season Gets Underway

Driving less is one way Utahns can help protect the air from smog buildups on summer afternoons. Utahns often overlook the danger ozone pollution poses on their health.
Credit Utah Department of Transportation

Utah’s smog season is underway. Some call it Utah’s overlooked pollution problem.

Michelle Hofmann, a pediatrician and founder of the health advocacy group Breathe Utah, is used to hearing people complain about sooty pollution in the winter. But she says it’s harder for patients to grasp the impacts of ground-level ozone pollution, since it’s odorless and colorless.

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Politics
11:42 am
Fri May 2, 2014

Lifferth Apologizes for Racist Tweets

Representative David Lifferth

State Representative David E. Lifferth is publicly apologizing for saying the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People is a racist organization. The Utah County Republican made his initial remarks on Twitter, then used his blog late Thursday to make his apology and announce he had deleted the offensive tweets.  In his statement he called his tweets a joke and said they were insensitive to others.

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Politics
6:00 pm
Thu May 1, 2014

Law Professor: Race Still Uncomfortable to Discuss

Emily Chiang started the S.J. Quinney School of Law's specialized Civil Rights Clinic. She says race is an issue many people think American have conquered racism but it troubles them enough to keep talking about it.
Credit S.J. Quinney School of Law / University of Utah

The conversation about race has heated up this week in Utah and throughout the nation.

Civil Rights expert Emily Chiang, associate professor at the University of Utah’s S.J. Quinney College of Law, says it’s a sign that America still isn’t the color-blind society many claim it is.

Chiang runs the law school’s civil rights clinic, and she says people are talking about race so much because they’re conflicted about it.

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Environment & Public Lands
3:14 pm
Tue April 29, 2014

Utah's Spurge Scourge Targeted in Weekend Event

Spurge in the foothills below Grandeur Peak near Parley's Canyon is targeted in a volunteer cleanup this week.
Credit Judy Fahys / KUER News

Spring means spurge in Utah. And Salt Lake County is recruiting people to help purge the pretty -- but invasive -- weed.

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Politics
11:23 am
Sun April 27, 2014

Owens Says He's a Good Democrat for 4th District Election Race

Doug Owens asks to be the Democratic nominee for the 2014 race in the 4th congressional district.
Credit Judy Fahys / KUER News

Utah Democrats in the 4th Congressional District chose Doug Owens  to run against Republican Mia Love.

Owens says he’s ready to take on Love in November. The 4th District already knows Mia Love from her 2012 race against Democrat Jim Matheson, who’s retiring after this term. Owens contends his Republican opponent is courting the national GOP, while his views are more in line with 4th District voters.

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Politics
11:15 am
Sun April 27, 2014

McAleer Wins Democratic Nomination in 1st Congressional District

Donna McAleer (under placard) poses for a group selfie with supporters Saturday after winning her party's nomination to challenge Republican Rob Bishop in the 1st District.
Credit Judy Fahys / KUER News

Democrats had a convention contest to see who would would get the chance to try unseating Republican Congressman Rob Bishop in the 1st Congressional District.

And now Donna McAleer is looking forward to a rematch against Bishop. She said she’s got much more ammunition against the incumbent in the two years since their last faceoff. McAleer says congressional bickering and Bishop’s role in the government shutdown last fall are good campaign issues in the 1st District.

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Environment & Public Lands
5:00 pm
Fri April 25, 2014

West's GOP Leaders Plot Strategy

Utah State Rep. Ken Ivory, R-West Jordan, and Montana State Sen. Jennifer Fielder address the Western Republican Leadership Conference at the Grand America Hotel on Friday. They were helping to develop new strategies to advance GOP policies nationwide.
Credit Judy Fahys / KUER News

The West’s Republican are having a strategy session in Utah, calling on the federal government to cut regulation and surrender lands in their states.

Montana State Sen. Jennifer Fielder came to Utah to swap ideas at the Western Republican Leadership Conference. Fielder says Western states need to take control of federal lands because states do a better job managing wildlife, forests and range.

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Environment & Public Lands
6:00 pm
Thu April 24, 2014

Unusually Warm Winter Might Be Climate Trend of the Future, Say Scientists

Winter in the Heber Valley. The winter months of January through March, 2014, were the second-warmest on record, according to long-term climate records.
Credit Don Cook / Flickr Creative Commons

The National Weather Service’s weekend forecast calls for temperatures to drift closer to normal for this time of year. But, earlier in the year, temperatures nationwide were nothing like normal.

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Environment & Public Lands
6:31 pm
Wed April 23, 2014

'Range Wars' Will Continue, Both Sides Say

A standoff between a Bunkerville, Nev., rancher and the U.S. Bureau of Land Management ended without bloodshed. But observers say the conflict will continue in the courts, the West's statehouses and possibly on the range.
Credit Whiteout Press / Flickr Creative Commons

An armed standoff between federal land rangers and supporters of a Nevada rancher ended more than a week ago without violence. But observers on both sides say the land-rights controversy will continue.

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Environment & Public Lands
6:40 pm
Tue April 22, 2014

Utah Lawmaker Takes National Stage on Land-Transfer Idea

Utah Rep. Ken Ivory, R-West Jordan, is recognized as a leader in the lands-transfer movement, which has gotten national attention since the standoff earlier this month in Bunkerville, Nev., led by rancher Cliven Bundy.
Credit Michael Jolley / Flickr Creative Commons

      

A Utah lawmaker’s campaign to take back federal lands is getting new, national traction thanks to a Nevada rancher’s standoff with the U.S. Bureau of Land Management.

Ken Ivory, R-West Jordan, is head of a political nonprofit called the American Lands Council. Its goal is to get the federal government to relinquish control of most federal lands to the states.

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Environment & Public Lands
6:47 pm
Fri April 18, 2014

State Seeks Lobbyist to Fight Sage Grouse Listing

A greater sage grouse struts in Wyoming.
Credit U.S. Forest Service

Utah is proceeding with its controversial strategy to protect the greater sage grouse, as state officials solicit bids from lobbyists to keep the bird off the endangered species list.

Jeff Hartley, an energy industry lobbyist, says the state needs more time to show sage grouse numbers are growing because of its approach.

“People need to know the states are making this effort and doing good work,” he said. “A listing would be bad for the state of Utah. And so to educate Congress, and thereby prevent a listing, is in the state’s interest.”

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Environment & Public Lands
5:23 pm
Wed April 16, 2014

Industrial Plant Risks to Students Mapped in New Report

West, Texas, after the explosion last year. A chemical sometimes used for homemade bombs exploded a year ago, leaving 15 dead, 160 injured and buildings damaged and destroyed. The Center for Effective Government says 4.6 million children attend schools within a mile of facilities that routinely use potentially dangerous hazardous and flammable chemicals.
Credit Center for Effective Government

    

Millions of American students go to schools near businesses that handle large volumes of dangerous or explosive chemicals.

The Center for Effective Government has mapped companies with operations that could potentially put the students and other neighbors at risk.

The center estimates nearly 79,000 Utah students ranging from kindergarten through twelfth grade attend 131 schools that are in proximity to these sites. Sean Moulton is the center's director for open-government policy.

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Environment & Public Lands
4:40 pm
Tue April 15, 2014

Utah Becomes A Wind-Energy Resource Center

Credit Joel Addams / Flickr Creative Commons

Utah is about to become a hub for wind energy information in the Four Corners states, with financial assistance from the U.S. Energy Department and the National Renewable Energy Laboratory.

Sarah Wright is director of Utah Clean Energy, the nonprofit that will head up the information clearinghouse for wind energy, the Four Corners Wind Resource Center.

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Environment & Public Lands
6:42 pm
Mon April 14, 2014

Environmental Group Fights 'Solar Penalty'

HEAL Utah says homeowners who install solar panels will be penalized if the Public Service Commission approves a new monthly fee that has been requested by Rocky Mountain Power. Meanwhile, the company says it needs to increase monthly fees, and add this new one, to pay its fixed costs.
Credit Thomas Sallai / Flickr Creative Commons

An environmental group says it’s a bad idea to hike the cost of clean-energy investments that are good for the community. That’s why the group HEAL Utah is rallying against Rocky Mountain Power’s request to charge solar-panel owners a new fee. HEAL’s Matt Pacenza calls the $4.25-a-month charge a “solar penalty.”

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