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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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.

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.

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.

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.

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.

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.

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.

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.

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.

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.

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.

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.

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.

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.

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.

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.

    

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.

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.

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.

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.

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.

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.

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.

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.

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.

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?

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.

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.

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.

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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