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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Utah House lawmakers are considering a bill that would allow state-specific solutions to air pollution.

Republican Rep. Becky Edwards, R- North Salt Lake, has a bill to loosen a law that prevents state environmental rules from being stricter than federal ones. She says Utah knows how to clean up its air better than the federal government does.

“HB121 allows for local control to address our local needs,” says Edwards. “This is another example of how states are more effective and do things better than the federal one-size-fits all solutions.”

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It’s now up to Governor Gary Herbert now to decide if more of Utah highways should be considered for 80 mile per hour speed limits.

Viktor Hanacek

House lawmakers want to give families with autistic children a helping hand. They voted Tuesday to continue supporting a few programs that have shown success in Utah.

Republican Representative Rhonda Menlove says a constituent call a few years ago triggered her interest in autism programs. She told her House colleagues that she picked up the phone one day and heard a screaming child in the background as the sobbing mother pleaded for help.

Aleks Dorohovich

House Speaker Becky Lockhart only needed to look at her own children to see kids and electronic devices go together naturally. The insight has inspired her new initiative to transform Utah’s public schools.

Lockhart says parents and teachers need to catch up to children when it comes to technology. That’s what prompted her Public Education Modernization Act. It would put electronic devices into the hands of all 620,000 students in Utah’s schools. Lockhart’s asking for up to $300 million to make her vision a reality.

Judy Fahys

Lawmakers have been talking for weeks about how to spend taxpayer dollars. Now they are drawing up priority lists in hopes of snagging some of the state’s $5 billion budget for their favorite projects.

Tasha Cook

The Utah House threw its support behind new results-based programs to boost early-childhood education. It’s a concept backed by leaders of both parties.  

Republican Rep. Greg Hughes of Draper says all Utahns have a stake in making sure that all children get a good start at school – even before they’re in kindergarten. His bill calls for investors to foot the bill for expanding early education programs like those in the Park City and Granite School districts. Hughes says the $5 million program will provide opportunities for disadvantaged children

Don Sharaf / American Avalanche Institute

Rain and snow drenched northern Utah this weekend, bringing moisture that will make a big difference in spring and summer. 

Randy Julander works for the federal Natural Resources Conservation Service. He monitors Utah’s snowpack. He also watches water levels in Utah’s streams and reservoirs with an eye on what that means for irrigation and drinking water. Last week his office reported that snowpack was just 75 percent of normal statewide. Julander says key reservoirs were less than half full.

Utah Department of Transportation

    

The Utah House has passed a bill that could mean higher speed limits on more of Utah’s interstate highways.

Close to 400 miles of Utah’s highways already allow drivers to go 80 mph. Jim Dunnigan, R-Taylorsville, says more areas of interstate freeway should be considered for higher speeds. His bill would allow the Utah Department of Transportation to study divided highways where it might make sense to let drivers go faster. He says the Utah Division of Air Quality told him that faster driving does not lead to more pollution.

Judy Fahys

Legislators have proposed around 80 education bills in the Legislative session so far. Democrats and Republicans say they will work together to improve Utah’s classrooms.

Judy Fahys

A group of concerned school kids made their way to the Utah State Capitol Tuesday to ask lawmakers to change one of the state’s symbols. 

Fourth-grade lobbyists say Utah needs a new state tree.  Members of Mrs. Blomquist’s class from Monroe Elementary in Sevier County pressed their case at the Capitol. Nine of the students told senators why the Colorado blue spruce should make way for the quaking aspen.

“The quaking aspen is self-pruning,” said Neomi Avery, “They take care of themselves just like Utah citizens.”

Utah Climate Center

    

Skies have been smog-free in northern Utah for the past few days. Now the Utah Climate Center says we can breathe easy for at least another week.

Ken Lund

  

A state lawmaker says wilderness advocates are waging a war of attrition in the wildlands fight.

Kathleen Clarke leads Utah’s public lands policy office. Her job includes guiding the state’s legal battle over 12,000 roads in rural Utah. The state is fighting the federal government to prevent federal wilderness designation on the land those roads cross. She told legislative budget-makers Thursday some of her agency’s budget will help pay for 200 crucial interviews that need to be done in the next two years.

The Utah House of Representatives passed a bill Wednesday that is intended to assist people who call for emergency help when someone is overdosing on drugs.

Amelia Sorich died of an overdose of heroin and cocaine even though two friends might have saved her life by calling for help. But the friends chose not to because they feared being prosecuted the drugs in their possession. Holladay Democratic Rep. Carol Spackman Moss says there are too many cases just like that. She crafted a bill to grant limited immunity to Good Samaritans who find themselves in a position to help.

    

Supporters and opponents of same-sex marriage gathered for separate rallies Tuesday night at the state Capitol. Both sides said fundamental values are at stake. 

Judy Fahys

    

A sea of people swarmed Utah’s Capitol steps and south lawn Saturday. Thousands gathered for the Clean Air, No Excuses rally just above winter smog blanketing the valley. Brian Moench, a co-founder of Utah Physicians for a Healthy Environment, told the demonstrators they have a right to clean air.

“This is your state,” said Moench. “What goes on in the building behind us is your government. The air you breathe is largely what you make of it, either by ignoring it, making it worse by neglect or by fighting to make it better.”

Thousands of Utahns say they plan to join a rally at the State Capitol Saturday. They want Governor Gary Herbert and the Legislature to do something immediately about poor air quality.

Salt Lake City folk singer Tom Bennett wrote his song, Governor We Cannot Breathe, to be performed at tomorrow’s Clean Air, No Excuses Rally.

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