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 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.

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.

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.

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.

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.

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.

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.

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.

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

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.

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.

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.

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.  

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.

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.

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.

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.”

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.

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