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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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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Environment & Public Lands
6:26 pm
Mon April 14, 2014

Air-Quality Discussion Focuses on Solutions

Jonathan Samet, chair of the Department of Medicine at the University of Southern California's Keck School of Medicine, gave a keynote speech at the air pollution research retreat.
Credit Courtesy Photo / University of Southern California

   

Researchers, regulators and clean-air advocates gathered Monday to talk about Utah’s air pollution woes.

Jonathan Samet, chairman of Preventative Medicine at the University of Southern California’s Keck School of Medicine, focused his keynote speech on what else decision-makers need to know to build on America’s progress in tackling pollution.

“Research is important,” Samet said after his talk, “and we need it to guide the policymakers, so we can focus in on those sources that may be most critical.”

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LGBT Rights
4:37 pm
Fri April 11, 2014

Utah Attorney General Urges Civility in Same-Sex Marriage Case

Cherilyn Eager (left), president of the American Leadership Fund, chats with others attending the Amendment 3 rally at the Utah State Capitol on Friday to thank the legal team defending state laws banning same-sex marriage.
Credit Judy Fahys / KUER News

    

Utah’s Marriage Coalition organized a welcome-home rally Friday for the lawyers who argued in defense of Amendment 3, the law that bans same-sex marriage in Utah. Utah Attorney General Sean Reyes had just returned from observing Thursday’s oral arguments before 10th Circuit Court of Appeals in Denver. Reyes says he’s proud to be defending Utah laws and he’s urging civility while the legal process takes its course.

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Environment & Public Lands
4:41 pm
Wed April 9, 2014

Escalante Oil Spill Prompts New Reporting Rule

Bureau of Land Management geologist James Holland looks at a recent erosion cut through an oil deposit believed to be around 40 years old.
Credit U.S. Bureau of Land Management

    

Managers of the Grand Staircase-Escalante National Monument are updating their rules for an oil-well operator. The policy change comes after recent reports of two spills at an oil field near the remote Little Valley Wash.

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Environment & Public Lands
4:00 pm
Tue April 8, 2014

Earth Day Campaign Kicks Off New DEQ Blog

Credit Utah Department of Environmental Quality

    

Utah’s Department of Environmental Quality is launching a blog this week. It’s first posts focus on what they call the 12 days of Earth Day, leading into April 22. Amanda Smith is director of DEQ, and she’s kicking off the campaign.

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Environment & Public Lands
3:27 pm
Mon April 7, 2014

Preliminary Study Links Air Pollution and Suicide

Suicide is the 10th leading cause of death nationwide, and the 8th leading cause of death in Utah. A new University of Utah study finds a link between suicide and elevated pollution levels in spring and fall.
Credit Ryan Houston / Flickr Creative Commons

A new study from the University of Utah suggests yet another link between pollution and health hazards: a correlation between dirty air and suicide that’s spurring even more questions.

Amanda Bakian, an assistant professor of psychiatry, says preliminary findings show more people commit suicide when nitrogen dioxide is elevated. And when is fine-particle pollution is elevated. But she notes the correlation is puzzling because the suicide-pollution link is strongest in the seasons when pollution is generally not that high, spring and fall.

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Environment & Public Lands
5:40 pm
Thu April 3, 2014

Utah-Mexico Trade Mission Aims for More Business, Less Smog

Oliver Alfaro talks to a reporter for KULX Telemundo Utah, a Spanish-language television station. Alfaro is an international tax manager for Deloitte who helped organize Governor Gary Herbert's upcoming trade mission to Mexico.
Credit Judy Fahys / KUER News

    

Utah companies want to do business with Mexico, and more than three dozen of them are joining Governor Gary Herbert on a trade mission next week to swap ideas about improving commerce and quality of life.

Utah exports about $500 million to Mexico every year. Speaking at the Governors Economic Development Summit in Salt Lake on Thursday, Herbert said he believes there’s room to grow.

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Environment & Public Lands
5:14 pm
Wed April 2, 2014

Utah Uranium Mill Wants More Time to Find Buyer

The owners of a Uranium processing plant near Lake Powell want more time to find a new buyer for the plant after a planned sale fell through recently. The Utah Division of Radiation Control is considering the request, while an environmental group says the plant should be decommissioned.
Credit Walter Anderson / Flickr Creative Commons

A Canadian company has asked Utah regulators to give them more time to find a buyer for an idle uranium mill near Lake Powell. One environmental group wants the mill to be decommissioned instead. 

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Environment & Public Lands
8:00 am
Wed April 2, 2014

Clean Cars Help Utahns Cut Smog Now

Cars and trucks account for more than half of the pollution on the Wasatch Front. New regulations from the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency will have the same impact as taking 4 of every 5 of today's vehicles off the road. State leaders and clean-air advocates say it will be a powerful tool to clean up the air year-round, in Utah and throughout the country.
Credit Utah Department of Transportation

New clean fuel, clean car standards promise to be the single best way to clean up Utah’s air. State leaders say they want to accelerate these so-called Tier 3 rules in Utah. Yet, car buyers are already taking matters into their own hands, at the steering wheel.

Another air-scrubbing storm has just passed through Salt Lake City. But Tom Hemmersmeier is still thinking about clean cars.

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Environment & Public Lands
4:40 pm
Mon March 31, 2014

Changing Climate Prompts New Warnings, Local Planning

Utah State University hosts the annual Spring Runoff Conference. Climate scientists will be among those talking about Utah's future in a changing global climate system.
Credit Utah State University

  The world’s leading climate scientists and policymakers met in Japan over the weekend and released their latest assessment of global warming. They agree the climate is heating up because people burn so much fossil fuel.

Here in Utah, leaders are brainstorming about how to deal with the changing climate.

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Environment & Public Lands
5:52 pm
Tue March 25, 2014

Writer Considers Clean Coal in Global Warming Fight

Steam and smoke rise from the cooling towers and chimneys of the Robert W. Scherer power plant, the largest emitter of greenhouse gases in the U.S. The Juliette, Georgia, coal-fired plant burns 12 million tons of coal a year.
Credit Robb Kendrick / National Geographic

National Geographic Magazine’s latest cover story asks whether coal energy can be clean energy. It’s an important question for anyone concerned about climate change impacts and for states like Utah that mine coal for power plants.

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Politics
5:36 pm
Mon March 24, 2014

Utah's Democratic Party Leader Resigns

Democratic Party Chair Jim Dabakis has stepped down as chairman. He will run for reelection in his progressive, Salt Lake City District
Credit Brian Grimmett

The chairman of the Utah Democratic party is stepping down from the position he’s held for nearly three years.

Jim Dabakis says he’s resigning to deal with an undisclosed medical condition. But he says the move also frees him to be a stronger advocate for progressive causes. 

“As a party chair, I often felt constrained about what I would say,” Dabakis explains, “and what I could say not wanting to hold candidates from the rural parts of the state to a flaming progressive agenda.”

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Environment & Public Lands
9:32 am
Mon March 24, 2014

Citizen Scientists Sought to Track Kestrels

Hawkwatch's Shawn Hawks cleans out a nesting box to make it ready for a new kestrel family.
Credit Judy Fahys

    

Biologists worry about the kestrel’s decline. So a Utah nonprofit is looking for citizen scientists to help understand the reasons behind the bird’s downward trend.

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Environment & Public Lands
6:00 pm
Thu March 20, 2014

Congress, Utah Lawmaker Blamed for Stalling Conservation

A liberal advocacy group blames Congress for blocking progress on national conservation efforts in a departure from a longstanding bipartisan tradition. Former Interior Secretary Ken Salazar singles out U.S. Rep. Rob Bishop, R-Utah, for being behind the lack of progress.
Credit Equal Ground Campaign

A Utahn is in line to lead the House panel that oversees the nation’s public lands. But advocates doubt Congressman Rob Bishop will pick up the tradition of bipartisan support for conservation if he gets the job leading the House Natural Resources Committee.

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Environment & Public Lands
6:00 pm
Wed March 19, 2014

Utah Prairie Dog Story Prompts Stewart's Endangered Species Bill

The Center for Biological Diversity points to the Utah prairie dog as an Endangered Species Act success story.
Credit Center for Biological Diversity

Federal law restricts some development in Iron County to protect the Utah prairie dog. But a Utah congressman says it’s a case where the federal Endangered Species Act should be improved.

Republican Chris Stewart wants to change the way the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service counts species in peril. He’s introduced the Endangered Species Improvement Act in Congress.

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Environment & Public Lands
5:45 pm
Tue March 18, 2014

Scientist: Fossil Plants Help Tell Planet's Past, Present and Future

Scientist Scott Wing talks about what plant fossils can tell about climate change.
Credit Ira Block

Fossils tell the story of the world’s past and the next Frontiers of Science lecture will explore what the fossils also say about current times and the future.

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Environment & Public Lands
3:57 pm
Fri March 14, 2014

Report Provides Risk Tool for Geohazards Near Zion National Park

North Fork of Virgin River flood.
Credit Utah Geological Survey

    

The rock and soil that makes the redrock country around Zion Canyon so picturesque, also makes it dangerous sometimes. A new geology report details the hazards.

Soil and rock crashed into a Rockville home last winter and killed the two people who lived there. This is the sort of tragedy the Utah Geological Survey hopes to avert in its new report on significant hazards on State Route 9 near Zion National Park. Bill Lund is one of the study’s authors.

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Environment & Public Lands
2:06 am
Fri March 14, 2014

Air Quality Commands Lawmakers' Attention

Rep. Patrice Arent, D-Holladay, speaks at the pre-Legislature rally attended by thousands of Utahns fed up with poor air quality. Arent created the Clean Air Caucus, whose members championed several bills to passage during the 2014 Session.
Credit Judy Fahys

  

  The Salt Lake Valley was choking with winter pollution as the Legislature convened in January. Lawmakers were compelled to step up to the challenge to clear the air.

Thousands of Utahns rallied for air pollution solutions outside the state Capitol the weekend before lawmakers settled in. No one could remember another time that so many people came together to demand a stop to the smog. Sara Baldwin Auck is an advocate for Utah Clean Energy.

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Environment & Public Lands
5:52 pm
Wed March 12, 2014

Lawmakers Caught in Transmission Line Power Play

TransWest Express LLC wants to build and operate an electricity transmission line. House Bill 44 would require TransWest to offer capacity on its line to Utah companies. Investor-owned TransWest says its too soon for contracts like that that and vows to sue if lawmakers pass the bill.
Credit TransWest Express LLC

    

As the legislative session winds down, lawmakers find themselves in the middle of a power play between energy businesses over an interstate electric transmission line.

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Environment & Public Lands
4:46 pm
Tue March 11, 2014

Agency Seeks Public Comment on Refuge Drilling

The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service wants to hear from the public on its plans to allow two companies to drill and operate energy wells in the Ouray National Wildlife Refuge. This is a view of the Green River at the refuge.
Credit Jaclyn Kircher / U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service

    

Two energy companies are seeking permission to drill in the Ouray National Wildlife Refuge in eastern Utah. The federal agency reviewing the proposal is now ready to hear from the public.

The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service has been working for two years with the companies behind the drilling plans. Thurston Energy and Ultra Resources plan a total of 11 wells in their separate projects. The Uinta Basin already has over 10,000 oil and gas wells, so the new ones might not seem like much. But the wildlife refuge exists to safeguard wildlife and its habitat.

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Local Government
5:31 pm
Mon March 10, 2014

Transit Ridership Jumps

UTA's new FrontRunner South line helped double commuter rail ridership in Utah last year. TRAX saw an increase of 6.8 percent.
Credit Utah Transit Authority

Americans are using public transit more than ever. And Utahns are part of that trend.

A new report says Americans took a record 10.7 billion trips last year on public transportation. The Utah Transit Agency has seen a similar trend. Its trains, buses and trolleys logged 44 million trips last year -- more than ever before.

  American Fork resident Greg Davidson rides the new FrontRunner line from where he lives in Utah County into Salt Lake City a few times a month. Today he’s headed to the airport on the new TRAX line.

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Environment & Public Lands
6:01 pm
Fri March 7, 2014

Quarter for Clean Air Bill Heads to Senate

The Sugar House streetcar is one of the transit projects that gets cars office the road. The Quarter for Clean Air bill is would help remove even more pollution from Utah's air.
Credit Utah Transit Authority

The Utah House passed a bill Friday to allow communities to raise local sales tax rates to pay for transit projects. Supporters say it would help clean up Utah’s air.

Utah’s clean air advocates like the Quarter for Clean Air bill. So do local communities that would like revenue to put more buses on the road and expand service hours. Justin Jones is communications director for the Salt Lake Area Chamber of Commerce. He says Utah’s business sees it as an important keep Utah growing wisely.

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Environment & Public Lands
6:25 pm
Thu March 6, 2014

House Advances Bill to Reduce Wood-stove Pollution

Sooty pollution from wood stoves would be cut with a bill to educate the public and help around 200 households that heat with wood in high-pollution areas to switch to cleaner sources.
Credit Flickr Creative Commons

  A bill to reduce wood-stove soot in Utah’s high-pollution areas is headed to the Senate after receiving House approval Thursday. The bill would help fund programs to help people who rely on woodstoves alone to convert to cleaner home-heating alternatives.

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Politics
4:24 pm
Thu March 6, 2014

House Minority Leader Jennifer Seelig Won't Run for Re-Election

Women top the leadership of both parties in Utah’s House of Representatives. But that’s going to change next year. Rep. Jennifer Seelig, D-Salt Lake, announced she’s stepping down as leader of the House Democrats. Like House Speaker Becky Lockhart, Seelig is the first woman in Utah’s history to hold her post. She says serving in the Legislature has been an education in juggling and she’s ready to focus once again on her personal goals.

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Environment & Public Lands
6:57 pm
Wed March 5, 2014

Storms Boost Snowpack But Forecasters Remain Cautious

Four storms last month augmented northern Utah's meager snowpack. Forecasters and water managers remain hopeful but cautious.
Credit Nomadic Lass

Utah's water picture looked grim about a month ago. But February storms have brightened the outlook.

Two years of lower-than-normal precipitation had left many Utah reservoirs half-full at the beginning of the year. Winter storms didn’t help much either, since the snow seemed to fall everywhere east of Utah's mountains. Brian McInerney is a hydrologist for the National Weather Service in Salt Lake City. He says back-to-back storms over the past month have boosted the snow pack on the Wasatch Range.

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