Judy Fahys


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.

Ways to Connect

Judy Fahys/KUER

Early June is goose-banding time in the Salt Lake Valley, and around 100 volunteers join the Utah Division of Wildlife Resources on Friday to help.

U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service

The fire community is breathing easier about the upcoming wildfire season for now.

Back in winter, fire officials worried that Utah might be headed into a long, harsh one. But rain gauges at the Salt Lake City airport registered more than double the normal rainfall for the month. Now the soil moisture is restored and green grass covers the range.

Dan Bammes

Environmental and health advocates have tried for years to force environmental regulators to crack down on ozone pollution in the Uinta Basin. This week a federal appeals court rejected their arguments, even though some winter days the pollution in the rural Uinta Basin rivals the smoggiest days in big cities like Los Angeles.

Jacob B. Frank / National Park Service

State air-quality officials have updated plans to clean up haze in the skies around Utah’s national parks, and they’re sending it to federal regulators for their approval over the objections of environmental advocates.

Judy Fahys/KUER

Household hazardous waste collection begins in earnest this week, as the Salt Lake County Health Department begins hosting neighborhood collections throughout the summer.

Courtesy: BLM

A new good-government group, called the Campaign for Accountability, is calling for an investigation of the nonprofit behind the lands-transfer movement and the Utah lawmaker in charge of it.

Freida and Ray Tibbitts have always taken care to turn off lights whenever they leave a room, so they were stunned last fall when their electric bill jumped and the energy report included with the bill showed their home was using twice as much power as the neighbors.

Judy Fahys/KUER

The U. S. Bureau of Reclamation has been taking a hard look at the Colorado River Basin, exploring ways to deal with the reality that the Colorado River can’t always deliver all of the water that people demand.

Judy Fahys/KUER

Spring is typically a time when northern Utah’s air is pretty clean, but the business community doesn’t want clear skies to let political leaders forget that improving air quality is essential for making Utah an attractive place to do business.

Judy Fahys/KUER

The weather forecast includes a decent chance of rain through the holiday weekend. It’s going to spoil plenty of outdoor activities, but some Utahns are grateful for the relief it’s brought, at least for the time being.

Grantsville farmer Ernest Matthews is one. He welcomes this rainy May for what its done for the range his cows graze and the alfalfa he grows.

Utah Clean Energy

The energy industry has been in Utah’s capital city this week to talk about trends, and one word kept popping up everywhere: clean.

Jack Gerard of the American Petroleum Institute told reporters: “We’re leading the world to improve the cleanliness and energy consumption.”

Garrett / Flickr Creative Commons

A state energy official told lawmakers Wednesday that cutting greenhouse gas emissions from the nation’s power plants could be costly for Utah.

The Obama administration’s Clean Power Plan to cut the emissions linked to climate change hasn’t been finalized yet, but Utah’s energy officials and electricity producers worry that the new emission controls could hit Utah hard.

Judy Fahys/KUER

Jim Wright and his wife are raising three young children in Kaysville. They want state leaders to plan for a healthy economy so their kids also can live and work here. They’d like education to be high-quality and affordable. They want rich outdoor opportunities for their grandchildren even as the population doubles. That’s why Wright filled out Envision Utah’s online survey, Your Utah Your Future.

Tony Frates / Flickr Creative Commons

The discussion about the future of Salt Lake City’s parks, trails and open space continues through next week with six open houses.

City leaders say the need to gather citizen input on outdoor amenities is obvious. Some of the city’s parks were designed and built decades ago, long before people thought about taking their bikes into the mountains on dirt trails. It’s one reason residents are being asked for their input on a new priority list, says Nichol Bourdeaux, deputy chief of staff in the Salt Lake City Mayor’s office.

Robert Young / Flickr Creative Commons

Utah’s Department of Alcoholic Beverage Control has been embroiled in controversy over inventory management and low morale. But Governor Gary Herbert said Thursday he’s comfortable with the way things are going now.

Per / Flickr Creative Commons

A new study zeroes in on those odd times when bird flocks bypass their usual winter habitats because of the climate.

Pine siskins are small songbirds that settle sometimes outside their normal winter hangouts.

Source: Tesoro

Tesoro has pressed the pause button on plans to build a petroleum pipeline halfway across northern Utah.

The San Antonio-based petroleum company informed Summit County leaders last week that current market conditions were behind their decision to put a hold on its Uinta Express Pipeline.

Governor Gary Herbert’s top environment advisor is taking on a challenging new role, leading the Utah Department of Environmental Quality.

“The mission of the Department of Environmental Quality,” says the governor, “really is, and I’ll quote, ‘to protect human health and quality of life by protecting and enhancing the environment’.”

Utah's Uncertain Water Future explores Utah's relationship with water -- from the days when pioneers dug canals by hand to a future riddled with deep droughts and rising  demands. The documentary focuses on how Utah is managing these challenges, especially in fast-growing southwestern Utah. 

Don Anderson / Flickr Creative Commons

Western ski towns including Park City are backing a proposal to reform the royalty system for coal mined on federal lands. The reason: Climate change is dragging down their economies, says a coalition called the Mountain Pact.

The group says Park City will lose $120 million dollars in lower output, 1,137 jobs and more than $20 million dollars in paychecks thanks to a shrinking snowpack and less tourism. The Utah ski town has joined ten other mountain communities that want to combat the problem through reforms to federal coal-leasing programs.

Judy Fahys/KUER

Scott Jones steers a snowmobile into the T.W. Daniel Experimental Forest deep in the mountains above Logan. He’s a soils physicist at Utah State University, and he’s studying how forests use and store water.

“Understanding the processes up here will help us anticipate what’s happening in the valleys and streams,” he says.

Jones and a colleague measure water the snowpack’s holding after Utah’s warmest and driest winter on record. Data like this can help water managers plan for the future.

Gary Turnier / KUED

Here at milepost 80 in Enoch on 1-15 state geologists are inspecting a sinkhole on the right of way. They first spotted this jagged crack last year in images from a remote sensing survey.

“Yeah. You’re right,” says Bill Lund, senior scientist for the Utah Geological survey, speaking to a colleague. “There could be some displacement going on. And it looks like the prairie dogs have found it.”

Water managers have a chart that shows Utah’s water demands will outstrip supplies by 2040 and say it shows why the state should start expensive water development projects now.

The Legislature’s auditors spent more than a year basically fact-checking that chart, and at a hearing Tuesday they informed lawmakers important decisions about Utah’s water are being made with unreliable data.

Judy Fahys/KUER

In a parched corner of the nation's second driest state, the Virgin River delivers life-giving water to wildlife, farms and increasing numbers of people.

Ron Thompson sees a future when four times as many people could be living here in St. George, and they’ll need more water than the Virgin can provide. That’s why he wants the Lake Powell Pipeline.

Citizens for Dixie’s Future says Washington and Kane counties can conserve enough water to avert the need for the costly Lake Powell Pipeline. Instead, this local conservation group supports the Local Waters Alternative plan developed by Western Resource Advocates, which details a management plan that would cost less and deliver sufficient water to provide for about four times as many people in southwestern Utah in the next 35 years. Pipeline supporters say this approach would crimp quality of life, economic development and population.

The Salt Lake Chamber announced its Water is Your Business program in the summer of 2014. The idea is to educate and motivate Utah's politically powerful business community to recognize how important water is to their bottom line. This fact sheet says more than $30 billion in water projects are needed to meet future demands. That figure includes everything from updated pipes and pumps in local communities to big-ticket endeavors like the Lake Powell Pipeline and the Bear River Project in northern Utah.

The Utah Division of Water Resources was tapped by the state Legislature in 2006 to pursue the Lake Powell Pipeline, and an application is due to the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission in the spring of 2016. So far, the state has spent $25 million putting together the application, which considers financial and cultural resources as well as engineering designs.

The Washington County Water Conservancy District would take over the Lake Powell Pipeline once the state Division of Water Resources finances and builds it. District managers say its crucial to tap 88,000 acre-feet of Colorado river water for Washington and Kane counties -- not just because southwestern Utah is expected to quadruple in population over the next few decades but also to tap Utah's unused share of Colorado River water.

The Utah Foundation's published an in-depth overview of Utah's water situation last fall, "Flowing Toward 2050." It includes data on the fees water customers pay in various cities, including one in Utah. A common criticism of Utah's water utilities is that they charge too little to trigger conservation, and they muddle the true cost of water by using property taxes -- instead of usage fees -- to pay for water supply and delivery systems.  

Subsidence in the San Joaquin Valley, Calif., documented in a USGS report.