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Forum Explores More Energy, Less Pollution

Judy Fahys/KUER
Navigating the tension between growth and the environment is an ongoing challenge for Utah and the subject of the Utah Office of Energy Development's symposium next week.

Utah leaders want to clean up the air even as the state grows in population and economic output. A daylong symposium next week focuses on how to accomplish both.

Jeffrey Barrett, deputy director of the Governor’s Office of Energy Development, says the timing’s perfect for Utah to talk about growing its economy while cutting the air pollution that makes people sick and unhappy. Barrett says that’s the impetus behind Tuesday’s Air & Energy Symposium.

“We thought that it was worthwhile to pull together folks to talk about air and energy,” he says, “and what the appropriate balance is and how we can really advance both goals – the goal of continuing economic growth and while continuing incremental improvements in air quality.”

Anyone with an interest is invited, but much of the discussion is expected to center on industry and government.

The agenda includes topics like reducing the pollution buildings and vehicles release. Other sessions focus on new federal regulations -- like the Environmental Protection Agency’s Clean Power Plan to cut greenhouse gas emissions. The agency finalized those rules on Friday, and Barrett says Utah is one of 24 states that’s headed to court to fight them.

“We’re going to pursue every option that we can to protect Utahns and to protect costs and maintain reliability,” he says. “We’re going to pursue every legal avenue that we think is available to us and appropriate.”

State environmental officials are also working on plans to comply with the Clean Power Plan. Barrett says Utah has a track record of growing while also easing environmental impacts.

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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