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Energy Summit: A Forum for Discussion, Disruption

Utah's Energy Landscape, Michael Vanden Berg
Utah Geological Survey
Utah's energy portfolio is dominated by fossil fuels -- but changing. The trends are up for discussion at the Governor's Energy Development Summit.

The fifth annual Governor’s Energy Development Summit gets underway on Tuesday.

This year’s two-day program begins with a panel of women who are helping to lead the energy industry through change.

“We sure learn a lot, I think, when we engage with people who think differently that we do,” says Laura Nelson, director of the Governor’s Office of Energy Development, highlighting the diversity of this years’ program.

“And I think that’s always the message: How much do you really learn when you talk to somebody who thinks just like you do and has the exact same ideas as you do? It’s really about coming together and what I like to refer to as disruptive conversations.”

Developing Utah’s fossil fuelscontinues to dominate the discussion. And that emphasis makes the conference a target for environmentalists. But this year’s conference has already triggered controversy. Not only do oil, coal and natural gas companies underwrite the summit itself, but also and because Gov. Gary Herbert’s hosting a reelection campaign fundraiser in conjunction with the summit.

“This is just another tactic,” says Rachel Sanders, executive director of the Alliance for a Better Utah, “where he will be ‘Available Jones’ to do what needs to be done in order to make the fossil fuel industry happy so that they will be able to continue to give him large amounts of money to fund his campaign so he can stay governor.”

Herbert has defended his fundraising tactics as a necessity for candidates who aren’t rich.

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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