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Gov. Herbert Promotes Energy Director

Utah Gov. Gary Herbert has already declared that energy is a top priority in his administration. Now he’s inviting the head of his energy development office to join his inner circle. Citing her public- and private-sector experience, he announced Laura Nelson’s promotion on Tuesday at the 5th annual Energy Development Summit.

“She understands how these need to work together in what we would call unprecedented partnerships,” said Herbert. “And, as we do that, she understands we can have unlimited possibilities of what we can achieve and accomplish here as a state and a nation when it comes to energy.”

Nelson used to advise former Gov. Jon Huntsman on energy. Then she went into private industry with a company that wants to tap shale oil in eastern Utah’s energy fields. Two years ago, she became director of the Office of Energy Development.

An economist, Nelson says she welcomes hearty discussion in an industry navigating dramatic changes.

But environmental groups holding a news conference outside the summit said the Herbert administration should be focusing less on fossil fuels. It should start working on the Obama administration’s Clean Power Plan to address climate change instead of fighting it in court.

“It’s a real opportunity for the state to take control of it’s own destiny and to really plan ahead for a just and equitable transition towards renewable energy,” said Lindsay Beebe, who works on the Beyond Coal Campaign for the Sierra Club in Utah.

The summit continues through Wednesday.

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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