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Protest Punctuates Energy Summit's Pro-Fossil Fuels And Clean Energy Pitch

Photo of U.S. Energy Secretary Rick Perry, Wyoming Gov. Mark Gordon and Utah Gov. Gary Herbert.
Judy Fahys / KUER
U.S. Energy Secretary Rick Perry, Wyoming Gov. Mark Gordon and Utah Gov. Gary Herbert spoke to reporters at the Grand America Hotel at the Governor’s Energy Summit.";

Leaders at the 8th annual Governor’s Energy Summit praised the virtues of “all-of-the-above” policies, but protesters crashed their discussion to push for a faster push toward clean energy.

Utah Gov. Gary Herbert, Wyoming Gov. Mark Gordon and headliner, Rick Perry, the U.S. Energy Secretary, touted a variety of innovations in using fossil fuels, which are blamed for stoking climate change. But the big news Thursday centered on the Utah Advanced Clean Energy Storage Project, a multi-billion-dollar effort to stow 1,000 megawatts of renewable energy underground in central Utah. It’s enough energy to power 150,000 homes.

“The largest energy-storage project in the world — and that will be located in the heart of Utah, in our own Millard County,” said Herbert in announcing the proposal by partners Mitsubishi Hitachi Power Systems and Magnum Development.

Speaking to an enthusiastic crowd at the Grand America Hotel, the governor said the site near the Intermountain Power Plant in Delta will handle four types of clean-energy storage: renewable hydrogen, compressed air energy storage, large-scale flow batteries and solid oxide fuel cells.

"This investment shows that Utah is not only blessed with unique energy resources,” Herbert said, “but also benefits from wise policy and an ability to forge unprecedented partnerships that help drive innovation.”

A panel discussion that followed was interrupted by 20 young climate activists bearing posters and a banner that said: “Invest in our future, not climate chaos.”

“Your time is up,” the protesters chanted. “Keep it in the ground.”

Photo of protest on stage.
Credit Judy Fahys / KUER
Security personnel prepare to remove protesters from the stage in the Grand America Hotel Ballroom at the Governor’s 8th Annual Energy Summit. None of the protesters, who sang as they blocked the audience’s view of a panel discussion, were arrested, Salt Lake City Police said.

The lights and sound system were shut down. And loud music drowned out the singing and chants as police joined security officials in shooing the protesters from the stage.

Herbert praised the protesters for their youthful exuberance, but later called them “rude.”

After the protesters had been removed, Perry had a message for them.

“If you really care about this world, you really, I hope, will take the time to think about how do we help the rest of the world clean up their environment,” said Perry.

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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