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Growth of solar power, protest over fracking among topics at Gov. Herbert’s energy summit

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Posted at 5:51 PM, May 20, 2015
and last updated 2015-05-20 19:51:48-04

SALT LAKE CITY – As Gov. Gary Herbert launches into some of the pressing energy issues of our state at a summit at the Salt Palace Convention Center, there are some people who aren't ready to roll out the welcome mat and who are using this platform to criticize the governor’s energy policies.

Herbert plans to tout the state’s commitment to the energy sector and how that ties into Utah’s economy at this year's energy summit.

“Without energy, we don’t have access to technological innovation, that--it limits our ability to have access to food, to health care, to everything,” said Dr. Laura Nelson, who is the director of the Governor’s Office of Energy Development.

Herbert will have the attention of thousands of people from all over the world--from lawmakers to CEOs of private and public companies in the energy field.

One area he'll hit on is the huge boom in the use of solar energy in Utah.

“We’ve got about 800 megawatts of new commercial solar that is slated to come on-line in the next 18 to 24 months,” Nelson said. “And that’s driven a lot by technological innovations that have brought down the price."

Another issue the governor has recently addressed will also be in play: hydraulic fracking, which is the controversial method for removing oil and gas from underground deposits. Herbert is joining three other states in challenging new federal guidelines.

“The big concern really is about the cost that this regulation is going to impose, especially here in the West where it's already more expensive to do energy development,” Nelson said.

Protestors will be out in full-force Thursday morning as people make their way into the summit.They're hoping the governor will think twice about extracting tar sands.

“Tomorrow we're planning a fire barrel protest,” said Melanie Martin of the group Utah Tar Sands Resistance.

Martin says a tar sands project in Utah would destroy the state.

“It’s extremely water and energy intensive, and it also poisons our rivers and air--and so that’s what’s begun out in the Book Cliffs, and we're afraid that it’s going to be happening on a vast scale if we don't stop it from moving forward,” Martin said.