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Panel Announcement: Utah’s Environmental Future

The 2020 Emerging Leaders Summit is just around the corner, and we’re excited to announce a panel that you won’t want to miss!

According to a 2019 and Dan Jones & Associates survey, 31 percent of Utahns say climate change is “one of the greatest threats facing the world” today. The same poll found that young Utahns are much more concerned about it than older Utahns. In fact, 41 percent of Utahns 18-24 said climate change is the greatest threat we face.

ELI Utah is excited to discuss this issue further in one of our Emerging Leaders Summit panels, Utah’s Environmental Future. During this panel, which is presented by UCAIR, we will explore how nonprofits, government, and industry are working to address environmental challenges like emissions, air quality, and population growth.

The panel will also discuss how we can minimize environmental impacts while maintaining Utah’s robust economic growth, ensuring reliable and affordable energy, pursuing new development activities like the inland port, and protecting Utah’s high quality of life. Speakers joining us during this session are Scott Baird, executive director at Utah Department of Environmental Quality; Thom Carter, executive director at Utah Clean Air Partnership – UCAIR; Rikki Hrenko-Browning, president at the Utah Petroleum Association; and Brian Somers, president at the Utah Mining Association.

Tickets to our inaugural conference on Jan. 6 are still available. Secure your seat today and view additional speakers at

Event attendees are encouraged to begin a dialogue around the topic prior to the Summit by submitting questions to

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Meet the Panelists

Scott Baird: Scott Baird was appointed as the interim executive director of the Utah Department of Environmental Quality (DEQ) in June of 2019. Baird has been with the department since 2014, first appointed to serve as director of legislative and government affairs and later as deputy director, overseeing policy, planning and operational improvement. Before joining DEQ, Baird worked in the Governor’s Office of Management and Budget, where he provided several state agencies – including DEQ – with training and guidance on improving operations. Previously, he worked in Washington State’s Governor’s Office of Financial Management, Washington State’s Auditor’s Office, and at Deloitte Consulting, where he helped state and federal agencies improve operations and achieve better outcomes.

Thom Carter: Thom Carter was named the second Executive Director for the Utah Clean Air Partnership in October of 2017. UCAIR is a non-profit organization established to bring communities together with one goal in mind – improving Utah’s air. Thom has a diverse background, including work in the political and policy arena alongside international experience in professional sports. Now at UCAIR, Thom sits on the Board of Governors for the Salt Lake Chamber, the Governor’s Energy Advisory Council and Co-Chairs the Healthy Salt Lake Steering Committee. Thom works diligently to bring partners together for collective impact in addressing Utah’s air quality challenges.

Rikki Hrenko-Browning: Rikki Hrenko-Browning is the President of the Utah Petroleum Association (UPA). UPA is a trade and advocacy organization representing the upstream, midstream, and downstream oil and gas interests in the state. Prior to leading UPA, Rikki was the CEO of Enefit American Oil with overall responsibility for the company’s greenfield oil shale development project in Eastern Utah, including management of the project planning, engineering, permitting, lobbying and PR. Prior to that she was the International Project Director and an Environmental Policy Expert for Enefit (Eesti Energia) while living in Estonia. Originally from Ohio, Rikki graduated with Distinction from Carnegie Mellon University with a Master’s of Science in Public Policy and Management and holds a Bachelor’s of Science in Botany and Environmental Science. Rikki previously served on the Board of the National Oil Shale Association as well as Utah Mining Association where she served as the Second Vice President. She is currently a member of the Kem C Gardner Policy Institute’s Energy Advisory Committee.

Moderator Brain Somers: Brian Somers joined the Utah Mining Association as its president in 2019. Mr. Somers has over 20 years of extensive experience in legislative affairs, strategic communications, and executive leadership. Prior to UMA, he led the Utah Science Technology and Research Initiative (USTAR) as its managing director. He also served as the deputy director of the Utah Department of Heritage & Arts, on the communications staff of Governor Gary R. Herbert, and in various strategic communications roles in the private sector.