Utahns concerned about air quality are preparing to meet the winter-inversion season with a united front.
The Utah Clean Air Alliance was formed Thursday during a air-quality summit at the Salt Lake City-County Building, bringing together individuals and groups fighting for the common goal of cleaning up the air along the Wasatch Front.
"It doesn't make sense that all these organizations are working on this issue separately," said Michelle Hofmann, co-founder of Utah Moms for Clean Air, which hosted the event. "We felt it was time that we started working together to get things accomplished."
The new alliance discussed strategies for the 2008 general session of the Utah Legislature and plans to put forward two pieces of legislation related to improving air quality.
The group also plans to implement a statewide education campaign to make sure Utahns understand the dangers of poor air quality, as well as changes they can make to reduce the problem.
Cherise Udell, co-founder of Utah Moms for Clean Air, said she envisions a public-awareness campaign possibly called "Inversion Aversion" similar to the state's "Slow the Flow" effort to conserve water. Utah Moms for Clean Air has enlisted the help of Gov. Jon Huntsman, asking for an appropriation to help fund the estimated $1 million effort.
The Utah Clean Air Alliance also wants to create a "Proactive Red Alert Plan," which Udell describes as a "pre-emptive strike on red air-quality days."
"The (state Department of Environmental Quality) knows when we're heading toward a red-air day," she said. "In the days leading up to that, we want have this emergency plan to let people know to adjust their behavior."
Some of the changes Utahns would be instructed to make in the days leading up to an inversion include not idling their vehicles, telecommuting to work when possible, keeping freeway speeds to 55 mph, car-pooling, utilizing mass transit and not using noncritical gas-powered engines such as leaf-blowers and lawn mowers, Udell said.
"Air pollution is a human-created problem that has a human solution," she said. "It's not some phenomenon that we don't have control over. We have control over the level of pollution we're producing."
The new alliance has the support of Salt Lake City mayor-elect Ralph Becker, who commended the various groups for uniting to take on the issue of air quality.
"I'm convinced that if the community comes together and organizes around a common agenda ... we can get things done this year (at the state Legislature), and it will build momentum for the future," he said.Becker's campaign platform included a plan to reduce the amount of pollutants that are put into the air by making it easy and convenient for residents to walk, bike or take transit throughout the city; making housing in the city affordable to reduce the number of commuters; and providing incentives for green building and retrofitting.