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My view: Clean air an imperative for business success

By Alexander Lofft

For the Deseret News

Published: Thursday, Feb. 7 2013 12:00 a.m. MST

As a business person and property owner with operations and holdings in the Salt Lake region, I am concerned about how recent policy is loosening rather than tightening airborne emissions controls, and I believe it will have negative impacts on business activity and consequently on property values.

Having previously worked with dozens of Utah's most recognizable businesses on this issue (to great success when petitioning Berkshire Hathaway to stop plans on building several new coal-fired power plants for its Rocky Mountain Power subsidiary), we believe the collective negative impact on our health and environment of largely under-regulated airborne emissions threatens our whole state's future economic vitality.

To this point, the economic and environmental data specifically relating to Geneva Steel (which powered its operations with an on-site, coal-fired power plant that had little in pollution controls) in Utah County bear this assertion out very clearly — the initial drop in employment following its final shuttering was quickly overtaken by strong, steady growth in employment and in population over the next few years. The point is that any concern about job losses due to environmental controls is overblown as the follow-on effects are fairly quick and disproportionately positive.

Seen from another perspective, Utah's natural beauty and environment are a recognized resource worldwide for providing a high quality of life, resulting in national and international commercial interests deciding to build operations here (including several clients of mine, from close by in California to as far away as India), as reflected in this great accolade (as reprinted previously on EDCUTAH's website): Outside Magazine ranked Salt Lake City as the "Best Place to Live" in its August 2005 edition. It attributed this ranking to such qualities as "livability" remarking how Utah's natural landscape "earns glowing reviews from recreationists."

It is our region's strong livability attribute that we enjoy so much and are working hard to protect and enhance. However, some clients of mine have bypassed Utah having unfortunately experienced the choking effects of our inversions.

Writ larger, if the cumulative effects of our industry activities compromise our health, obscure our viewsheds, shrink and contaminate our watersheds, and thin out our most beloved snowpack, then our attractiveness as a place to live and work is also threatened. And with it, our economic competitiveness as a major metro area and state, compromising our recent and future gains in income and property values.

From a business person's standpoint, I urge Gov. Gary Herbert to take the longer view; the rewards for the state will be there if he does.

Alexander Lofft is the director of real estate services at Martek Global Services.

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