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My view: Mixed messages about air quality

By Ingrid Griffee

Associated Press

Published: Tuesday, March 5 2013 12:00 a.m. MST

For the health of Utah families, it is time for lawmakers to embrace a coherent plan, to pass proposed air quality legislation this session and demonstrate to the citizens that they can walk the walk better than they can talk the talk. I really want to do my part — but our leadership is lost in the smog.

Scott G Winterton, Deseret News

Enlarge photo»

As a concerned mother and a law-abiding citizen, I listen closely to the messages coming from our state leadership about the filthy air. I want to do my part. Unfortunately, the shamelessly befuddled messages coming down obfuscate the issues, confuse the citizenry and reveal a hopeless lack of any coherent plan. The following is a list of some of the most nonsensical messages from our state leadership:

I should leave my minivan at home, yet the HollyFrontier oil refinery in Woods Cross should expand and bring its increased crude supply into our valley with semi-trucks. Right, because diesel big rigs are so much cleaner than my minivan?

Gov. Gary Herbert has asked us all to drive less, yet he wants the oil refineries to expand and produce more gas, which we are then not supposed to buy. No comment necessary, so heavily weighs the absurdity.

We are all familiar with this notorious irony: the governor asks us to consider walking or biking (especially if we intend to participate in a rally or press conference at the Capitol), but the Division of Air Quality tells us all to avoid outdoor exertion. I think I will play it safe and go with the DAQ's suggestion.

According to the DAQ, Particulate Matter 2.5 readings above 55 are unhealthy for everyone, but the Utah Health Department says its fine for students to play outside until the PM 2.5 reaches 90. health.utah.gov Evidently Utah's students develop some sort of smog immunity on the playground. If only that were true.

Kennecott Utah Copper should expand, despite Utah's failure to meet minimum air quality standards because, after all, industry is only 11 percent of the problem. www.airquality.utah.gov Well, my personal contribution is a vanishingly tiny percentage of the overall problem, so I should pollute much more to get my piece of the pie, just like Kennecott. Am I wrong in finding this logic counterproductive and unethical?

Kennecott has generously offered free transit passes to use on "red" air days. kennecott.com That's nice, but by the time the air is "red," even if the entire population rode Utah Transit Authority for the day, we would still be stuck with smog until Mother Nature finally took pity on us. I don't know, how about transit passes on the "green" air days so we avoid getting to "red?"

Finally, although all of us regular citizens are supposed to be leaving our polluting cars at home, the Utah Department of Transportation has just proposed a new freeway called the West Davis Corridor, that runs within a couple hundred yards of the Farmington Bay Wildlife Management area. www.ksl.com If the state really hopes we will all leave our smoggy cars at home, what are the new freeways for?

These messages are about as murky as the view was throughout most of January. It is time to stop leading with the motto: Do as I say, not as I do.

For the health of Utah families, it is time for lawmakers to embrace a coherent plan, to pass proposed air quality legislation this session and demonstrate to the citizens that they can walk the walk better than they can talk the talk. I really want to do my part — but our leadership is lost in the smog.

Well, my personal contribution is a vanishingly tiny percentage of the overall problem, so I should pollute much more to get my piece of the pie, just like Kennecott. Am I wrong in finding this logic counterproductive and unethical?

Kennecott has generously offered free transit passes to use on "red" air days. kennecott.com That's nice, but by the time the air is "red," even if the entire population rode Utah Transit Authority for the day, we would still be stuck with smog until Mother Nature finally took pity on us. I don't know, how about transit passes on the "green" air days so we avoid getting to "red?"

Finally, although all of us regular citizens are supposed to be leaving our polluting cars at home, the Utah Department of Transportation has just proposed a new freeway called the West Davis Corridor, that runs within a couple hundred yards of the Farmington Bay Wildlife Management area. www.ksl.com If the state really hopes we will all leave our smoggy cars at home, what are the new freeways for?

These messages are about as murky as the view was throughout most of January. It is time to stop leading with the motto: Do as I say, not as I do.

For the health of Utah families, it is time for lawmakers to embrace a coherent plan, to pass proposed air quality legislation this session and demonstrate to the citizens that they can walk the walk better than they can talk the talk. I really want to do my part — but our leadership is lost in the smog.

Ingrid Griffee is a mother of four and a concerned citizen.

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