Utah pollution plan 'incomplete,' but new rules abound

Published: Wednesday, Dec. 5 2012 6:40 p.m. MST

Big industry, the division contends, contributes but one component to the Wasatch Front's dirty air, but stricter limits will come through expensive gadgetry that will have to be installed.

While questions remain about what those industry limits will be for the Salt Lake and Provo areas that exceed federal pollution standards, the Air Quality Board didn't quibble over extending pollution controls to Cache County for the first time, including a much-resisted vehicle inspection and emissions program.

Board member Craig Petersen, who also sits on the Cache County Council, said the state lacks the legal authority to mandate the program when the EPA has yet to weigh in on it.

Residents there are not sold on the benefits, and an alternate program offered by Cache County falls short, according to McNeill.

The two went round and round in a lengthy and somewhat tense discussion on the merits, or the detriments, of having that program extended to Cache County.

Petersen likened it to going after a problem with a meat ax when a surgeon's knife would do.

"If the weather is bad, no matter what we do we will not be in compliance," he said. "Overwhelmingly, this thing is determined by weather conditions, no matter what we do."

The division has insisted Cache County craft an inspection and emissions program that incorporates the tenets of what is already in place in other non-attainment areas of the state and a program that meets with EPA approval.

Under the plan adopted Wednesday, that program needs to be defined by mid-December 2013.

Petersen objected to the state's mandate to come up with acceptable inspections and emissions plan, countering that it should be the work of both the county and the state.

"The right of public choice has value," he said. "I am really troubled by the Division of Air Quality attitude that if we don't like it, it is our responsibility to come up with an alternative."

But board member Darrell Smith pointed out that Cache County residents, absent such a program, may not know their vehicles need fixes to curtail tailpipe emissions, much like general physical exams can detect health problems early on.

"Most of us in the state of Utah would recognize and say that we have an air quality problem. It is all a little bit of our own responsibility to do something about," Smith said. "If we know we have an air quality problem, this is a team effort for the entire state of Utah, regardless of what county we live in. Our vehicles are not what we think they are."

E-mail: amyjoi@desnews.com Twitter: amyjoi16

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