Tempest swirls around Utah's dirty air problem

Published: Wednesday, Feb. 6 2013 8:00 p.m. MST

King, and Rep. Patrice Arent, D-Salt Lake, would not disclose specific actions they thought Herbert could take to reduce Utah’s air quality problems, with Arent only saying that a number of air quality bills would be introduced this session.

“People need to contact their legislator,” she said. “We do have a role here.”

Smith remained firm that everyone has a part to play. She passed out statistics from her department that she said shows 57 percent of the air pollution is caused by vehicles, 32 percent comes from area sources such as small businesses, homes and other sources and 11 percent comes from industry.

Shutting down all industry, she said, won’t solve the overall air quality problem.

“We wish it were that easy. It is all of us.”

Matheson said the governor has imposed anti-idling restrictions on state employees, implemented a program calling for transition to clean-fuel fleet vehicles when possible and is moving state buildings toward greater energy efficiency.

“We understand the frustration,” he said. “We are all frustrated. It is about cleaning our air.”

State air quality regulators have adopted 24 new rules in the past several months to curb levels of the finest particles of pollution called PM2.5.  The rules are part of a comprehensive plan to come into compliance with federal air quality standards, but one of the biggest targets — industry — still awaits regulators’ actions.

The Utah Division of Air Quality has brought an independent contractor on board to sift through what controls are plausible and what are necessary to reduce emissions from industry.

That portion of the plan is expected to be finished in May or June and up for public comment.

Dave McNeill, at a state Air Quality Board meeting later in the day, said if people have ideas about how to clear the air of pollutants the division welcomes them.

“We are desperate,” said McNeill, the division’s branch manager. “There is not a big silver bullet. These are small, small BBs that we are shooting at this thing.”

In that same meeting, Utah County resident David Leavitt complained about a new rule that will limit his current use of an outdoor wood-burning furnace. The rule, which will ban any new outdoor wood boilers in any of the non-attainment areas, will put Utah in a singular category of being the only state in the nation with an outright ban, Leavitt said.

“Banning a particular kind of wood burning is not establishing an air standard.”

But McNeill later told board members it is these kind of new rules that will chew away at the air quality problem.

“He said what we were asking him to do is change his lifestyle,” McNeill said.  “We are asking everyone to change their lifestyle. We are asking to get cars off the road. There is no sacred cow here.  We’re going after everybody.”

Although Leavitt asked the board to reconsider adoption of the rule, the board endorsed it.

E-mail: amyjoi@desnews.com

Twitter: amyjoi16

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