House Democrats to introduce air quality legislation

Published: Monday, Feb. 11 2013 5:14 p.m. MST

Inversion takes hold again along the Wasatch Front on Monday, Feb. 4, 2013.

Scott G Winterton, Deseret News

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SALT LAKE CITY — The Utah House Democratic Caucus on Monday announced six air quality bills that will be proposed this legislative session.

"We know Utah citizens are demanding that state government find solutions to our air quality problems," Rep. Patrice Arent, D-Millcreek, said during a news conference at the Capitol. "Our hope for mass, voluntary action alone will not bring all the changes we need."

Arent, who proposed a task force to address air quality last year, said Democrats are working harder this year to address the complex issue.

"It's one that requires strategic delivery and approach that is realistic in terms of time, effort and, yes, sometimes sacrifice," she said.

Arent will propose the State Agency Air Quality Litigation Act, which would require all state agencies to develop a specific plan to reduce activities that cause air pollution and report on what they have thus far done to curb that pollution.

The plans will be reported to the Economic Development Task Force this summer, Arent said. Plans include a variety of strategies such as flexible work hours, mass transit passes, purchasing of more fuel-efficient vehicles and increased teleconferencing strategies.

Arent is working with Rep. Joel Briscoe, D-Salt Lake City, on a bill that creates a restrictive fund to provide more operational support for mass transit.

"Heavy cutbacks have occurred because sales tax has fallen due to the recession, and they've had to cut back bus routes," Briscoe said "If there were more bus routes and more of an incentive to use it a couple months of the year, we may see a pick up in ridership."

Briscoe also will sponsor a bill that would offer every Utahn a free UTA transit pass for the months of January and July — the two months of the year when pollution is highest.

"The majority of our pollution comes from our vehicles," he said. "This simple instruction of mass voluntary change is not enough to create compulsion in driving changes that we need."

Everyone in America likes getting something for free, Briscoe said.

"You give (people) a chance to take advantage of a great deal, to make a difference for public health, for economy of the state, and I think they'll take it," he said.

Rep. Rebecca Chavez-Houck, D-Salt Lake City, wants to repeal current restrictions that limit state jurisdiction in imposing regulations more ardent than those imposed by the Environmental Protection Agency and the Clean Air Act.

Chavez-Houck said she hopes the bill will allow Utah to be responsive to the unique challenges of the state's geography and concentration of population, specific to areas beyond Salt Lake County, such as Cache, Wasatch and Uintah counties.

Rep. Lynn Hemingway, D-Salt Lake City, has introduced legislation that would require industry in the valley to use the best available equipment and technology to scrub emissions from the air.

Rep. Marie Poulson will be proposing a bill to provide individual income tax credits to those who purchase certain UTA passes.

E-mail: rlowry@desnews.com

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