Scott G Winterton, Deseret News
SALT LAKE CITY — The Wasatch Front's notorious inversions this season continue to get plenty of air time at the Capitol, where Gov. Gary Herbert stressed Tuesday the state is working diligently on multiple fronts to address the problem.
At the same time, top Utah GOP leaders in their lunchtime caucus said they plan to look for "long-term" fixes to inversions, such as loosening restrictions on Utah's HOV lanes to ease congestion.
"We want our constituency to know we also believe in clean air," House Majority Leader Brad Dee, R-Ogden, said.
"I want to have clean air for my children and grandchildren," Dee said, "and I'm not saying our counterparts do not. But the things (Democrats are) proposing right now are very short-term, very quick fixes that don't deal with the major problems with inversion and pollution in our valley."
During the meeting, House Republicans threw out a number of ideas, including the HOV proposal and making it easier for Utahns to drive alternative fuel vehicles.
Dee said the majority of Republicans have yet to back specific legislation, but are looking for long-term solutions aimed at the biggest source of pollutants, vehicles, unlike many of the proposals coming from Democrats in the Legislature.
The somewhat defensive counter move by House Republicans comes a day after top Democrats announced a series of air quality bills that, among other things, would implement free- or reduced-fare days for mass transit when air pollution levels are at their worst.
The Utah Transit Authority has said it would cost about $200,000 a day to eliminate the fees, and while Herbert has said nothing is off the table when it comes to solutions, he emphasized Tuesday no one is sure yet how many cars that option would remove from the roads.
"We met with UTA and UDOT. There are different points of view of the effectiveness of free red-day," the governor said. "UTA has a lot of businesses giving out passes. The concern UTA has, which is still a research question, is: Do we increase ridership, or do we just lose money? If it's not going to change people's behavior, maybe it's not anything but a feel-good thing. But it certainly is one we can continue to explore."
Herbert, who delivered his air quality remarks during a media availability, is coming under increasing pressure by clean air advocates who are demanding the state clamp down on industrial sources of pollution and take more steps to solve the problem.
Activists staged a clean energy/air pollution rally at Herbert's energy in conference in January, the same month Utah Physicians for a Health Environment demanded Herbert declare a public health emergency.
Last week, groups rallied at the Utah Capitol for the issue and are planning a "coff-in" at 3 p.m. Wednesday in the rotunda.
Contributing: Lisa Riley Roche and Mary Mellor
- Feds: Utah companies accused of conducting...
- Utahns urged to shift spending during Small...
- How to avoid scams on Cyber Monday and Giving...
- Black Friday mayhem: A tale of humor and...
- The new Thanksgiving tradition: A quick meal,...
- Small Business Saturday carves out place...
- Salt Lake chef wins round in 'Holiday Baking...
- Mark Zuckerberg is taking two months...
- Feds: Utah companies accused of... 26
- The new Thanksgiving tradition: A quick... 10
- Utah liquor commission going slow on... 4
- 5 Utah E. coli cases linked to Costco... 2
- In time for the holidays, S.L. Comic... 2
- Yahoo's CEO is running out of time to... 1
- Michelle Singletary: Living on campus... 1
- Balancing act: Pause, reflect on... 1