SALT LAKE CITY — Anyone bothered by the Wasatch Front's dirty air and ugly winter inversions may want to weigh in on a pollution plan Utah regulators believe will get the state in compliance with federal clean air standards.
The Utah Division of Air Quality has released its State Implementation Plan for PM2.5, or fine particulate pollution, which is what drives the Wasatch Front air to be among the dirtiest in the nation during the winter months.
"We think it is a good plan," said Bryce Bird, division director. "It's not perfect."
For the first time, Cache County is being required to put into place a vehicle inspection and emissions program, a whole host of businesses will face new emission regulations, and the state's five refineries in Salt Lake and Davis counties will have to upgrade to the best technology that is available.
"We think we have come up with a plan that is reasonable and gets us to attainment," Bird said.
Close to two dozen new regulations have been approved by the Utah Air Quality Board aimed at curbing emissions from a variety of sources that include homes, small businesses, printing plants and auto body shops.
Any product that emits a fume and contains volatile organic compounds, or VOCs — such as hairspray, varnishes, oven cleaning chemicals and brass polishes — will be required to have a lower VOC content when it hits the shelves in Utah, as is mandated in California and 15 Eastern states.
The division also banned the installation of any new wood boilers, or outdoor wood furnaces, along the Wasatch Front and put emission control requirements on fast-food restaurants that use chain-driven broilers to cook burgers.
Under part of the plan that remains under consideration, refineries will no longer be able to "flare" off gas but will have to install equipment to recover those emissions.
That will cost between $10,000 and $85,000, according to numbers submitted to the Division of Air Quality. One of the refineries, to control the release of its nitrogen oxides produced during combustion, will need to implement changes by 2019 that are estimated to cost $153,000 per ton of emissions. The change, however, will eliminate 106 tons of emissions per year from that refinery.
Cherise Udell, founder of Utah Moms for Clean Air, said the group lobbied for the new technology on refineries and is pleased regulators listened.
"Public pressure continues to mount on Utah's elected officials to take a stronger stance on air pollution," she said. "That public pressure, combined with oversight from the EPA, is moving Utah in the right direction, but not fast enough."
Other changes to industry under the latest component of the plan propose to tackle Kennecott Utah Copper, the largest industrial source of pollutants in Salt Lake County. The mining company will need to upgrade one of its boilers to cut a form of pollutants at a cost of about $8,000 per ton and move its haul trucks to cleaner burning engines by 2019. The truck change will cost between $50,000 and $70,000 a ton and remove a little more than 64 tons of that pollutant.
Throughout the rule-crafting process, Bird said the changes to bring the Wasatch Front under federal pollution limits by 2019 has not been easy, or without opposition from industry, businesses, hairstylists, auto body shop owners and residents.
"This has been a very difficult goal to meet," he said, "but the controls that were selected were those that were necessary to improve the air quality in our area."
Terry Mascaro, with the Utah Clean Air Alliance, said the plan does not go far enough.
"It is so obvious to us on the ground when we look at this," Mascaro said. "Government in Utah favors industry, and they should have had them step up to do the best control technology regardless of the cost."
Bird said the plan gets the state into compliance with the federal threshold by imposing more stringent requirements that "reasonably" can be met by most businesses.
"The reasonable piece needs to be something that is implementable," he said. "If it becomes too cost-prohibitive, people won't do it."
But Mascaro said the division should not allow businesses or industry to decide what is reasonable when clean air and public health is at issue.
The plan has been the most pressing priority since 2009, when the Wasatch Front and portions of Cache, Box Elder and Tooele counties were declared out of compliance with the pollution threshold set by the Environmental Protection Agency under the Clean Air Act.
Bird admits the plan does not mean the Wasatch Front won't suffer from inversions once 2019 rolls around, but he insists the air will be cleaner and public health will be protected.
"I feel good about it," he said.
The division is accepting public comment on its plan through Oct. 30. It is hosting three informational open houses and meetings where it will accept comment from residents who want to attend the events in Utah, Salt Lake and Weber counties.5 comments on this story
Those meetings are 10 a.m. Tuesday at the Weber-Morgan Health Department, 477 E. 23rd St., Ogden; 9 a.m. Wednesday at the Utah County Commission Chambers, 100 E. Center St., Provo; and 10 a.m. Tuesday, Oct. 15, at the Utah Department of Environmental Quality's boardroom, 195 N. 1950 West.
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