Committee approves bill to strengthen air pollution rules

Published: Friday, Feb. 21 2014 6:41 p.m. MST

Thousands attend the Utah "Clean Air, No Excuses" Rally at the Capitol in Salt Lake City on Saturday, Jan. 25, 2014.

Laura Seitz, Deseret News Archives

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SALT LAKE CITY — Utah air quality regulators may be able to implement air pollution rules more stringent than the federal government under a measure that received approval by a legislative committee Friday.

HB121, sponsored by Rep. Rebecca Edwards, R-North Salt Lake, has considerable hurdles to overcome before it becomes a reality, but the measure is a considered a compromise proposal that comes with a string of parameters and conditions.

In the past, conservative lawmakers have balked at the notion of handing over "carte blanche" authority to a state regulatory agency to invoke rules that go beyond what is already perceived as an over-reaching federal government.

But Edwards' bill, which passed the House Natural Resources, Agriculture and Environment Committee, includes requirements that she said will appropriately act as a check against over burdensome regulations.

"I do think this bill is a compromise that everyone is comfortable with," she told committee members.

Edwards said there have been situations where the division has felt it has been boxed in regarding the type of action it can take because of the "no more stringent" law that is on the books in Utah.

Division Director Bryce Bird said federal rules are crafted with East Coast conditions in mind and don't allow flexibility for local conditions — such as the Wasatch Front's persistent temperature inversions that saturate the valleys with unhealthy air.

Local regulators, for example, couldn't invoke "episodic" pollution controls on industry during those inversion periods, but could address those issues under the revision of the law proposed by Edwards.

Any rule that went beyond provisions of the federal Clean Air Act would have to first meet a number of requirements on the local front, Edwards said, including being based on evidence or studies, being subject to public review and meeting a "reasonable" standard deemed necessary to provide additional public health protections.

Email: amyjoi@deseretnews.com, Twitter: amyjoi16

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