Scott G Winterton, Deseret News
With a growing base of research regarding the health impacts of air pollution, winter inversions are no longer a mere inconvenience, but rather a real health concern for many Utahns. Poor air quality is rising to the top of the list as a major consideration for businesses and individuals deliberating whether or not to locate or expand operations in the state. The time has come to take decisive action to address the air quality problem in Utah.
Utahns are growing increasingly aware of the fact that our collective individual actions contribute to air quality problems. Clear evidence of this can be found in recent polls demonstrating that the vast majority of citizens are ready to “do their part” in improving the air. I am confident Utahns are ready and willing to step up to meet this challenge.
In response to this willingness to take action, I’ve partnered with a variety of stakeholders to introduce legislation, SB243, which will provide all Utahns with an easy, voluntary and effective way to become part of the solution. SB243 creates a stable, ongoing revenue stream to help address Utah’s air quality challenges by allowing Utah citizens to contribute to air quality solutions through their monthly utility bills.
SB243 provides that a simple $1 opt-out contribution appear on the monthly bills of each utility customer as a separate line item on their utility bill. SB243 is patterned after existing programs that allow for direct citizen contributions through our utility payments. Assuming a high participation rate, this voluntary contribution could generate upwards of $15 million to $18 million per year to fund air quality improvements in Utah.
The funds generated under SB243 will be directed to multiple public and private entities to tackle air quality through the deployment of innovative technologies, practices and behaviors. Fund recipients will be required to provide an annual report to the Legislature and the governor on how the funds were expended. In addition, the legislation includes a sunset provision that requires the program be revisited in five years.
I do not believe all citizens should be forced to participate in this initiative. That’s why the legislation will allow any customer the opportunity to decline to contribute. At the same time, with a large base of households choosing to contribute $1 on their utility bills, this program has the potential to help fund air quality solutions in a substantial way.
There is no silver bullet for solving the air quality challenges in Utah. Because of Utah’s unique geography, which creates winter inversions, we must work together to engineer our way out of this worsening problem. This year there are many legislative efforts underway to address air quality. This bill complements these other initiatives by providing an important revenue source to help Utah citizens take action to clean our air.
J. Stuart Adams is a Republican state senator representing District 22 of Utah. He currently serves as the majority whip.
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