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New grant money helps combat air pollution

Published: Friday, Aug. 15 2014 6:08 p.m. MDT

Updated: Friday, Aug. 15 2014 6:08 p.m. MDT

SALT LAKE CITY — Andy Yorkin lives just a few blocks from Liberty Park, so he said it made sense to get out to bike and walk for a bit of exercise with his family.

It became more of a passion, however, after he saw how his son's school, the Salt Lake Arts Academy, incorporated transit into students' lives and made tossing the car keys look so easy.

"It inspired us to get out there more and do more biking, more walking," he said.

Yorkin is among the latest group of Salt Lake residents to sign up for the SmartTrips program and receive a bag of goodies that encourage taking mass transit, walking or bicycling to get around.

"It is such a bike-friendly community, it made sense," he said, adding that it doesn't hurt that the area where he lives is mostly flat and peppered with sidewalk cafes and bike-friendly restaurants.

"I think the academy, coupled with the bad air we've been having, was a motivator. I thought I needed to do my part," Yorkin said.

SmartTrips was one of this year's recipients of a grant from the Utah Clean Air Partnership, which has announced that another round of funding is available via applications that must be submitted by Oct. 1.

The program, which also offers business discounts as an incentive to participate, received $29,424, with another $24,252 that was chipped in by Salt Lake City.

Introduced two years ago as a pilot program, SmartTrips has since expanded to other neighborhoods, with a goal of reaching close to 800 people by this fall who will reduce trips by an estimated 729,000 vehicle miles, according to Kate Liljah Lohnes, a program manager in the city's sustainability division.

On Wednesday, Yorkin received his SmartTrips kit, which included materials such as bike routes, maps and tips about safety, in addition to a UTA FarePay card loaded with $5.

UCAIR grants are also available to private companies, government entities, educational institutions and individuals.

The idea behind UCAIR's grants program is to provide money to companies and people who may have ideas and initiatives on how to curtail emissions but lack the resources to carry out those efforts.

In its second year, UCAIR has awarded more than $350,000 in grants to 13 organizations for education, energy, transportation and home retrofit projects to improve air quality.

“UCAIR’s primary focus is educating, encouraging and empowering every Utahn to take meaningful action to improve Utah’s air quality,” said Ted Wilson, UCAIR's executive director.

“We know that investing in the latest energy-efficient technology and educational programs can come at a significant cost. It is our goal through the UCAIR grants program to empower organizations and individuals to take actionable steps to improve Utah’s air quality.”

Organizations selected to receive UCAIR grant funding will be chosen based on the measurable impact the program or project would provide toward reducing emissions at home, in the community and at work.

UCAIR is a statewide clean air partnership created to make it easier for individuals, businesses and communities to make small changes to improve Utah’s air.

In another effort to shave pollutants in Utah, the state Division of Air Quality is seeking projects to award a half-million dollars from its Clean Fuels Grant and Loan program. The division will award grants as well as low-interest loans to help businesses and government entities such as school districts to purchase clean fuel technologies that reduce vehicle emissions.

The program has expanded both from a monetary standpoint — from $250,000 to $500,000 — and to include hybrid-electric vehicles as eligible. Individual award limits have been increased to $200,000, and the "match" requirement has been removed for refueling infrastructure projects.

“The demand for clean fuels and clean vehicles in Utah is a testament to the success of past clean fuel projects funded through this program,” said Amanda Smith, executive director of the Utah Department of Environmental Quality.

Since 2009, the Division of Air Quality has awarded nearly $1.5 million in grants and $466,667 in loans. Projects have included the conversion of cars, trucks and shuttle buses to natural gas; as well as the purchase of natural gas refuse trucks, freight trucks, transit buses, street sweepers, aerial truck towers, glass recycling vehicles and refueling stations.

Grant and loan proposals must be submitted to the division by Oct. 3, with an announcement of awards slated for January. More information is available at www.cleanfuels.utah.gov

Email: amyjoi@deseretnews.com

Twitter: amyjoi16

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