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Scott G Winterton, Deseret News
FILE — Salt Lake City Mayor Jackie Biskupski, along with staff from the City’s Division of Housing and Neighborhood Development, Redevelopment Agency/Department of Economic Development announce a plan to build lower income housing on the same block as the public safety building in Salt Lake City during a press conference at the Public Safety building on Monday, Jan. 9, 2017.

SALT LAKE CITY — In efforts to pursue cost-effective measures to reduce air pollution, Mayor Jackie Biskupski wants the City Council to consider an energy benchmarking and tune-up ordinance for large commercial buildings.

The proposed ordinance would eliminate more than 98 tons of criteria pollutants from Salt Lake City's air each year, city officials said, by phasing new requirements for buildings over 25,000 square feet to benchmark their energy usage annually using the EPA's energy manager software and energy tune-ups for low-performing buildings.

"This is a market-based approach," Biskupski said in a prepared statement. "It's very similar to a fuel economy rating on cars. Creating transparency around the buildings' energy performance enables tenants, as well as building owners and managers, to prioritize efficiency and promotes the more efficient buildings across the city."

Benchmarking, city officials said, would allow building owners and managers to identify if their buildings are good candidates for efficiency improvements to reduce energy waste and pollution. The EPA's energy manager software also gives buildings an energy score from 1 to 100, with anything over 75 considered to be high-performing. Buildings would then report their score to Salt Lake City.

Buildings with lower scores that are also eligible for utility-sponsored energy efficiency incentives would then be required to tune up their energy systems under the ordinance — such as scheduling lights to turn off when people leave the building.

The ordinance would not require more costly upgrades or replacement of building energy systems, allowing owners to voluntarily choose to invest in energy efficiency, city officials said.

Cities including Denver, Atlanta and Kansas have adopted similar ordinances.

“Curbing pollution from area sources is one of the most tangible ways Salt Lake City can clean up our air,” Biskupski said. “Our homes and buildings will soon outpace even the transportation sector to become our largest sources of pollution over the coming years. This ordinance is a common sense measure to begin addressing those emissions.”

Area sources contribute 39 percent of air pollution in the Salt Lake Valley on any given winter day, according to the Department of Environmental Quality, and commercial buildings make up about 10 percent of that by emitting six tons per day of nitrogen oxide.

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City officials said analysis from Salt Lake City’s Department of Sustainability and the nonprofit City Energy Project show that a benchmarking and tune-up ordinance would reduce nitrogen oxide emissions by at least 98 tons per year

City officials have involved diverse stakeholders on the proposed ordinance for over a year. Two additional stakeholder meetings have been scheduled for Jan. 24 and Feb. 1.

The City Council was briefed on the ordinance Tuesday and is expected to revisit it in coming months.