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Bill to allow state officials to set air pollution standards stalls in committee

Published: Thursday, March 6 2014 10:29 p.m. MST

Construction progresses on the University of Utah campus as the view of the city is blurred due to an inversion in Salt Lake City on Wednesday, Dec. 11, 2013.  The Wasatch Front routinely battles ugly inversions each winter when stagnant air gets trapped on the valley floor and pollution levels spike to unhealthy levels.
 (Laura Seitz, Deseret News) Construction progresses on the University of Utah campus as the view of the city is blurred due to an inversion in Salt Lake City on Wednesday, Dec. 11, 2013. The Wasatch Front routinely battles ugly inversions each winter when stagnant air gets trapped on the valley floor and pollution levels spike to unhealthy levels. (Laura Seitz, Deseret News)

SALT LAKE CITY — A bill proposing to allow Utah to adopt air quality rules more stringent than the federal government died in committee Thursday on a tie vote.

The split opinion came after a twist in which one lawmaker wanted HB121, sponsored by Rep. Becky Edwards, R-North Salt Lake, to allow those modifications to Utah's regulatory framework only if there were "evidence-based" reasons.

Although the amended language made it into the bill, the proposal then failed to advance.

Edwards touted the measure as a compromise effort that would allow Utah to tailor rules to meet its specific geographic needs in the context of controlling air pollution.

State environmental regulators are prohibited from adopting rules more stringent than the federal government because of a law that has been on the books since the mid-1980s.

Bryce Bird, director of the Utah Division of Air Quality, has said giving regulators more flexibility in the adoption of rules tailored for Utah's needs would be a benefit to curtail harmful pollutants.

"As we look at the federal standards and how they are developed, clearly the federal government designed those to have a level playing field," Bird said. "They do not always do things that benefit us or address our current situation."

Sen. Jim Dabakis , D-Salt Lake City, said Edwards' bill represented a chance for the Utah Legislature to do something meaningful on the air pollution front.

"This is the moment for the Legislature to speak to clean air," Dabakis said. "Everything else was an aside. I think so far we are failing the test."

The bill failed to advance on a 3-3 vote.

Email: amyjoi@deseretnews.com, Twitter: amyjoi16

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