Attaining clean air must be one of Utah's highest priorities . . . air quality . . . is essential to protect our health and to allow economic growth and development.
- Gov. Norm BangerterAfter two years of arduous and intensive study, Bangerter's Clean Air Commission has come up with more than 140 recommendations to reduce Utah air pollution. While some of the ideas are sure to be controversial, they represent a good-faith effort by community leaders to improve the state's air quality environment.
The 32-member commission, drawn from a wide variety of citizens, not only hammered out the many suggestions but included an action plan and cost information with each proposal. The final product is impressive.
Among the recommendations:
- Set aside High Occupancy Vehicle lanes on freeways in congested areas. Such lanes would be open only to vehicles with several occupants. About 50 miles of such limited-access lanes would cost an estimated $750 million. Build bicycle lanes wherever possible.
- Implement a mass transit light-rail system in Salt Lake County with studies of expanding to Ogden and Provo. Increase the number of buses and variety of routes as a light-rail support system.
- Give 50 percent sales tax rebate on purchase of new vehicles that meet the clean fuel standard and 100 percent rebate on sales tax for conversion to alternative fuels such as natural gas or methane. Mandate conversion to clean fuels for transit buses, school buses and government and private fleets.
- Implement a diesel inspection and maintenance program and develop a procedure for port-of-entry inspection of out-of-state heavy-duty diesel vehicle emissions.
- Consider air-quality issues in all master plans, zoning regulations, building permits and business licenses.
- Consider limiting or prohibiting further construction of downtown parking facilities. Eliminate on-street parking on major arteries, at least during peak hours.
- Prohibit all use of wood-burning stoves and fireplaces during public health advisories. Allow only EPA-approved wood-burning appliances to be sold and installed in Utah. Require that all wood-burning appliances be replaced with approved appliances or removed when a resi-dence is sold.
- Consider agriculture as an industry subject to state air pollution controls. Repeal a state law spelling out many exemptions for agriculture under the Utah Air Conservation Act.
These are just a few of the wide-ranging recommendations drafted by the Clean Air Commission. All deserve serious consideration. They were not pulled out of thin air. Every suggestion was the result of lengthy, sometimes difficult consensus building. As one panel member noted, "There aren't any easy answers to air pollution."
Commission members, mostly laboring in relative obscurity, deserve thanks for their work. Now comes an even harder task as the commission seeks to get the proposals implemented. Given a Legislature that can be indifferent to environmental concerns, it will be an uphill struggle.