Political and business leaders aren't thrilled about the message the Utah County Clean Air Coalition is posting at the entrance to Utah Valley.
The coalition is putting up a billboard along the southbound lanes of I-15 in Lehi that depicts an inversion capping the valley. In the upper right corner of the sign is the word "breathtaking" and a message encouraging people to support clean air.The billboard, which will remain in place at least through next January, will be seen by thousands of motorists - including tourists and potential business developers.
"Why spend money advertising the problem of a few days when the rest of the time we've got beautiful clean air," said Provo Mayor Joe Jenkins.
A Geneva Steel official said the coalition's action is "ironic" coming just days after the Environmental Protection Agency honored the mill and coalition for cooperative efforts in developing the first comprehensive control plan for fine particulate pollution in the nation.
"Our overall sentiment is the debate is over," said James Young, director of corporate communications at Geneva. "Nobody - from the president to the day laborer - at the plant wants dirty air.
"The key is to do things that actually make a difference rather than sitting on the sidelines shouting different plays to the coach," Young said. "We fully intend to do something to make a difference."
Geneva is looking "progressively and aggressively" at a newly developed method of making steel without coke, Young said.
Steve Densley, president of the Provo/Orem Chamber of Commerce, said "I'm not sure we need to tell the whole world about the problem.
"The Clean Air Coalition can do a lot in drawing attention to contributions to air pollution and help all of us focus and do what we can as cities, businesses and individuals," he said. "But I hate to see them detract from the overall beauty of the valley."
Michael Mack, director of the Utah County Travel Council, chooses his words carefully when asked about the billboard; his wife is co-chairwoman of the Clean Air Coalition.
"I don't suppose that (the billboard) is helpful for tourism, but we all want clean air," Mack said. "I suppose I'd want a billboard to showcase the unpolluted beauty of the valley rather than how it might look at its worst."
Mack thinks "inflammatory" approaches to problems don't work well.
"We all need to work together on whatever our projects are, whether its to promote clean air . . . or to promote tourism," he said.