Utah's skies are polluted, perhaps more than most people realize.
Weber, Davis, Salt Lake and Utah counties have repeatedly flunked national air quality standards for carbon monoxide pollution set up the Environmental Protection Agency.Failure to meet federal standards for air quality could eventually bring hefty fines against the state, loss of federal programs and severe limits imposed on any new construction or development.
Such consequences would deal a fatal blow to Utah efforts to lure new business into the state and would cost local jobs as well.
In an effort to avert this potential disaster, Gov. Norm Bangerter has formed a Clean Air Commission and charged the group with designing a "clean air strategy" for the state.
The governor has assigned the commission the responsibility of creating policies to bring Wasatch Front counties into federal compliance and formulating long-term strategies to safeguard air quality.
That's a good step.
But government alone can't protect the air, and two or three large industries aren't the state's only polluters. As the governor pointed out, road dust, diesel and auto emissions, gasoline vapors, other hydrocarbon emissions, wood-burning stoves and both major and minor industry all contribute to the air quality problem.
Such a variety of pollution sources will require a wide variety of solutions. Each citizen is part of the problem and must be part of the answer. Why? Because - aside from the obvious issues of health - clean air helps economic development; dirty air hurts it.
Simply handing down more rules isn't the answer. Clean air strategies must consider public health, legal requirements, economic development, impacts in existing business, and life-style changes.
The governor's commission will have the unenviable task of addressing all these disparate problems and setting goals that extend into the next century. Utahns can make the job easier by adopting a commitment to clean air - one that starts with small personal changes. Utahns can take the bus, use car pools, burn less wood and use stoves designed to protect the environment.
Like the challenge given to the governor's commission, individual Utahns must develop a vision for the future and feel a personal responsibility for making sure clean air is there for the next generation.