With a little prodding from a local non-profit organization, officials have laid aside their differences long enough to form a united front to address Utah Valley's air pollution problems.
The Utah County Committee on Clean Air, whose formation was announced during a press conference Friday afternoon, comprises some people who have been sharply at odds.The Institute of Resource Management, which helped bring together committee members, is a non-profit organization dedicated to fostering cooperation between industrial and environmental interests.
Kerry Romesburg, Utah Valley Community College president, will be chairman of the 21-member committee, which includes county commissioners, members of the Utah County Clean Air Coalition and Geneva Steel President Joe Cannon.
"It's been a period of negotiations, give and take, and working back and forth," County Commissioner Brent Morris said of the committee's organization. But "if we are to be successful in finding effective solutions, we must sit down together and avoid the polarization that has characterized recent exchanges between industry and clean-air advocates."
Cannon said the committee's organization constitutes "a healing process in our community. I think this is a very constructive step. We're very grateful to participate."
In addition to examining existing sources of air pollution, the committee will determine what might in the future become sources of air pollution, said Sam Rushforth of the Utah County Clean Air Coalition. "The effort will address many aspects of the clean-air issue in addition to industry, including areas such as transportation, zoning, alternative fuels and public education.
Commissioner Sid Sandberg said the committee - with representatives from industry, business, agriculture, education, government and environmental groups - will try to develop a "balanced plan that will equitably address and distribute the burdens of air cleanup in Utah County. I think we'll come up with some solid solutions."
Romesburg said clean air is crucial to Utah Valley and local residents must work together to find solutions.
"This is really a communitywide problem, a communitywide concern," he said. "The only way to effectively address it is with a communitywide effort."
Rather than compete with state committees charged with finding pollution solutions, the new committee hopes to develop Utah County recommendations that will be helpful to the other groups.
"We see this as a complement to the governor's Clean Air Commission," Morris said. "We can be a role model for the state of Utah."
Other committee members include Orem Mayor Blaine Willes, Provo Mayor Joe Jenkins, state Rep. Janette C. Hales, R-Provo; and Dan Nelson, Utah Department of Transportation District 6 director.