SALT LAKE CITY — A bill was reintroduced Wednesday that would give the Utah Division of Air Quality more flexibility in forming strategies to achieve standards set by the Environmental Protection Agency.
HB121 was introduced during the 2014 Legislature and approved by the Senate, but stalled in the House.
Bill sponsor Rep. Becky Edwards, R-North Salt Lake, says the legislation would allow the state to manage air quality in ways tailored to local circumstances.
"Utah's unique topography and geography and weather conditions create circumstances that are unique and really require some flexibility (and) innovation as we create Utah solutions to meet (EPA) standards," Edwards told the Legislature's Natural Resources, Agriculture and Environment Interim Committee.
"We're not talking about creating standards that are more difficult. We are understanding in the fact that we have difficulty in even achieving the standards that are there right now by the EPA," Edwards said.
Sen. Scott Jenkins, R-Plain City, recalled the concerns that kept the bill from passing earlier this year.
"Industry doesn't support it because they worry about the state of Utah putting standards on (them) that are tougher than the (EPA's)," Jenkins said, "and we worry about those who come after us and the fact that maybe they will get tougher yet."
But standards are not to be confused with rules, which the bill defines as strategies, Edwards said.
"This is not increasing regulation," she said. "It's flexibility. It is innovation. It's about unique solutions."
Edwards cited examples of where the bill would be necessary, such as pollution source monitoring programs that go beyond what the EPA allows and permitting the state to consider episodic winter inversions in developing its implementation plan.
The committee plans to vote on the bill next month.
The committee also discussed new emission standards from the EPA, which are expected to be proposed in December. The standards would mean a 27 percent reduction from current emissions at Utah's power generation facilities, according to Bryce Bird, Utah Division of Air Quality director.
The standards would likely be implemented in October 2015.
Bird identified key priorities for the Legislature in 2015, including ongoing research and monitoring, updating energy-efficient building codes, and lowering diesel emissions.
But the state has made notable progress, he said. Since 2008, pollution from on-the-road sources has decreased by 9 percent, and more funds are being allocated for local research, state air quality officials said.
"This really continues the trend of emissions improvements statewide. For all categories and all sources, we're seeing this trend continue," Bird said. "We're seeing the economy grow. We're accommodating more people, but because we're able to apply better technology, the economy's growing but at a lower emission rate."