SALT LAKE CITY — Two critical funding requests to cut pollution and improve air quality monitoring received zero dollars from Utah lawmakers in one instance and was cut by more than half in the other.
There is still a little more than two weeks left in the 2016 Utah Legislature, so there is a chance funding might be restored to the Clean Air Retrofit, Replacement and Off-Road Technology Program, or CARROT, and the Division of Air Quality may receive more money to replace an aging fleet of monitors.
Both efforts did not make the cut in a list of spending recommendations made by the Natural Resources, Agriculture and Environment Appropriations Subcommittee on Wednesday, but the co-chairwoman of the Legislature's Clean Air Caucus said the fight isn't over.
"There are many of us working to get funding put into that program," said Rep. Patrice Arent, D-Milcreek, referencing CARROT. "It has been used to take some of the most polluting equipment out of use in our state."
Arent sponsored the original bill establishing the program, which was enacted in the 2014 legislative session to provide incentives to reduce emissions from vehicles, equipment or small engines.
In its first year, it had $200,000 in one-time money, followed by a 2015 appropriation of $700,000. This year's request in the governor's budget was for $500,000.
The subcommittee had requests for $50 million and trimmed it to a little more than $15 million, with leaders saying they had to prioritize based on needs.
Arent said the popular and effective program should not be eliminated, citing its use by residents, school districts and small businesses.
In 2015, the program awarded a grant to Logan to retrofit 19 city vehicles to reduce emissions from diesel engines. The $40,000 in spending will ultimately reduce a little more than 10 tons of emissions during the lifetime of the vehicles.
That same year, $300,000 went to eight school districts to help replace old diesel school buses, saving 89 tons of emissions. Multiple other small businesses or government entities have received grants to replace polluting equipment.
One of the more popular programs with the public was the debut of the lawnmower exchange or replacement initiative with the Division of Air Quality last spring.
Authorities estimate emissions from one gasoline-powered lawnmower are equivalent to 4,235 vehicle miles traveled. The division offered to replace gas-powered lawnmowers with electric lawnmowers or sell them at a discount.
The event provided 388 lawnmowers at a discounted price ($175 compared with $399) and for those who scrapped their gas mowers on site, the price was $100.
Agency officials estimate the lawnmower program reduced emissions equal to 120 vehicles being removed from the road.
Another $2.2 million in new funding was identified in part to replace 46 percent of the division's 196 air monitoring instruments that have exceeded the recommended "shelf" life of five years, some by more than 10 years.
Some of the monitors have failed completely, with one in Davis County down for four months last summer into fall. In Logan, during last week's inversion, another monitor failed.
Bryce Bird, Division of Air Quality director, said crews were unable to get that monitor working, so they had to pull one from another location.
The division also has to go through a purchasing process to acquire new monitors, which takes time, leaving real-time monitoring of pollutants in jeopardy if the equipment can't be repaired.
The appropriations subcommittee settled on $1 million in new one-time money for the division's air monitoring program. The division identified $850,000 of that to be used for new monitoring planned for Iron County because it has met the population threshold and to establish "near road" monitoring under a new requirement by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency.
The remaining $160,000 will be used to take care of critical monitor replacements, according to the division.
Arent said she and others will also work to get more money to replace monitoring equipment.
"Monitors are the foundation of our air quality program," she said. "It is the way we monitor impacts to public health and establish compliance."
The governor's office had also recommended $250,000 in one-time money for continued air quality research in the Uinta Basin, but that was pared to $100,000.