SALT LAKE CITY — A Utah County lawmaker is proposing to allow businesses to tap into a state revolving loan fund to upgrade pollution controls to the best available technology, provided the result is new jobs with above-average wages for workers.
Sen. Curt Bramble, R-Provo, is running SB186, which would give businesses financial assistance to upgrade pollution equipment approved by the Utah Department of Environmental Quality or the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency.
Qualifying businesses would have to be located in areas in Utah that currently exceed federal pollution limits set by the EPA, or what's called non-attainment zones.
If there are no similar grants or assistance available, and the company meets the qualifications, money would be available from the already established Industrial Assistance Account via a revolving low-interest loan.
"With the air quality issues that we are facing as a state and the public outcry about it, it is appropriate at this time to use existing funds from the Industrial Assistance Account to help polluters clean up their game," said Sen. Todd Weiler, R-Woods Cross, presenting the bill on Bramble's behalf to the Senate Business and Labor Standing Committee Tuesday.
The bill drew support from Jeff Edwards, president and CEO of the Economic Development Corporation of Utah, who said businesses that would like to expand are precluded from that option given pollution problems in non-attainment areas.
"It really is an economic development bill," he said. "We are looking to grow jobs in non-attainment areas. There is a company already interested in this program in Utah County that is planning a big expansion, but they are constrained" by pollution limits.
Utah air quality regulators are in a constant juggling act that attempts to balance the demand for new business growth against any new additions of pollutants that would contribute to the problem of PM2.5 levels — or fine particulates — in Utah, Salt Lake, Davis, Weber, Tooele, portions of Box Elder and Cache counties.
Those areas are already at their ceiling for pollutants and any new emissions have to be met with a corresponding decrease from another source.
Upgrades to the best available pollution control technology allow some wiggle room by reducing the current pollution inventory.