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Jacob Wiegand, Deseret News
Lane Beattie, president and CEO of the Salt Lake Chamber, speaks at a press conference about the annual Clear the Air Challenge at the Capitol in Salt Lake City on Monday, Jan. 29, 2018. This is the ninth year for the competition and the first year it will be held in February.

SALT LAKE CITY — The Salt Lake Chamber kicked off its ninth annual Clear the Air Challenge on Monday.

"We're very excited about the announcement, because … it is taking place in February," said Lane Beattie, president and CEO of the Salt Lake Chamber.

In the past, the challenge took place during the summer. In February, "our air quality is visibly at its worse," the chamber said in a news release.

"The challenge is … a monthlong competition that is designed to encourage Utahns, who go to work … and take kids to school every day to reduce their vehicle emissions by choosing alternative(s) (to) driving," Beattie said.

"We know transportation emissions are very, very critical to the airshed that we have. Over 50 percent of the issues that we have come out of the tailpipe of a car. We really do believe that by reducing the vehicles on the road and the vehicle miles can make a significant difference," he said.

"There's no greater health threat to our community than our air quality," Beattie said.

Cleaning Utah's air, he said, is an economic issue.

"We want to make sure that people want to live here," Beattie said. "Small and incremental changes can and do make a difference."

Scott Williams, executive director of HEAL Utah, said "Salt Lake has had 164 mandatory air action days, or an average about 30 days every year," over the past five years.

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"… Half of our toxic emission in the air comes from our cars. So for those 30 days every year, we each need to have a plan B alternative to driving alone," Williams said.

"The Clear the Air Challenge is a way to practice our personal plan B and hopefully eventually make it our plan A, and reduce the the output of toxins … that our cars emit by working from home, taking public transportation, carpooling, combining our errands into fewer trips, or using our foot power to walk or take our bike," he said.

Utah residents can visit cleartheairchallenge.org to register for the challenge. The website tracks the miles saved by all participants.