SALT LAKE CITY — That older snowplow rumbling down the interstate to keep the roads clear is helping safeguard motorists from the weather, but it is also spewing harmful pollutants.
One snowplow in the Utah Department of Transportation's fleet that is older than model year 2007 puts enough pollution in the air to equal 69 cars, according to state officials.
Rep. Steve Handy, R-Layton, is hoping his colleagues are willing to spend $26.5 million in one-time money to replace 238 vehicles in the state fleet, including 105 snowplows, in nonattainment areas for federal clean air standards.
The others are light duty vehicles such as half-ton trucks.
The lawmaker made his pitch earlier this week to members of the intergovernmental appropriations subcommittee.
"There is a lot of negotiating going on," he said, adding that the numbers behind the request are doing a lot of the talking.
The state estimates that replacing the vehicles would reduce 3,168 tons of emissions over the vehicles' expected life at a cost of $8,366 per ton — a bargain in the world of pollution cost strategies.
Handy, vice chairman of the Clean Air Caucus, worked with Alan Matheson, executive director of the Utah Department of Environmental Quality, and Marilee Richins, deputy director of the Utah Department of Administrative Services, to determine which vehicles need to be replaced.
Richins said the pre-2007 model vehicles in Utah's nonattainment areas for clean air standards represent less than 5 percent of the fleet, but contribute signficantly to area emissions.
"UDOT already had a plan to replace them, but without this money, it would take 10 years. This way, we would see an immediate impact," Richins said.
The state, too, normally offers its older trucks and other vehicles at a public auction for surplus items.
"These are great teenager cars," she said.
Richins, however, said it would make little sense for the state to shed itself of the polluting vehicles only to offer them to the public to drive.
Some of them will be permanently disabled.
"They are 15 years or older and on their last legs," she said.
Richins is hopeful that if the funding comes through, the state of Utah will be more effective at nudging other fleet managers to take similar pollution cutting steps.
"With these state projects we want to walk the walk and set an example," she said. "It is much easier to reach out to the private business sector and say 'Do as we do' instead of ‘Do as we say.'"
Another funding request up for consideration is one promoted by Rep. Patrice Arent, D-Millcreek, for $6 million in a state teleworking initiative.
The bulk of the money would be used for repurposing state office buildings for more shared workspace and provide voice-over-internet protocol retrofits to enable more teleworking.
The teleworking tried thus far by state employees has been extremely effective, said Lt. Gov. Spencer Cox, testifying before the committee in support of the effort.
Cox said 134 workers teleworked the last four months at least three days a week, or even full time.
"This is keeping cars off the road, which is a big deal," he said.
He added that five of those workers hail from rural Utah, which is important to him, and among all workers, productivity rose by nearly 23 percent.4 comments on this story
The telework pilot program will roll out for employees in the Cannon building in its next phase, with Cox adding that the repurposing of work space will help extend the life of many state office buildings, some of which are approaching that "end of life" phase.
Lawmakers also heard a request to fund 468 electric vehicle charging stations at state office buildings for both employees and the public, as well as a $1.6 million request for Tier 4 backup generators at the new prison, rather than using Tier 2 generators.
That upgrade of generators would reduce lifetime emissions by 161 tons.