Associated Press, Deseret News composite photo
FILE - Utah's two senators have introduced legislation to allow the Environmental Protection Agency to work with local governments to lower pollution before they violate the Clean Air Act.

SALT LAKE CITY — Utah's two senators have introduced legislation to allow the Environmental Protection Agency to work with local governments to lower pollution before they violate the Clean Air Act.

Republican Sens. Mike Lee and Mitt Romney say the Early Action Against Ozone Act would let local communities work with the EPA before ozone levels reach unhealthy levels.

"Local governments that want to work with the EPA to lower pollution shouldn’t have to wait till pollution is already a problem in their communities before they are credited for reducing emissions,” Lee said.

Romney said that under current law, the EPA can only work with local governments when ozone levels have become elevated.

"Our bill will authorize the EPA to engage in partnerships with those local communities which are at risk of elevated ozone emissions before those unhealthy levels have been reached," he said.

In 2002, the EPA started the Early Action Compact Program to give communities at risk of violating the EPA’s ozone standards the option of entering into a cooperative agreement with the agency before they actually violated the standards.

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Thirteen of 14 areas that voluntarily entered the program improved air quality and avoided a “non-attainment” designation, according to the senators.

EPA scrapped the program in 2017 due to ligation, which argued that the program was outside EPA’s authority under the Clean Air Act.

The senators said their bill would give clear authorization and direct the EPA to implement a similar program to the so that other areas throughout the country can have the option of taking early action to improve air quality.