Air Quality Board Approves Plan Amid Criticism

(KCPW News) Last Wednesday, clean air advocates lined up to give Utah’s Division of Air Quality their two cents.

At the DAQ’s monthly board meeting, the board met to vote on a new state implementation plan, or SIP, designed to help the state meet the standards set by the Clean Air Act. Under the plan, emissions are expected to be cut by 4,600 tons by 2019. But the Environmental Protection Agency, as well as critics of the proposed SIP, say the plan is too lenient with industry. Industry emissions may increase by 12 percent overall by 2019, and companies will be exempt from emissions standards during shutdowns, startups, and times when machinery malfunctions.

The DAQ faced a barrage of opposition to the SIP during public comments. Attorney Joro Walker of Utah Physicians for Healthy Environment was critical of the state’s plan to average out industry emissions readings.

“How can emission limits that are averaged over seven days or 365 days show compliance with a 24-hour standard?” she inquired. “That’s like trying to make sure that people slow down in a school zone by averaging their speed over the course of a week or over the course of 365 days. It doesn’t work.”

Chad Mullins, speaking as a private citizen, noted that the SIP rarely goes above and beyond federal clean air standards. He cited the arguments made by Salt Lake City Mayor Ralph Becker at his State of the City address to make his own point.

“Do you all know that we have a state law that says that our air quality standards here in Utah cannot be more strict than federal standards?” Mullins says. “Are we really OK with a standard that represents a passing grade for most other cities and states, but still allows us to fail? Since when are we, as Utahns, content with federal officials in Washington determining what is best for the people of Utah?”

The meeting lasted for over three hours, ending with a six-to-one vote in favor of the proposal. Physician Robert Paine was the lone no-vote.