Capitol Rally for Air Quality Draws Thousands

(KCPW News) A rally for clean air at the state capitol drew close to 5,000 people on Saturday. KCPW’s Roger McDonough was there to cover the event and filed this report.

[Audio below transcript]

Dr. Brian Moench, Founder of the Utah Physicians for a Healthy Environment and one of the principal organizers of Saturday’s rally, said that the time has come for Utahns and their lawmakers to take air pollution seriously.

“Air pollution tarnishes our community reputation. It erodes our quality of life and stifles our economy as much as it does our lungs. Even more this is a public health urgency, and it’s an urgency for everyone not just for ‘sensitive groups’.”

Moench was one of a number of speakers, who over the course of more than two hours rallied the crowd that had assembled on the capitol’s steps and south lawn, demanding action to address the state’s air pollution problems.

“Lives are crippled and lost from strokes, heart attacks, pneumonia and cancer. The lives of children are the most effected and it is our profound moral obligation to protect those that cannot protect themselves.”

Speakers ranged from Cherise Udell, of the Utah Moms for Clean air, who read from a petition…

“For the sake of our health, well-being, quality of life and economic future we the undersigned demand meaningful and immediate actions.”

…to Democratic Representative Joel Briscoe of Salt Lake, who asked the assembled crowd to help create a mandate for action:

“Will you promise me that you will register to vote, that you will vote in November 2014, and that you will vote for clean air?”

A whitish layer of air pollution blanketed the valley below the protesters and many of those gathered carried signs with phrases like “Greatest Smog on Earth” or “Utah, Life Asphyxiated.”

The event came two days before the start of the legislative session and a recurring theme was a call to citizens for political engagement.

Many a satirical song was sung at the event, including this one, written by fourth graders at Salt Lake’s Whittier Elementary.

[music]

But there were also serious anthems like the earnest “Governor, We Cannot Breathe,” by folk singer Tom Bennett.

[music]

Longtime KSL News anchor Dick Norse spoke at the event, saying that he became especially concerned about air pollution after his recent fight with lung cancer.

“If you can see the air, if you can taste the air, and if it burns when you go outside, chances air the damn air is bad – I don’t care if it’s ‘moderate’ – don’t give me a ‘moderate day,’ don’t give me an ‘unhealthy day,’ just stop. Just stop it.”

The legislative session begins on Monday, and lawmakers are expected consider several bills related to air quality. But whether those proposals are accepted, and whether they meet the standards of those who spoke at Saturday’s rally … only time will tell.

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