(KCPW News) At a press conference on Wednesday, a bipartisan team of Utah legislators were looking to put air quality on the agenda for the upcoming legislative session. The group, dubbed the Clean Air Caucus, unveiled new bills aimed at tackling the inversion problem plaguing much of northern Utah.
Representative Patrice Arent is a co-chair of the Clean Air Caucus. Standing in front of a panoramic view of the inversion, she cited the consequences of air pollution in Utah.
“That means children stay inside for recess. It means the elderly stay inside their homes. It means people with asthma and respiratory or heart diseases also struggle,” Arent said. “And sadly, this is happening during one of the busiest tourist weeks of the year.”
“Our state is beautiful. But too many of our visitors to Sundance and outdoor retailers are not seeing the best of what Utah has to offer,” she said.
Arent is the sponsor of a couple new bills, including House Bill 38, a bill that would require the governor to appoint a sustainability director to the Governor’s Office of Management and Budget. Arent said the time for the state to act on the air pollution problem in Utah has come.
“The Clean Air Caucus has worked to better understand the causes and the impact of poor air quality, and the education study will continue. But now, now is the time for the Utah legislature to take meaningful action to improve our air quality,” Arent said.
The caucus also plans legislation to curb automobile emissions, which is one of the main contributors to Utah’s air pollution. House Bill 61 would promote the use of electric and hybrid-electric cars under the Clean Fuels and Vehicle Technology Program.
Representative V. Lowry Snow described the rationale behind the bill:
“As we look around at the air that we’re seeing today and in days sometimes worse than this, we’ve learned in our caucus that about fifty percent of the particulate matter—the smog—is related to vehicle use. And so I wanted to work on something that goes right to the issue,” said Snow.
With momentum seeming to build in favor of more proactive legislation this year, members of the caucus were enthusiastic about getting something done. As Representative Jack Draxler says, there is a popular mandate on this issue.
“I think public awareness is there when it comes to understanding we have a problem,” Draxler said. “And we know that we can’t control the geography that we live in. We can’t control the high and low pressure systems that come into our state. But we can control what we pump into that air when we have these inversions.”
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