UTAH'S DIRTY AIR

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Utah's air is killing people.

Smoke Stacks A study conducted by the Intermountain Medical Center found that fine particulate matter, known as PM 2.5, is very detrimental to health. Heart attacks go up whenever airborne levels of PM 2.5 rise. It comes primarily from combustion. Fireplaces, diesel and car exhaust, and coal–fired power plants are all major sources. Utah's poor air-quality is killing the most susceptible members of our community - those with heart disease, - chronic lung diseases like asthma, emphysema, and chronic obstructive pulmonary disease. High levels of PM 2.5 in the air reduces the number of healthy pregnancy outcomes in women and affects fetal development including an increase in the occurance of autism.

In December last year, the Environmental Protection Agency said Utah was failing to meet federal air-quality standards and the EPA was considering re-designating the state "Serious" for fine particulate matter. PM 2.5. If that were to happen Utah would be the first state ever given that designation.

Read the full Tribune article here

Although diesel cars and trucks are 25 to 35 percent more efficient and emit less carbon dioxide than similar gasoline engines, they can emit 25 to 400 times more mass of particulate black carbon and associated organic matter ("soot") per mile. This is according to Mark Z. Jacobson, associate professor of civil and environmental engineering at Stanford University. Diesel exhaust regulation would certainly seem a reasonable place to begin to clean up PM 2.5 levels in the air. In an article published in the Ogden Standard Examiner, the Weber-Morgan Health Board rejected that proposal. After requesting two separate committees to look at information on diesel truck emissions impact on air quality, and both committees recommending a diesel vehicle testing program, the Board rejected their recommendations outright. Board Chairman, Logan Wilde labeled the data presented by the committees as “terrorism at it’s best.” Terrorism! That is the word he used. While Board member and Pleasant view Mayor, Toby Mileski described regulation itself as a “scarce resource” that shouldn’t be wasted. Apparently these two Board of Health members, one a sheep rancher and the other a Realistate Agent, don't see the health of the community as a resource worth protecting.

Read the full Ogden Standard Examiner article here

There are a number of actions that could be taken but local officials like Wilde and Mileski and the Republican controlled Legislature want to move in the opposite direction. Residential and commercial buildings produce about 40% of the smog along the Wasatch front, but the House Business and Labor Committee voted to water-down building codes to allow a higher level of pollution from new construction than would be otherwise.

Moreover, this Republican Legislative committtee passed this change without allowing anyone speak against it. Read more here.. House Bill 316 also restricts other State agencies, like the Department of Environmental Quality or local governments, from adopting any new rules to reduce air pollution from homes and buildings. It prevents the State from adopting the International Energy Code as written so that homes and buildings in Utah are actually less energy efficient than elsewhere in the country. Recommendations made by Utah Uniform Building Code Commission were ignored. Read what the more here

On the other hand, no restrictions were placed on large industrial operations like Kennecott, US Magnesium, and Nucor Steel which add nearly 13 tons of particulates to the air every day. (This is from data provided by Utah's own Division of Air-Quality.) While some limits on oil refineries were approved they will be more than offset by the increased allowances for mining. Nothing at all has been proposed to reduce emmissions from private vehicles and Logan Wilde is apparently in full agreement with that.

Did the Republican controlled legislature propose anything this year to cleanup the air? Not really, instead it used the issue as an excuse to further cut funding to public shcools. Republican Stephen Handy wants to earmark $20 million from the state's Education Fund for bus upgrades but even that was funded by taking money away from public education.