Utah lawmakers considering dozens of air-quality bills

Utah legislators, now in session, are considering a reported 27 bills related to air quality issues. Photo credit: U-S Department of Transportation.

SALT LAKE CITY – Utah legislators are considering more than two dozen bills in the current session that could help reduce the state’s serious air-quality issues. Rep. Patrice Arent (D-Millcreek) co-chairs the House Clean Air Caucus, which is made up of Democrats and Republicans. She said legislators are considering at least 27 bills that are targeted at reducing air pollution and added that it seems to be the issue most pressing with citizens.

“During my time in the legislature, the number one issue has always been education,” Arent said. “But I’m getting so many more emails this year about air quality than education, it’s not even close, and that is really unusual. Nothing has ever surpassed education.”

Arent said one of the bills under consideration would provide $20 million to replace or remove school buses with old diesel engines. Salt Lake City’s air quality was so bad at some points this year that it ranked among the nation’s most polluted cities.

The bills being considered encourage increased use of public transit and making it easier to drive clean vehicles, she said, and another bill would offer a subsidy to homeowners with wood-burning stoves to convert to a cleaner heating source. The stoves are a major contributor to Utah’s air pollution, she explained.

“They’re very polluting. Any one home that heats with a sole source of wood has the amount of pollutants going out of it like 200 homes heated with natural gas,” Arent said.

Utah’s growing reputation for having poor air quality is hurting tourism statewide, she warned, even though many parts of the state have very clean air. The number of clean-air bills under consideration is greater in number than all similar bills from the past several legislative sessions combined.

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