SALT LAKE CITY – Utah lawmakers approved a record number of bills and appropriation requests in an effort to tackle the state’s air pollution issues during this year’s legislative session, according to the co-chair of the bipartisan Clean Air Caucus.
In the process, said Rep. Patrice Arent, D-Millcreek, lawmakers approved $4.7 million in funding for a dozen measures aimed at improving air quality.
“We’ll be looking at other ways to try and solve our air quality problems,” she said. “Frankly, there’s not one silver bullet, so we have to look at a variety of things, including getting more people out of their vehicles and onto mass transit.”
The bills approved include tax incentives for buying electric vehicles and a voluntary program for homeowners to convert wood-burning stoves to cleaner fuels such as natural gas. Arent said a single wood-burning stove emits pollution that equals about 200 natural gas-powered homes.
Bills that didn’t pass, including an effort to convert the state’s so-called “dirty diesel” school buses to engines that run cleaner fuels, failed, Arent said, in large part because of funding issues, not politics. She said lawmakers on both sides of the aisle appear to be committed to improving Utah’s air quality.
“I think the bipartisan work is here to stay,” she said. “I think we have a good coalition. There’s some really wonderful legislators working on these issues together, and I love that. I love the fact that we’re all breathing the same air and we’re all working on this together.”
Arent said the Clean Air Caucus will work throughout the year to prepare more air-quality initiatives for the 2015 Legislature to consider.