Air quality, again, a major issue for Utah lawmakers

SALT LAKE CITY – Utah’s air-quality challenges are among the issues state lawmakers will consider during this year’s legislative session, which started Monday.

Representative Patrice Arent (D-Millcreek) is the co-chair and founder of the bipartisan Clean Air Caucus, which is focused on passing legislation that addresses air pollution. She says this session picks up where the last one left off.

“It certainly was the case that we passed more legislation last year, and did more in terms of appropriations than we had in my prior 13 sessions combined,” she says. “But we need to continue that work. There’s still a lot more to do.”

Arent recalls lawmakers approved $4.7 million in funding for a dozen measures aimed at improving air quality during the 2014 legislative session. Those measures included 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 adds that clean-air bills often get bipartisan support because it’s broadly understood poor air quality can hurt the state’s economy.

“When people come to town and they see a horrible inversion, it doesn’t leave a great impression,” she says. “And when they come in and say, ‘Hey, is this a place I want to locate my business? Is this a place I want to recommend to vacation?’ It’s difficult when we have bad air.”

Arent says bills to be considered this year would add funding for mass-transit programs, create tax credits for energy-efficient vehicles, and provide more money for clean-air programs.

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