Op-ed: Rural Utah has air-quality problems, too

By Dick CUmiskey

Published: January 18, 2014 01:01AM
Updated: March 24, 2014 11:34PM
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Dick Cumiskey Courtesy photo

For many of you reading the Tribune and watching local news, you may think you have the unique problem of filthy air all to yourselves. Not so.

We, too, in Sevier County suffer the same inversions that you experience in the big city, and with it comes nearly as much dirty air as you are exposed to.

In one sense you are the canary in the coal mine. The unwanted pollution that you now suffer is a precursor of what we may have to face within a few short years if the state does not take sufficient action to reduce fine particulate pollution.

Some of the pollution in the Sevier Valley is the result of homegrown actions of industry, agriculture and transportation, while most of it is sent south to us when the northerlies come to clean out your valley. We appreciate your willingness to share it with us but we could really get along fine without it.

Rural areas would like to grow just as the urban areas would like to. Are we willing to accept greatly increased pollution just for the sake of growth? I don’t think so. One recent act of thoughtlessness comes from the Utah Division of Air Quality in approving a permit to construct a gas-fired power plant in Sevier Valley that will only benefit out-of-staters.

While someone gets clean electricity, guess who gets the pollution? Please don’t think that generating this pollution south of you will not affect your already unhealthy air. It will. The prevailing winds in Central Utah are from the south. Like it or not, this will only add to the overburdening of your airshed.

While UDAQ is concerned over the content of hair sprays, just ask them to rescind the permit for Sevier Power, and they will save themselves years of agony trying to offset that permitted load to the atmosphere.

Sevier County is as much a part of Utah as the counties along the Wasatch Front. It’s time to focus on what is best for the state as a whole instead of shifting off the urban problems to the more rural areas.

Dick Cumiskey is president of Sevier Citizens for Clean Air and Water.