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Op-ed: Legislature made excellent progress on air quality

Published April 18, 2014 5:47 pm

This is an archived article that was published on sltrib.com in 2014, and information in the article may be outdated. It is provided only for personal research purposes and may not be reprinted.

The 2014 Utah legislative session has come to a close, and our winter inversions have cleared for a season. But just as the actions taken on Utah's Capitol Hill live well beyond the session, the issue of air quality also must have a life beyond the inversions. As the business of governing continues, so must the effort for better air.

I chair the Wasatch Front Regional Council's Air Quality Committee, made up of local elected officials and other leaders interested in solutions to Utah's air quality challenges. We understand that clearing our air is a significant and complex issue, and we appreciate the attention it has received across our communities.

As a committee we wish to publicly express our appreciation to the governor and the Legislature for their support of the air quality bills that were proposed, considered and approved during this past session. We have seen expressions of disappointment that some bills failed, and that some passed with less funding than desired, but we think the final outcome was excellent. We make special mention of the Clean Air Caucus and the Economic Development Task Force, both of which have made substantial air quality proposals during the past two years.

While there is no silver bullet to this challenge, the list of air quality accomplishments this session is far reaching:

• Funding for air quality research, reduction of diesel emissions, electric vehicle charging stations and home wood burning retrofits.

• Additional staff for the Utah Division of Air Quality.

• Sales tax reductions on pollution control devices.

• Approval of a State Resource Stewardship Coordinator.

• Creation of CARROT (Clean Air Retrofit, Replacement and Off-road Technology).

• New tax credits for purchasing electric, hybrid and CNG vehicles.

• Prohibition of particular waste incineration near developed areas.

• Rules requiring 50 percent of state vehicles to be low emission.

This is a tremendous beginning — supported by an unprecedented $4,673,700 in funding — aimed at addressing this issue on a number of fronts.

But there is more to do. And so we offer a challenge, both to ourselves as a committee and to all citizens of this state: remain engaged.

As local leaders, we will identify and implement community solutions to this challenge. The governing will continue, moving the business of clean air forward in our communities. But solving this problem will take all Utahns mobilizing for action.

As a citizen who enjoys our unparalleled quality of life, make a personal change for better air. Call you legislator to say thank you for their effort this past session, and to share your thoughts and suggestions for next session. Engage with one of the many clean air organizations dedicated to solving the problem.

In short, give this important issue your attention and effort beyond the inversion season. As your local elected leaders we applaud and stand alongside our state leaders, ready to do our part. We invite you to join us.

JoAnn Seghini is mayor of Midvale.