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Daybreak’s mission vs. Kennecott’s emissions

Mining company builds a model smog-busting community, which is gaining fans — and foes.



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"They wanted a demonstration place," Grow said, "where they could put the president of a country on a plane, fly him to Utah and say, ‘When we’re done mining your country, this is what we’ll do with the site when we’re finished.’ "

At a glance

Daybreak: Answers to air pollution?

As part of an occasional series on Utah’s air pollution, The Salt Lake Tribune looks at Daybreak, a mixed-use development in South Jordan, built by Kennecott Utah Copper and its parent company, mining conglomerate Rio Tinto. Begun in 2004, Daybreak uses a master plan based on sustainability and reducing reliance on driving, a key source of air pollution.

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The ‘air’ apparent » In terms of air pollution, the company’s mining operations are a major — and, physicians warn, worrisome — source of health-eroding emissions, especially fine particulate pollution known as PM2.5. The latest tally from the Utah Division of Air Quality in 2011 pinned a total of 10,031 tons of pollution emissions, including breathable particulates, on Kennecott’s three main facilities in Salt Lake County.

The company accounted for nearly half the monitored emissions dumped into the air by the county’s top 127 industrial pollution sources, according to the DAQ list.

Bennett maintains Daybreak does not lessen Kennecott’s sense of accountability to regulators or the public for its heavy footprint on Utah’s airshed, which he said the company works on many fronts to reduce.

"Daybreak is an unusual arm of our business, but it is not designed to detract from those contributions," he said. "We understand and own that we are 5.8 percent of yearly PM2.5 in the valley."

Many remain skeptical about how Daybreak plays into the company’s public-relations strategy.

John Prehn, a retired immunology researcher living in Salt Lake City, sees a contradiction in Kennecott being a major industrial polluter and, at the same time, a proponent of wise land development.

"They sound very responsible, but when you look into the variety of pollutants that come out of their operations, it’s pretty horrendous," said Prehn, who has sought to highlight Kennecott’s emissions of lead and other heavy metals. "This alone makes a housing project downwind of the mine untenable for a civilized society."

Yet a harsh Kennecott critic, who is part of a lawsuit to halt possible growth in its emissions, gives the company credit for Daybreak.


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"We often demonize them, but that doesn’t mean they aren’t doing something valuable," said Brian Moench, a Utah anesthesiologist and president of Utah Physicians for a Healthy Environment. "I’m not going to second-guess their motives, but they’ve deviated from the L.A. model of urban sprawl in a way that is generally beneficial for this community."

Many residents elsewhere in the valley disparage what they see as Daybreak’s fabricated suburban identity, its out-of-the-way locale and its theme-park feel. Some question its planning values, saying its design remains car-centric and may worsen existing problems.

"It’s monstrous," said Kevin Dwyer, a Salt Lake City attorney with expertise in sustainable housing who advocates on behalf of Utah athletes seeking cleaner air.

"Putting a population center a fairly great distance from where they’re working is not a great strategy for reducing air pollution," Dwyer said. "If they keep going the route they’re going, they’re missing a great opportunity."

New urbanism, old sticking points » No Utah community has deployed this kind of sustainable planning on the dimensions of Daybreak. With 3,800 houses built, the development is projected to grow to 20,000 homes by 2030, supported by commercial buildings spanning at least 9 million square feet of retail, office and industrial space.

It is an example of "new urbanism," an early 1980s vision meant to encourage walkability by mixing housing types, recreation hubs and employment centers. Daybreak’s live-play-work master plan emerged from an in-depth blueprint published by Envision Utah in 2000 after public hearings on ways the most populous counties might grow, while keeping a desirable quality of life.

Transit is key. Streets in Daybreak interconnect, instead of hitting dead ends typical in more traditional subdivisions. Homes, yards and parks also connect, undivided by unsightly fencing, making a saunter down the block more appealing. Green spaces are always near.

Neighborhood layouts mesh with mass transit, although many residents wish there were more UTA bus routes. Land managers helped lure the TRAX extension to Daybreak by paying a share of environmental study costs. Westbound trains terminate on specially designed platforms, right next to a sparkling new U. medical center and campus.

Cars stream in and out of Daybreak every day along West Daybreak Parkway despite the two light-rail stops. TRAX ridership is growing but with about 1,000 jobs in Daybreak, hundreds of residents who don’t have home businesses commute by car to work in Sandy, Salt Lake City and other cities.

Daybreak’s commercial district hasn’t reached critical mass, many residents say. The nearest grocery store is a short drive away as are popular restaurants and retailers, located just east across Bangerter Highway in The District complex.

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