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Seeking leadership

Published February 1, 2012 1:01 am

Herbert should act on air pollution
This is an archived article that was published on sltrib.com in 2012, and information in the article may be outdated. It is provided only for personal research purposes and may not be reprinted.

"Well done is better than well said."

— Benjamin Franklin

Gov. Gary Herbert wants to go on record as being opposed to unhealthy levels of air pollution in Utah. And he plans to ask Utahns to do more individually to help clean up the air.

While we suppose that much is commendable, if unremarkable, we are hopeful there is more — much more — to the governor's plan to attack the worsening air quality that is choking his constituents.

In heralding his Utah Clean Air Partnership initiative, Herbert said the industrial emissions have been reduced "dramatically" in recent years and that vehicle emissions and home energy use are now the worst polluters. That is true, but industry has done what it was required to do by state and federal regulations. And some, including Kennecott and two petroleum refineries, are asking to expand operations, threatening the gains they have made.

Counting on voluntary "partnerships" sounds just a bit like a Pollyanna solution. It's human nature to continue to follow a routine, in this case driving miles to work, keeping thermostats high and putting up with inefficient energy use, rather than make drastic changes.

A case in point: In 2010, when Herbert joined Salt Lake City Mayor Ralph Becker and Salt Lake County Mayor Peter Corroon in urging Utahns to join a Clear the Air Challenge to reduce pollution, the governor was "too busy" to actually make any changes in his schedule or transportation choices. Not the best example of leadership in a cause he now says should be important to everyone else.

Dirty air is a serious problem along the Wasatch Front, in Cache Valley and in the Uintah Basin, and reducing it significantly will require more than a plea from the governor. The American Lung Association ranked the Provo-Salt Lake City-Ogden area this year as the fifth-worst offender in the country for short-term particle pollution. Utahns are dying prematurely from dirty air.

State air quality regulators must come up with a plan to bring the Wasatch Front and Cache County into compliance with new federal air pollution standards on fine particulate pollution, or PM2.5, by the end of this year or face a loss of federal transportation funding. Utah's expected population increase of about 2 percent a year means pollution will increase if the government does not act.

Uintah Basin pollution is among the worst in the nation during winter ozone spikes.

We need action, Governor, not pledges of commitment.