The Utah Physicians for a Healthy Environment has launched a campaign that every Utah resident should be able to endorse: "Clean Air, Clean Energy, Clean Future."
The relationship between the three is obvious. Meanwhile, the Utah Division of Air Quality recently announced that the state implementation plan, their strategy to reduce our severe winter particulate pollution, won't do anywhere near enough.
Then, DAQ announced that virtually the entire state has a serious problem with elevated ozone pollution. Because neither the status quo nor DAQ's plan has a chance of bringing us "clean air," now what do we do? Let's start with some honesty.
Through multiple spokespersons, the governor's office and DAQ have made statements like, "Industry has done what it can to clean up," "We've done almost everything we can do, and we need more a lot more," "The easy pollution cuts from industrial smokestacks were made a long time ago, now everyone else must pitch in."
In desperation, DAQ is now down to micromanaging such things as personal use of hair spray and pleading with us not to drive our cars. I don't have enough hair to spray, so I'm good with those sacrifices. But I'm not OK with them trying to make you believe that the big industrial polluters have done everything they can.
While DAQ tells the public they need to do much more, fine print in the implementation plan authorizes an increase from industrial sources for the next six years. Specifically, the new expansion permits for industry allow them to emit more total pollution, even if it is less pollution per unit of product.
Moreover, flares, breakdowns, fugitive emissions and more diesel pollution from more trucks delivering more crude oil to expanded refineries are ignored in official statistics. Environmental Protection Agency documents and the Associated Press indicate just the uncounted, fugitive refinery emissions likely dwarf "official" pollution releases.
In Kennecott's case, it continues to apply for and receive more state permits to increase pollution, most recently from a new stone crusher plant. Recall, that EPA ranks Salt Lake County the second most toxic county in the nation, and Forbes magazine ranked Salt Lake City as the nation's ninth most toxic city, primarily because of heavy metals in Kennecott's pollution.
This means you and your family will be inhaling more pollution from Kennecott, Tesoro and Holly Oil, all while DAQ claims it has done everything it can. What's wrong with this picture?
The EPA might have an answer. It submitted detailed comments to DAQ, echoing those from UPHE, that the expansion permit for Holly was illegal. In an anxious attempt to salvage the expansion, Holly just announced it has found more ways to reduce pollution, beyond what DAQ had asked for.
In the EPA's 115-page critique of Utah's plan, virtually every major industrial source is exposed as being capable of doing more, in some cases much more, than DAQ has asked.
The EPA points out that several of the major polluting businesses were allowed to do their own "RACT" (reasonably available control technology) analysis. In other words, DAQ let the big pollutors essentially decide for themselves how much technology they should install to control their pollution.
The state has wide latitude to mandate more industrial pollution controls, but it chooses not to do so.
The Clean Air Act requires large pollution sources to have a "Title V operating permit," which should be issued by DAQ. A Title V requires better monitoring, allows public review of compliance data, recordkeeping and reporting and operational restrictions.
Title V permits make it less likely that facilities can pollute illegally, and more likely they would be caught if they did. Most American refineries have Title V permits. But in Utah, none of them do.
Failure to establish these permits is an indefensible coddling of industry.
Many of us are willing to sacrifice hair spray and reduce our driving. But the hard sell from the state, that Kennecott, Tesoro and Holly have already done their part, is pure fiction. UPHE is legally challenging their multiple expansion permits, because the state's priority seems to be protecting company profits, not your family's health.
Brian Moench is president of Utah Physicians for a Healthy Environment and a member of the health and radiation committee of the Physicians for Social Responsibility.