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Kanner: Congressman should work for cleaner air

Published September 11, 2013 1:01 am

This is an archived article that was published on sltrib.com in 2013, and information in the article may be outdated. It is provided only for personal research purposes and may not be reprinted.

Rep. Chris Stewart's attempt to reach out to his constituents with a town hall meeting has come and gone, leaving many of us unsatisfied for a multitude of reasons.

He justifiably complains that it is hard to please such a large district as his with such a diverse population. This emphasizes the terrible price the public pays for gerrymandering, where the dominant political party ensures that its candidates get elected but then cannot do the job they were elected to perform. They often end up representing special interests, as appears to be the case with Stewart.

What Stewart must understand is that the highest priority for Salt Lake residents is to clean the air we breathe. Yes, there are many important issues facing the congressman, such as immigration, the budget deficit, health care, the Syrian crisis, the high cost of a college education, etc.

These, however, take a back seat when the very air we breathe for our existence is contaminated by particulates, volatile organic compounds and ozone. Without our health we have nothing.

The best means we have to clean up our environment is the Environmental Protection Agency. Because the Utah Legislature, in another politically motivated action, decided that the state cannot make regulations stricter than those of the EPA, it becomes the job of the EPA alone to determine what levels of air pollution can be tolerated. The state has abandoned its responsibility.

When Stewart wants to "reform" the EPA, he is hindering attempts to clean up our air. His EPA reform bill as described on his website clearly states that all points of view must be represented on the EPA scientific advisory boards. Doesn't he realize that the advisory boards deal with scientific facts and not special interest viewpoints?

He claims that EPA policy will cost industry $90 billion or more, but where are his facts to back up this claim? Let's see the transparency of the polluters while he criticizes the transparency of the EPA. He forgets that polluters are dumping their garbage into our atmosphere.

It is illegal for us to dump our trash or urinate on our neighbor's property, but Stewart seems to think that polluters can do the equivalent to our environment.

Stewart wants to evaluate the science behind the decisions of the EPA. Is he qualified to question it? It already has been carefully studied by a committee established by the Health Effects Institute, a public-private consortium.

This committee, chaired by a very distinguished epidemiologist, Dr. Jon Samet, carefully evaluated the methodology, the data, the analyses and the conclusions of the studies that seem to trouble Stewart. The committee's conclusions were that these were very sound scientific studies with sound conclusions.

Stewart should stop trying to "reform" (spell that politicize) the EPA. It ain't broke and doesn't need fixing.

What Stewart should be doing is taking the lead in cleaning up the air along the Wasatch Front. He should be meeting with the other three Utah representatives, as each of them has Wasatch Front constituents. We also need our two senators to get involved. They should work together to improve the air quality that is so averse to our health as well as to the health of "clean" businesses that wish to attract top talent to our state.

Stewart needs to be a true representative and represent his Salt Lake constituents.

We want clean air, Mr. Stewart. Hear our pleas.

Richard E. Kanner is a pulmonary physician, professor at the University of Utah School of Medicine, former member of the Utah Air Quality Board of the Department of Environmental Quality (1988-97; chairman 1995-97) and a member of Utah Physicians for a Healthy Environment.