This year’s Legislative Session started like past session—with numerous inversions that came with calls for immediate action to our elected officials. The inversions however, were followed with blue skies and, unfortunately, a lessened sense of urgency from the public. To our benefit this year, better air outside did not lead to inaction inside the Capitol.
We cannot legislate our way to clean air, but the Legislature does play a role. Businesses, citizens and government share the air we breathe, and therefore share the responsibility for improving it. Utahns should recognize our legislators and governor for engaging and making progress on many clean air fronts.
A record number of proposals were heard on Capitol Hill and more than $4.6 million was allocated to various clean air initiatives.
The bills that passed facilitate private sector solutions, invest in education and research, and incentivize personal responsibility. All of which will move us forward toward cleaner air.
Clean air makes good business sense. Without action, our economy and our quality of life will not reach its full potential.
The Legislature recognizes this and made some good initial steps toward supporting air quality improvements. The governor and state agencies have also moved forward. These steps will strengthen our state’s economy.
With a majority of our emissions coming from vehicles on the road (approximately 57 percent), we must address this challenge sooner rather than later.
The most meaningful impacts on vehicle emissions will come from introducing cleaner "Tier 3" fuels and vehicles into the market and by investing in a more robust transit system.
These options must be tackled in the near future.
Clearly, there are still actions that need to be taken.
The business community does not expect air quality to be fixed in one legislative session—it will take many years and all of us working together.
We must develop a "community will" to pursue strategies that are backed by good research and which spread the costs fairly and efficiently.
The steps taken this year, however, will make a difference and are certainly steps in the right direction.
Lonnie M. Bullard is chairman of Jacobsen Construction and co-chair of the Salt Lake Chamber Clean Air Action Team.
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