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Utah clean-air initiative short on openness?
UCAIR » Critics say nonprofit clouded by conflict of interest and lack of transparency.

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The Herbert administration has been fumbling for an effective response to Utah’s pollution. Especially bad episodes last winter gave Utah a smoggy black eye as angry locals staged weekly Capitol rallies to protest inaction by leaders; and ski vacationers, Sundance film festival attendees and Outdoor Retailer conventioneers found a Salt Lake Valley in a filthy haze.

Smith has said her office barely has enough funding to handle regulatory duties, let alone the sort of robust public education campaign and a best-practices program that UCAIR is aiming for. The Legislature not only failed to act last winter on a bill to provide $50,000 funding for a new, Web-based clearinghouse for air-quality information but also signed off another $228,000 cut to DEQ’s state funding, including some from the Division of Air Quality.

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Dixie Huefner is among those worried about conflict of interest and UCAIR. A member of the Utah Citizens’ Counsel, an independent, nonpartisan good-government group, she explains that while she wants less pollution, she also wants UCAIR to ensure its operations are transparent.

"UCAIR, even with the good people on it, needs to establish its integrity, carefully avoiding conflicts of interest and acting with transparency," she said. "Its rules and procedures must build confidence in its objectivity. To build public trust it must disclose its funding sources."

Good-government activist Claire Geddes agrees, saying government-private partnerships like these have a history of favoring insiders.

"I can see a multitude of conflicts of interest from this" UCAIR model, she added.

"You can’t use public funds and public resources for private purposes," she said. "It’s like being kinda pregnant."


Twitter: judyfutah

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