Air quality has a landmark session at the Utah Legislature
Utah lawmakers approved numerous bills geared toward improving the state's notoriously poor air quality, but they declined to allow state regulators to adopt regulations and standards that exceed federal rules.
Nor could they agree whether to allow local governments to seek sales tax hikes to expand bus service.
Two dozen clean air proposals were aired this session and about eight passed, including tax credits and grants to get cleaner school buses and low-emission passenger cars on the road and to reduce wood burning as a heat source.
"We are giving our regulators more resources. We have had plenty of years where the Legislature took money away," said Matt Pacenza, policy director for HEAL Utah. "Some [bills] that had potential to have more impact look like they are not going to pass. But this is just the beginning of a multi-year effort to transform Utah and push a clear-air agenda. This time real dollars will be spent on real programs that will make a real difference."
The enforcement provisions were stripped from Rep. Patrice Arent's wood-burning bill, HB154, but both houses endorsed its public awareness and grant programs that will help those whose sole source of heat is wood. The Senate reduced its funding from $1.8 million to $750,000.
Other measures that won approval carry hefty price tags, such as $2.3 million appropriated for research and $20 million for replacing older "dirty diesel" school buses.
The Senate failed to vote on HB388, which could have resulted in a revenue boost of up to $91.5 million for the Utah Transit Authority. HB388 have allowed allow cities and counties to put quarter-cent sales tax hikes before their voters to raise money for bolstering UTA's bus service.
Lawmakers passed two measures related to medical waste disposal, one banning siting an incinerator within two miles of homes and resolution needed to enable Stericycle's move out of North Salt Lake to a remote site in Tooele County.
Investigating Utah air quality issues
o For more coverage from The Salt Lake Tribune on Utah's air quality, visit http://www.sltrib.com/topics/UtahAQ
• Scientists tackle Utah's particulate pollution puzzle
• How does Utah's bad air hurt our health?
• Does Utah's air pollution increase school absences?
• More than one-third of Utah school buses "dirty"
• Does Daybreak's mission make up for Kennecott's emissions?
See more about comments here.