Gov. Gary Herbert has signed into law a controversial proposal to exempt burning wood to cook food from air quality regulations.
While speaking of the bill last Thursday, Gov. Herbert said that if he signed it, there would "be some additional work with the sponsor and others involved, the private sector as well as the Air Quality Board, to get to the right place and make sure our air quality needs are being accommodated by our ability to make decisions."
Herbert signed HB65 the following day.
The state Air Quality Board had asked the governor veto the bill, which it said would "directly limit the board's ability to approve future air-quality regulation and enforce existing regulations."
HB65 requires the state Division of Air Quality — and by extension the Air Quality Board that governs it — to permit Utah residents to burn solid fuels if the primary purpose of doing so is to cook food. The exemption would apply even on "no burn days" when burning wood and solid fuels is prohibited in order to prevent air quality from degrading.
State regulation already permit residents to use solid fuels to cook regardless of whether a burn ban is in place. But Utah will be required to pass additional pollution controlsif the federal proposal to reclassify its nonattainment areas is approved. Kerry Kelly, vice-chairwoman of the Utah Air Quality Board, said barring state regulators from evaluating certain sources of emissions for future regulations could result in a less cost-effective strategy for addressing air pollution.
Environmental advocates, who had also called on the governor to veto the bill, said they were puzzled by the decision to ignore the board's objections.
"It's baffling that Gov. Herbert ignored the advice of the diverse panel of air quality experts he appointed," said Ashley Soltysiak, policy director for the local environmentalist group HEAL Utah. "The message this new law sends is it's open season for deep-pocketed businesses who want to gut air quality policy."
The bill's initial sponsor, Rep. Mike Schultz, R-Hooper, has said he agreed to sponsor the bill after being approached with the idea by Traeger Grills, a manufacturer of wood-fired grills.
Tribune reporter Lee Davidson contributed to this article.