It’s common knowledge that a major air pollution problem exists in the Salt Lake Valley. Far from simply unpleasant, our bad air is dangerous to our health and, for some, it’s fatal.

While good air quality is important to all Utah residents, Salt Lake County is uncommon, if not unique, in its geography. We live in a valley between two beautiful mountain ranges which traps pollutants in the air. Over time our pollution builds up to unhealthy levels. When this occurs, there is nothing we can do to improve the air quality. We are at the mercy of mother nature bringing a storm to push out the dirty air and bring in clean air.

We can limit travel or take other actions to limit the amount of new pollutants added to our air, but once our air pollution has reached unhealthy levels these efforts can only slow the rate at which the air worsens. They can’t improve it.

Many residents are acting to improve our air quality, but we can’t change our geography. Our multi-faceted approach to reducing pollutants released into the air reduces the likelihood of our air reaching unhealthy pollution levels because as it takes longer to reach unhealthy pollution levels we may receive a much-needed storm which clears the air.

Sadly, our current efforts are not enough. To achieve our goal of healthier air will require all of our efforts. And, due to our ever-increasing population, it will take even more effort/sacrifice/investment to improve our air.

As our population grows so does the number of cars on our roads. More cars equal more pollution. Additionally, increased traffic among existing cars equals more pollution as it takes cars longer to get where they are going.

Just as additional cars bring increased air pollution, so too will an inland port and the additional trucks, trains and airplanes it will bring. So, our air quality is very bad, we can’t change our geography, we’re on track to have even worse air quality as our population grows, and our government has decided to create an inland port. Why?

Utah’s unemployment rate recently reached 2.5%. The three most populated counties in the state — Salt Lake, Utah and Davis — have unemployment rates of 2.1%, 2.0%, and 1.9%, respectively. But, for many local businesses, growth is hindered due to a lack of qualified, available workers to fill existing job openings.

Simply put we’re not hurting for jobs. Don’t tell me the reason we’re creating an inland port in Utah is because it’s needed for job creation and economic growth.

Perhaps we’re hurting for money and need additional tax revenue? Based on the skyrocketing housing prices and the associated property taxes collected, I suspect that the government is receiving significantly more money in recent years compared to a decade ago. If our tax code is truly not generating the non-property-tax-based revenue needed to run our state, then rework the tax code in a way that works for our state.

Moving forward with an inland port needlessly increases air pollution. We don’t need an inland port. We don’t need more jobs or higher home prices. We need clean air. We elect government leaders to represent our interests and make our community a great place to live.

When will Gov. Gary Herbert and our Legislature choose to put our health before economic growth? Please, listen to our concerns about the air we breathe, our health and our quality of life and act accordingly. Economic growth does not always equate progress.

Photo courtesy of Kagen Despain Phillip Sanders

Phillip Sanders, Bluffdale, is a lifelong Utah resident.