On Thursday, Governor Gary Herbert announced that May would be “Clean Air Month” in Utah.
This announcement comes on the heals of a scathing report from the American Lung Association that gave Utah’s air a failing grade both for summer and winter air.
At a press conference, Herbert emphasized little fixes that can have a big impact. As an example, he said that if 100,000 citizens upgraded gas cans, used low Volatile Organic Compound (VOC) paints, and upgrading lawn equipment to four-cycle, electric, or manual powered equipment would, nearly one million fewer pounds of pollution would enter our air.
One subtext the governor is facing is the recent announcement that Utah’s air quality is well below the Environmental Protection Agency’s 2019 targets for clean air. In particular, the Wasatch Front and Cache Valley will face severe government regulations if citizens, private organizations, and the government fail to take action to clean out the winter haze and the summer ozone.
Utah’s anti-federal streak runs counter to this idea, regardless of how whether greatly needed federal funds could be denied if the states air does not get meet the EPA’s standard.
Herbert’s plan to improve air quality strongly emphasizes personal choice over government regulation. The Utah Department of Environmental Quality is stressing that citizens, businesses, and government should reduce vehicular trips, telecommute, purchase EnergyStar approved appliances, and upgrade emission controls on smokestacks. Herbert has also asked citizens to sign the Utah Clean Air (UCAIR) pledge to reduce emissions.
Though small changes can make a big difference, it is unclear whether citizens will engage in such measures.