The Utah Legislature’s Economic Development Task Force met last Thursday to discuss how the state’s air quality can be improved through the actions of state agencies and school districts.
Representative Patrice Arent (D – Millcreek) presented the report detailing proposed actions from various state agencies about current and future efforts to improve air quality.
HB 168, sponsored by Arent during the last legislative session, requires state agencies to submit proposed changes to improve the state’s air at quality the start of the month. The bill received little resistance in the January session, passing the House and Senate with unanimous votes.
State agencies reported that they are doing several things to conserve energy and improve air quality, including purchasing Energy Star boilers and programmable thermostats. Agencies are also in the process of performing energy audits and educating employees about alternative transportation options. Creating flexible work schedules to reduce the number of people on the road during peak traffic hours, enforcing anti-idling in state vehicles, and encouraging telecommuting on red air days are some of the policies being explored and implemented.
During a task force meeting last year, the Utah Division of Air Quality (DAQ) was asked to develop a list of recommendations to improve air quality in the state. Director Bryce Bird proposed recommendations that include allowing additional uses of the clean fuel vehicle fund, requiring public transportation agencies to purchase only higher efficiency vehicles, and funding winter air quality studies and monitoring in the Uintah Basin Ozone Advance. Public outreach and education, Bird noted, will continue to be part of the DAQ’s plans to address air pollution. Also proposed by the DAQ is the establishment of an air quality research fund that would managed by the Air Quality Board. Research would be commissioned on a competitive basis by universities and other research organizations.
Bird stressed the importance of dealing with Utah’s air quality and the detrimental effect it has on the health of Utahns. “Air quality is a challenge for Utah. It does impact the health of our citizens. There is no question about that,” he said.