Bill to Increase Clean Air Standards Resurrected

Senator Gene Davis (Democrat - Salt Lake City)
Senator Gene Davis (Democrat – Salt Lake City)

After rousing public commentary, SB 164, sponsored by Senator Gene Davis (Democrat – Millcreek), was voted out of committee and will now be heard by the full Senate. Davis’ bill repeals a section of law that requires state air quality standards not be stricter than Federal requirements.

Speaking in favor of the bill, Senator Jim Dabakis (Democrat – Salt Lake City) called the bill an important moment in the legislative session.

“I find myself, like Alice In Wonderland, [saying] ‘Let’s get power away from the feds, and let’s grab the power, and lets make the decisions here in Utah by Utah people,’” said Dabakis. He argued that the bill grants the state the ability to solve Utah problems with Utah solutions. “It gives us flexibility as a state to look at our local circumstances and determine [if] this arbitrary federal standard fits in with where the state ought to be going in a particular moment or not”.

No committee members spoke out against the bill.

Ingrid Griffee, a member of Utah Moms for Clean Air, spoke in favor of the bill. “One of the things that I think industry is well aware of is that in science, especially in medicine, it is almost impossible to prove any causality… the burden of proof is on our children and that’s not right.”

Griffee called current federal regulations lacking and called for “unique solutions for our unique valley.” When questioned by the committee concerning what individuals could do to take responsibility for their own pollution, Griffee cited examples of limiting wood burning and creating incentives for the purchase of electric vehicles.

Kris Kimball, a member of United Women’s Forum, spoke out against the bill, saying that it is a detriment to local businesses and not the answer to Utah’s problems.

“I’ve lived here all my life and I’ve seen a huge improvement on our air quality. Since they started measuring air quality back in the seventies, we’ve grown,” said Kimball “Traffic has grown, industry has grown, and yet according the Utah Department of Environmental Quality, we’ve had a steady decline across the board in every aspect of air pollution.”

Kimball said that most pollution is caused by individuals and it should be left up to individuals to improve air quality. According to a study done by the Utah Foundation, 57 percent of pollution is caused by transportation, 11 percent of pollution is caused by large industry, and 37 percent is caused by homes and businesses.

The bill was put to a vote and passed out of committee by 3-2.

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