Stricter Air Quality Legislation Stagnant in Committee

inversion01Sweeping air quality legislation that went down in defeat at the 2014 legislative session is being resurrected by its sponsor.

The draft legislation, entitled “Air Quality Revisions,” would modify the rulemaking authority of the Division of Air Quality and allow the DAQ to create rules that are more stringent than corresponding federal minimums.

Utah’s topography, population distribution, and weather is unique to the rest of the country, Representative Becky Edwards (Republican – North Salt Lake) explained to the Natural Resources, Agriculture, and Environment Interim Committee Wednesday morning. Edwards, who again is carrying the legislation, noted that due to the state’s unique situation, unique solutions are needed. “Basically, this allows Utah to have local control for determining our local needs. It’s just another example of what we hear a lot in the legislature, that Utah can do it best. I think that’s true,” Edwards told the committee.

Edwards believes that federal ‘one-size-fits-all’ solutions are exactly what the Beehive State does not need. “I would submit that we don’t need the EPA micromanaging every rule that we make in this state and we don’t need their permission to enact and make our own rules.”

[pullquote]I don’t see any industry buy-in here. – Senator Scott Jenkins [/pullquote]Several members of the committee raised concerns about whether the bill is too far-reaching. The main point of contention was whether areas that aren’t experiencing problems would be forced to go along with more stringent regulations.

Edwards assured the committee that the bill would be more flexible. “We’re just simply adding the ability for the DAQ to consider Kanab different from Davis County, different from the [Uintah] Basin, different from Tooele, Cache Valley.”

“It’s the more stringent language that scares us. If that could be changed to more flexible or more reasonable, then I think we could tolerate that,” said Representative Merrill Nelson (Republican – Grantsville).

Senator Scott Jenkins (Republican – Plain City) felt that the bill won’t appeal to industry. “They’re still very concerned. They don’t see what you just represented to us, that this will help in any way, shape, or form. I don’t see any industry buy-in here.”

Due to the lack of a quorum, the meeting was adjourned without a formal action on the legislation.

During the 2014 General Session, the bill died in committee on a 3-3 tie vote following an amendment to the bill by Senator Pete Knudson (Republican – Brigham City) that would have required evidence-based science behind any proposed change by the DAQ.

The bill was brought back at the legislature’s interim session last July, where it failed to become a committee bill after concerns were raised by members of that committee.

Edwards still has the option to carry the bill during the upcoming legislative session, however it will not have the blessing of the committee, making passage more difficult – but certainly not impossible.

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