Senator Gene Davis (Democrat – Salt Lake City) is at it again with SB 87 – Environmental Protection Amendments, and if you are not a fan of the annual inversion, that is a good thing.
Last year, Davis introduced legislation that would allow the Utah Department of Environmental Quality (DEQ) to create environmental quality standards that go above and beyond federal minimums regarding air quality standards. It may come as a surprise to readers to learn that the DEQ is currently prevented by law from making more strict standards.
Davis is attempting to run the exact same bill again this year with SB 87 in hopes that he sees greater success. Last year Davis’ bill struggled on the Senate floor where it ultimately wasn’t discussed after a lively committee hearing where the bill just squeaked out with a favorable recommendation.
By allowing the DEQ to create more strict standards, it is felt by supporters that a real dent can be made in Utah’s air quality problem.
Why? Because federal standards work nationwide, but by their very nature, they do not account for the unique topography of the state in general and the Wasatch Front in particular. As we have all discovered, this topography, which is home to 2.2 of the 2.9 million residents in the state, traps cool air and pollutants in the winter creating the smog and haze we have come to expect in winter months and dangerous levels of ozone in the summer months.
But, despite this, Davis still ran into trouble last year as conservatives expressed displeasure at the concept of potentially more regulation. Opinions appear to be shifting on Capitol Hill as voters express more and more anger at the annual smog and the legislature’s lethargy towards addressing the issue; but with air quality becoming a bigger and bigger public health and public image issue, this cost may be worth it.
It is probable that Davis’s legislation will cause headaches for the DEQ and the state as industry grapples with higher pollution standards. If approved, the DEQ will be forced to play politics with air quality, as it can no longer simply blame regulations on the feds.
The ultimate fate of SB 87 is as clear as the winter air, but what is certain is that by untying the hands of the DEQ, Davis would take a major step forward in addressing the air quality issue.
To contact Senator Davis, click here or call 801-484-9428.
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