Stronger Department of Environmental Quality Bill Advances

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

Proposed legislation by Senator Gene Davis (Democrat – Salt Lake City) that would change the Division of Air Quality’s rulemaking authority was passed out of the Senate Natural Resources, Agriculture, and Environment Committee with a favorable recommendation Wednesday afternoon.

SB 87 – Environmental Protection Amendments, which was passed out with a 4-2 vote, would repeal provisions prohibiting the Division of Air Quality from adopting rules relating to the Clean Air Act that are more stringent than corresponding federal regulations.

This isn’t the first time such legislation has been proposed. Last year, Davis ran a similar bill but it died on the Senate floor and in 2013 Representative Rebecca Chavez-Houck (Democrat – Salt Lake City) proposed similar legislation.

Davis believes that repealing this language will give the state a chance to find Utah solutions, rather than federal solutions, to our air quality issues.

Todd Bingham, president of the Utah Manufacturers Association, opposed the bill during public comment. Echoing a similar statement that was made last year by Utah Petroleum Association President, Lee Peacock, explained to the committee that specific air quality issues are addressed with factual evidence-based data. “The repeal of this statute would prevent that. Currently, we think that’s important.”

Salt Lake City resident James Catano asserted that local agencies are more than capable of coming up with evidence-based solutions. “I find it a bit ironic that industry associations are claiming that this legislature and our agencies here in the state are not capable of coming up with good science to address our specific problem. I think that is patently untrue.” Catano believes that more local control is needed to help combat Utah’s air quality problems. “This is not just a bottom line issue. This is a public health issue, and we are all the public.”

Tim Wagner, executive director of Utah Physicians for a Healthy Environment, spoke about the cost of bad air and the need for more stricter regulations. “These costs are huge, including thousands of patients affected annually and directly by Utah’s pollution, from routine visits to the doctor, emergency asthma attacks, strokes, heart attacks, and, yes, even premature death.”

Ingrid Griffee, executive director of Utah Moms for Clean Air, voiced her support for the bill. “This bill deserves a full hearing before the full senate. It deserves to move forward for a fair and frank discussion among all the representatives from all across the state.”

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