Last month we reported that Representative Stephen Handy (Republican – Layton) had aspirations to direct $20 million in new funds received from the recent Volkswagen settlement towards the replacement of old, dirtier, diesel school buses across the state. Well, Handy is making it official with HCR 5 – Concurrent Resolution on Clean Fuel School Buses.
[pullquote]Handy’s resolution puts lawmakers on the record for some form of real clean air legislation; however, it also means that he is effectively allowing lawmakers to say that they voted for cleaner air without actually having to do the work to get clean air.[/pullquote]In the resolution, Handy makes a strong case for the use of these funds going towards replacing the school bus fleet with more efficient vehicles: Utahns are concerned with fine particulate matter in the air; the Wasatch Front and Cache Valley have some of the worst fine particulate matter air in the country; the geography of the Wasatch Front and Cache Valley lends itself to inversions; emissions from fossil fuels account for nearly half of all air pollution; that nearly 32 million miles are driven annually by school buses and that these diesel exhaust engines spew out more soot and is worse on lungs when compared to gasoline engines; and that the Division of Air Quality estimates an 80 percent reduction in particulate matter pollution from buses if a switch is made.
But this isn’t as hopeful as it may first appear – you may have noticed that we said HCR (House Concurrent Resolution), and not HB (House Bill) – and this has a dramatic result on what the state can expect if Handy’s resolution were to pass.
This can probably best be demonstrated by line 123 of the resolution which states that if the resolution were to pass, it simply “urges the state to secure $20 million of the approximately $32 million allocated…to begin replacing a significant portion of the 433 school buses that are model year 2006 or older.”
The key word there is “urges,” not “requires,” not even “requires only if the funds are received.” No, the resolution basically just suggests the legislature and governor do something with some of the windfall funds we are receiving. A bill, on the other hand, would require that the money be spent a certain way – and there is no reason why a bill couldn’t be written and signed into law that would require the state to spend the money a certain way. Handy simply is not pushing for that with this legislation, and that is its biggest downfall.
In fairness, Handy does have the interestingly titled bill “Clean Fuel School Buses and Infrastructure” in the works according to the legislative website at the time of publication – and this may very well be the legislation that calls for money to be set aside from the settlement to replace outdated buses. If this is the case, bravo to Handy…however, this also means that Handy is effectively allowing lawmakers to say that they voted for cleaner air without actually having to do the work to get clean air.
All this being said, Handy’s resolution does at least put lawmakers on the record for some form of real clean air legislation. Over the past five years lawmakers have effectively picked all the low-hanging fruit when it comes to air pollution controls, and Handy’s resolution represents one of the first substantive (and expensive) pieces of legislation that lawmakers will have to consider going forward – the response to this “Phase 2” of clean air legislation will be telling.
To contact Representative Handy, click here or call 801-979-8711 (Cell)
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