Tackling the Challenge of Air Quality Head On

Pete CodellaNews

Taking a step toward reaching Utah’s air quality goals, the GOED board approved a $500,000 Economic Opportunity Grant as seed capital to facilitate and implement an air quality campaign. The first component of the larger air quality initiative is a media campaign entitled “Let’s Clear the Air.” The effort will help residents and business leaders make better decisions in their actions that affect our air quality.

The Governor’s Office of Economic Development (GOED) board’s action at its recent meeting is only one step toward making substantive decisions on air quality. As Utah’s population has grown by over 900,000 new residents over the past 20 years, it will grow by over two million more people in the coming decades.

“The state continues to work with industry, businesses and communities to discover new ways to improve our air quality,” said Governor Gary R. Herbert. “Through our combined efforts we can ensure we leave a healthier, more dynamic environment for future generations who will occupy this great state.”

Utah residents are reasonably concerned about air pollution and its impact on their health. Consequently, understanding the origin of the pollution will help everyone be better informed about the actions they can take toward achieving better air quality.

“Although air quality is better today than it has ever been, we recognize that it’s not good enough and we each need to do our part to help improve it today and in the future,” said Spencer P. Eccles, executive director of the Governor’s Office of Economic Development. “The ‘Let’s Clear the Air’ campaign will increase our awareness and enable Utahns to make environmentally friendly decisions that will result in a better quality of life and an improved economic development environment.”

Sponsored by Envision Utah and Utah Clean Air Partnership (UCAIR), the air quality campaign will inform the public about the many ways each individual, community and business can contribute to better air quality. Utah meets the federal standards on air quality on average about 95 percent of the time, but decision makers want to move that number closer to 100 percent.

The Utah Division of Air Quality estimates that about 57% of our pollution is from vehicles and 32% from “area” sources. The “area” pollution we experience comes from sources such as our home heating systems, and our snow blowers and other small contributors that all add up. Industry creates 11% of the pollution that contributes to the buildup of particulate matter in the winter.

“There is no question we have to do more to improve air quality, and we know it can be done,” said Alan Matheson, state planning coordinator and senior environmental advisor to Governor Gary R. Herbert. “Despite population growth, total emissions entering our environment are significantly less than they were 20 years ago. For example, between 2002 and 2008, in Salt Lake County, total emission dropped from about 409,000 tons to 217,000 tons. Almost cut in half. We can continue the trend through our proactive efforts.”

A number of new regulations will address the pollutants created by industry. The regulations will improve Utah’s overall air quality. The state is also implementing the best available clean control technologies in industry across Utah to improve air now.

In addition to the new regulations and technology improvements the state is undertaking, solutions are being proposed that will cut vehicle emissions by one half in the next five years. The state’s efforts will cut 100 tons of pollutants that are daily entering our air supply.

While the EPA standard and scale has been tightened from tracking particulate matter at PM10 down to PM 2.5, a more stringent standard, the state is also making an effort to more often report the current air quality conditions so all residents and businesses can make informed decisions.

The money from the Economic Opportunity Grant approved by the GOED board will help leverage additional sources of funding for this campaign, as well as campaigns scheduled for summer 2014 and winter 2015. Envision Utah is directing the campaign and has already advanced $100,000, utilizing money raised from a variety of other contributors.

Envision Utah is a public effort aimed at keeping Utah beautiful and prosperous. The non-profit organization began in 1997 and since that time has been empowering people to create the communities they want. Envision Utah is partnering with UCAIR, a statewide clean air partnership, to sponsor the “Let’s Clear the Air” campaign.

GOED is supporting Envision Utah’s and UCAIR’s campaign in an effort to address the need for serious air reform in a timely and urgent manner. Poor air quality has a negative impact on business growth and the quality of life for Utah residents. The “Lets Clear the Air” campaign will empower people to make a difference through their actions.