SALT LAKE CITY — Clean air advocates gathered at a press conference Tuesday morning during yet another episode of dangerous air pollution to urge state officials to embrace bold proposals to reduce emissions.
The advocates are holding a press conference to inform the public about a major Clean Air rally scheduled for this coming Saturday afternoon, as well as to highlight a new Clean Air blueprint which advocates have compiled.
Lastly, the environmentalists will describe several key legislative proposals for which they are urging passage when the State Legislative session begins, within a week.
“Our health and our children’s future is under serious threat by our poor air quality,” says Denni Cawley, executive director of Utah Physicians for a Healthy Environment. “Air pollution affects our children’s brain development and can cause pregnancy complications, acute respiratory symptoms, heart attack, stroke and even death. We need leaders who will truly speak and act in the best interests of the community.”
Levels of PM2.5 rose above 75ppm when a dangerous inversion hit just before New Year’s Day – twice as high as federal safety standards. In recent days, as a somewhat weaker inversion has settled, Utah has had numerous “yellow” air days, according to official state data, but the independent PurpleAir network has shown many sites with “red” air levels.
Saturday’s “Clean Air, No Excuses” rally – at 1 p.m. on Jan. 21 on the south steps of the Utah State Capitol — promises to draw a significant community of Utahns concerned about air quality. The rally will offer an array of speakers, plus opportunities for attendees to learn how they can become involved in campaigns to fight for clean air.
“The biggest barrier to clean air in Utah is political will and courage. Our ‘Clean Air, No Excuses’ rally is one way to apply political pressure to legislators that want to keep their heads in the smog, while also offering support to those awesome legislators willing to uphold their civic oath to protect the families of Utah,” said Cherise Udell, founder of Utah Moms For Clean Air.
The Clean Air blueprint presented by advocates at the press conference offers a straightforward series of recommendations for policymakers. Advocates point out that for more than 10 years, the air in Wasatch Front’s valleys has been out of compliance with federal safety standards for short-term, small-particle air pollution. The blueprint offers approximately 20 different policy recommendations addressing the three major categories which produce emissions: Vehicles, buildings and Industry.
“Too often, we hear policymakers say that there is little we can do to address dangerous air pollution,” says HEAL Utah’s Policy Director Ashley Soltysiak. “In fact, there are commonsense policy proposals we can and must embrace to ensure that Utah thrives for decades to come.”
Joro Walker, the Utah office director for Western Resource Advocates, added, “The law recognizes that Utahns are entitled to clean air. Because air pollution along the Wasatch Front repeatedly exceeds national standards, our government is legally compelled to act quickly to reduce emissions of air pollution. Our Clean Air Blueprint provides reasonable and effective measures for doing exactly that.”
Lastly, advocates highlighted several key proposals that the State Legislature will consider this coming session. One key proposal will be to extend a current state tax credit that supports electric vehicles, which has already expired if lawmakers don’t act. Another proposal would expand diesel emissions testing to additional counties along the Wasatch Front. A third priority is to ensure that the legislature fully funds the portions of Governor Gary Herbert’s budget, which offers several million dollars in new funding for clean air programs.
“Legislators must act with urgency to craft laws and regulations to maintain our clean air, water, and lands,” said Debbie Sigman, executive director of Breathe Utah. “Utahns have demonstrated that they are willing to act and change to care for our health, our children, and our economy. Citizens and legislators alike must make clean air a top Utah priority.”
“Today, we ask our leaders to promote clean air that supports our right to life. With more than 60 percent of Utahns living in polluted areas susceptible to air pollution, our leaders need to act to preserve our right to life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness,” added Jim Catlin, Utah Sierra Club Board Member.