Salt Lake City (UT) – Utahns could see cleaner air and more protections for public health in the coming years if the state adopts several new rules, proposed today, for some of the state’s biggest industrial polluters, say clean air advocates.
The four new rules, formally presented today to Utah’s 8-member Air Quality Board by representatives from HEAL Utah, Western Resource Advocates, and Utah Physicians for a Healthy Environment, would apply to some of Utah’s biggest air pollution sources (“point sources”) such as power plants, oil refineries and cement plants. The public health and conservation groups say that the rules are needed to prevent bad air days, better enforce existing clean air laws, and ensure that emissions from new pollution sources are offset by emission reductions elsewhere within a facility.
The rules will be presented at the monthly meeting of the state’s Air Quality Board, which begins at 1:30 pm today, Wednesday October 7, at the Utah Department of Environmental Quality headquarters at 195 North 1950 West, Salt Lake City. After the presentation, which is open to the public, the groups will be available for interviews and comments.
“For the past decade, the Wasatch Front’s air has not met federal health standards,” said Matt Pacenza with HEAL Utah. “Utah will soon fall into a category of ‘serious’ violation of the Clean Air Act. Now is the time to take every measure we can to reduce emissions, including these common sense proposals.”
While the groups credit state officials for working hard to try and address the problem, those same officials also acknowledge that it’s unlikely Utah will be in compliance with federal standards by the end of this decade – if at all.
“Every single day that Utah’s air exceeds health and safety standards, we risk the lives of our youngest, oldest and most vulnerable citizens,” said Tim Wagner of Utah Physicians for a Healthy Environment. “We cannot afford to wait any longer to adopt any and all practical measures to clean up our dirty air.”
Because Utah’s population is expected to double in the coming decades, regulators cannot afford to look for pollution cuts from just one sector, say the organizations. While it’s critically important to reduce pollution from cars and make buildings and homes more efficient, they are also emphasizing the need to tighten controls on industry and to not allow the state’s biggest industrial polluters to make Utah’s dirty air problem worse.
“Adopting these rules will help us clean our air more quickly,” said Joro Walker with Western Resource Advocates. “Our air quality problem is so serious that we should leave no stone unturned. Industry needs to take further action.”
Under Utah law, citizens and stakeholders can suggest new rules to strengthen state programs that protect public health. In today’s case, the rules are designed to make sure that big industry is staying within its permit limits and to ensure that all protective public health measures are being taken. The rules will be presented to the Air Quality Board for a formal consideration. The Board will then vote, most likely at its December meeting, whether to put the rules out for public comment. It is expected that the Board will take a second vote several months later on whether to put the rules into effect
The proposed new rules are summarized as follows:
- Prevent Bad Air Days: Impose 24-hour limits on our biggest industrial polluters to prevent short-term spikes in emissions, particularly on days with already impaired air quality.
- Require Daily Monitoring by Big Polluters: Mandate continuous emission monitoring and annual stack testing where feasible (vs every three to five years), so that state officials and the public have greater confidence that industry is not polluting more than it is allowed.
- Ensure All Substantial New Industry Pollution Increases Gets Offset: Require facilities to find offsets (emission decreases) for all sizable emission increases, to ensure their overall pollution doesn’t add up to create major air pollution.
- Improve Public Participation Process: Extend comment periods and mandate key documents be made available for review at the start of comment periods, to make sure advocates and the public have the resources and time to offer meaningful feedback on important air quality decisions.
Matt Pacenza, Executive Director, HEAL Utah
Joro Walker, Senior Attorney/Utah Office Director, Western Resource Advocates
Tim Wagner, Executive Director, Utah Physicians for a Healthy Environment