One key arena for pushing for positive measures to help clean the Wasatch Front’s dirty air is the State Legislature. Each spring when they meet, Utah’s legislature has its hands on everything from funding transit, to incentivizing cleaner vehicles, to controlling building codes, to determining the rules and budgets for the agencies that monitor and control industrial pollution.
In 2013, HEAL leapt headfirst into helping a small group of legislators develop proposals for the 2014 Legislative Session. And, ultimately, it was easily the most successful year ever for air quality legislation— thanks to your activism, the efforts of the clean air community and, especially, the dedication of a core group of State Legislators.
Since 2013, HEAL has grown to be one of the most influential and effective advocacy groups at the State Legislature. Here are just a few accomplishments from the 2016 session:
- We helped to ensure a transition to cleaner burning hot water heaters. This important legislation, which required the phasing in of ultra-low NOx water heaters, will significantly help to reduce pollution from our building sector — the sector projected to soon become our largest source of emissions.
- Similarly, in just 24 hours, our members sent over 2,000 emails asking key Utah State Legislators to adopt commonsense updates to our energy code. Although we still have a lot of room for improvement, for reduced building emissions and improved efficiency, HEAL successfully pushed for substantial changes.
- Finally, HEAL was instrumental in pushing legislators to increase the amount of time allotted to our state regulators to prosecute companies that violate their permit limits. Instead of only having a one year statute of limitations, Utah now has a two-year statute of limitations to prosecute these polluters.
We are proud of these accomplishments, but this is only the beginning. HEAL’s policy team is already busy researching and vetting new bills to champion for the 2017 session.
Work To Do
Despite our past successes, several key measures failed last year— proposals that we think could have had even greater impact for years to come. One of those was an appropriation request to update our aging fleet of air quality monitoring equipment. Of the $2.2 million dollars in funding requested, only $1 million was allocated. Additionally, an important Division of Air Quality program called CARROT failed to receive any financing to help replace and retrofit some of the most polluting small engines. We are already working hard to generate grassroots pressure to support these essential programs during the 2017 session.
And so, as we get closer to next year’s legislative session, much work remains to be done to build on last year’s successes. HEAL continues to work hard to encourage legislators to make clean air bills a priority, to research and champion innovative proposals and to strategize to build winning coalitions.
Clean air is a nonpartisan issue – and with your help, we’re going to continue to chip away at the obstacles to making northern Utah as pristine, safe and beautiful as it can be.
Some of the most important venues for trying to improve Utah’s air are little-known regulatory bodies like the Division of Air Quality and the Air Quality Board. Both play a critical role in doing everything from monitoring pollution, and planning on how to limit it, to making the rules that businesses and industries have to follow.
Building on our experience and success in lobbying entities that work on nuclear waste, HEAL began in 2012 to focus on these clean air bodies as a piece of trying to limit Wasatch Front air pollution.
HEAL’s Clean Air Regulatory Success Stories:
- We brought a package of rules to the Air Quality Board to close loopholes that allow excess industrial pollution. These complex but critical measures have the potential to make a real difference in improving the air we breathe. Although the rules were ultimately not put out for public comment, they are being utilized by the Division of Air Quality in the development of the next State Implementation Plan targeting PM2.5 pollution.
- We built support for proposed federal regulations limiting pollution from cars and trucks – called Tier 3 standards – which may ultimately reduce pollution from the biggest source of Wasatch Front dirty air by half. Not only did we get more than 1,100 Utahns to tell the EPA they backed tougher standards on car and truck emissions, but so did Republican state legislators and Gov. Gary Herbert himself! You read that right: One of America’s most conservative, pro-business, anti-regulation Governors wrote a letter to the EPA asking for tough environmental regulations.
- We successfully encouraged thousands of Utahns to urge the Division of Air Quality to improve their plan to cut PM2.5 pollution. More than 2,600 comments were sent to regulators, urging deeper emissions cuts, particularly to industrial pollution. In addition, HEAL staff prepared detailed comments urging a host of specific pollution controls, including safeguards specific to polluting refineries developed by an expert we contracted.
Our work strives to push Utah’s air quality regulators to do more. We will continue to provide detailed comments on upcoming permit applications and proposed Division of Air Quality rules — like those governing fugitive dust. We will also work to protect important rules already passed by the Air Quality Board — like this architectural coatings rule that helps reduce emissions from the building sector — from special interest groups who seek to undermine our regulations to increase their profit margins.