Vehicle Emissions

The Campaign

Our cars and trucks are the largest polluter in the Wasatch Front. Vehicles emit pollutants into the air directly during use, as well as through chemical reactions between substances in the air reacting to car emissions. Major vehicle pollutants include particulate matter (a leading cause of our wintertime pollution), hydrocarbons, nitrogen oxides, carbon monoxide, sulfur dioxide, and ozone. They also give off greenhouse gases, like carbon dioxide, which contribute to climate change. All of these impact our air quality for the worse.

HEAL’s work on vehicle emissions centers around education to spur individual change and legislative and regulatory action. Through conversations at local events, online and handout materials, partnerships, and community nights, we educate the public about the health effects of bad air, how their cars contribute to that, and what easy, individual action they can take to make a difference. We encourage people to just remember clean air:

C: Carpool whenever possible
L: Limit cold starts and combine trips
E: Engage in clean air advocacy
A: Access public transportation
N: Navigate smog ratings and engine types
A: Avoid unnecessary commutes
I: Idle less or not at all
R: Ride a bike or walk

We collaborate with Utah regulatory agencies and legislators to implement realistic programs and standards that will help reduce our vehicle emissions. We rely on evidence-based solutions and successful models in other states to find what’s best for Utah.

Current Strategies

Free fare days

A bill is coming forward in the 2019 legislative session to establish free fare days on public transportation. Modeled after the December 2017 Free Fare Day, put on by the Utah Transit Authority, Salt Lake City Council, and Salt Lake County, the proposed legislation creates a pilot program for multiple days in the winter where it would be free for everyone to take any UTA service.

We are helping to develop the details of this bill, including where the funding for such a program would come from, promoting public education and support, and helping it pass the legislature in 2019 by educating legislators. Having free fare days would help improve our air quality by incentivizing people to get their car off the road and, hopefully, showing them how alternative modes of transportation can be integrated into their lives, even when the fare isn’t free.

Promote smog ratings

Do you know the smog rating on your car? Smog ratings indicate your vehicle’s tailpipe emissions that contribute to air pollution. Ratings are on a scale of 1-10, with 1 being the worst emissions and 10 being the cleanest. You want to shop for a car with a higher smog rating (refer to the EPA’s Green Vehicle Guide to learn more about your car’s smog rating, including special differences in model years). We work to educate the general public and car dealerships about how to find their smog rating and what it means, and to encourage the public to purchase cars with higher smog ratings.

Zero emission vehicles

Vehicles are our biggest source of pollution in Utah. But as technology advances, there become more affordable and accessible options to reduce vehicle emissions through things like low-emission vehicles (LEV) and zero-emission vehicles (ZEV). Unless you live in Utah. While Utah is building the infrastructure to account for LEV and ZEV, like electric vehicle charging stations, Utahns don’t have access to these vehicles. Utah has no state mandate that requires manufacturers to bring these vehicles to Utah, so they don’t which means we don’t have access to these cars.

HEAL is helping Representative Patrice Arent develop legislation for the 2019 session that would bring LEV and ZEV to Utah. With this bill, the Department of Air Quality would be directed to create a credit system for LEV and ZEV. This credit system could mandate that a certain percent of vehicles brought to Utah must be LEV or ZEV. With this, Utahns would actually have the opportunity to purchase these vehicles and take personal action to improve our air quality.

Coal Rolling

Coal rolling has been an unfortunate trend that emerged after pollution controls were required on diesel pickup trucks. Coal rolling is the process of intentionally tampering with a diesel engine to bypass the pollution controls and allow the truck to blow thick, black smoke out of its tailpipe. This smoke is not only dangerous for other drivers but for our air too, as it releases significant amounts of pollution into the air on demand.

While there are already fines in place for coal rolling, there is the opportunity to create better enforcement on this activity. In the 2019 legislative session, we will be championing Representative Angela Romero’s bill to increase fines on vehicles that coal roll or have evidence of a tampered engine and to improve the lines of communication between law enforcement and the health department (who runs vehicle inspection, maintenance, and emission tests).