By Ryan Cunningham @RyCunn
August 23, 2017
8. Ban Growth
While both state and city officials have made some positive strides toward addressing air pollution in recent years, clean air advocates like Matt Pacenza would prefer a stronger sense of urgency from policymakers.
Pacenza, the soon-to-be-departing director of environmental policy group HEAL Utah, points to the valley’s growing population as the main cause for concern.
“The reality is that if our valleys’ populations weren’t growing, we wouldn’t have to worry as much about air quality in the decades to come,” Pacenza says. “Since new cars are much cleaner, for example, each of us on average will pollute less in 20 years than we do today. But, the problem is, there will be many, many more of us. More cars, more homes, more apartments and more businesses. Thus, more air pollution.”
One simple way to fix the problem would be to stop allowing people to move here—perhaps by building a wall along the southern border shared with Utah County. But that idea is a little more extreme than the one Pacenza proposes, though his big outside-the-box idea isn’t without the potential for controversy either: What if we constrained new construction projects with predetermined “growth boundaries?”
“To build the Wasatch Front right as our population skyrockets, we need to prioritize density,” he says. “Ideally, more and more of us will live near where we work and study, along transit corridors. Incentives, planning and zoning can help encourage such development, but so can drawing a line in the sand and pronouncing ‘no suburbs past here.'”
Pacenza predicts such an idea would be met with pushback from a Legislature chock-full of construction and real estate magnates. Still, he pointed out that similar initiatives have been enacted in cities like Minneapolis and Virginia Beach.
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