Utah Legislature Takes on Air Quality
During the 2019 session, Utah lawmakers took decisive action on air quality
March 14, 2019, Salt Lake City, UT – As Utah’s 2019 legislative session wraps up tonight, the future of Utah’s air is looking a little more clear than it did 45 days ago at the start of the session. The Healthy Environment Alliance of Utah (HEAL) applauds lawmakers for taking decisive action on air quality.
“Clean air is a nonpartisan issue since air pollution impacts everyone, no matter where you live or what side of the aisle you sit on,” HEAL’s Policy Associate Jessica Reimer said. “While there is still a long way to go in Utah, the legislature has shown this year that when you put political differences aside, we can all start to breathe easier.”
HEAL worked on and helped to pass Rep. Joel Briscoe’s HB0353 Reduction of Single Occupancy Vehicle Trips Pilot Program. HB0353 creates a 3-year pilot program where all Utah Transit Authority transportation will be free on certain days during the inversion season to give people affordable options other than single occupancy car trips. This bill received $500,000, which funds about seven free fare days throughout the pilot program.
Rep. Angela Romero’s HB0139 Motor Vehicle Emission Amendments passed this year with time to spare after failing to get a final vote before the end of last year’s legislative session. HB0139 increases the penalties on drivers who “roll coal” (illegally tampering with a diesel engine’s emissions controls in order to spew clouds of black smoke).
“‘Rolling coal’ is not representative of the manner in which diesel engines were designed to operate, especially modern diesel engines that have stricter emission control technologies,” said Allen Schaeffer, executive director of the Diesel Technology Forum, an educational advocacy organization representing vehicle, equipment, and engine manufacturers, headquartered in Frederick, Md. “Tampering with engines and emissions controls to generate excess emissions on demand is offensive, unsafe and harmful to the environment.”
HB0139 also improves the reporting system for rolling coal and adds a clause to the traffic code that makes rolling coal a citable offense when affecting pedestrians, bicyclists, or other road users in a harmful way. Cycling Utah also supported HB0139.
The 2019 session also saw funding of some of the air quality appropriation requests Governor Herbert proposed in order to reduce emissions by 25% by 2026. Lawmakers funded about $28 million of the $100 million requested for these air quality programs. Funded programs include a wood stove conversion program, electric vehicle charging stations, air quality messaging campaigns, and a state government teleworking program.
“We were hoping for the full $100 million recommended by the Governor, but $28 million is one of the largest amounts Utah has ever devoted to air quality programs in a single year,” Dr. Scott Williams, Executive Director of HEAL said. “The funded programs address air quality from many angles, but all will contribute to cleaning up the air in order to help protect the health of our entire community, especially our more vulnerable populations – pregnant women, children, seniors, and those with chronic illnesses.”
Other bills passed in the 2019 legislative session to improve air quality include Rep. Timothy Hawkes’ HB0357 Voluntary Wood Burning Conversion Program; Sen. Luz Escamilla’s SB0144 Environmental Quality Monitoring Amendments; Rep. Patrice Arent’s HB0148 Vehicle Idling Revisions; Rep. Stephen Handy’s HCR003 Concurrent Resolution Urging the Environmental Protection Agency to Update Switcher Locomotive Emission Standards; and Rep. Suzanne Harrison’s HCR011 Concurrent Resolution Encouraging the Purchase of Tier 3 Gasoline.
About HEAL Utah
The Healthy Environment Alliance of Utah (HEAL) has been an environmental advocacy organization, watchdog, and strategic influencer in Utah for 20 years. By empowering grassroots advocates, using science-based solutions, and developing common-sense policy, HEAL has a track record of tackling some of the biggest threats to Utah’s environment and public health — and succeeding. The organization focuses on clean air, energy and climate, and radioactive waste. HEAL uses well-researched legislative, regulatory, and individual responsibility approaches to create tangible change, and then utilizes grassroots action to make it happen.