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UTAHNS GATHER TO URGE LEGISLATURE TO PASS BILLS TO REIN IN DIRTY AIR
PRESS CONFERENCE DEMANDS LEGISLATURE REJECT BAD BUILDINGS BILL, UP FOR TUESDAY VOTE
Press Conference, Tuesday, 11:30, Capitol South Steps
A broad coalition of Utahns gathered on the steps of the Capitol Tuesday at 11:30 am to call upon a legislative committee to vote “no” on HB316, a bill that would take us backwards in terms of controlling dangerous air pollution, an astounding move to consider just after we experienced a dangerous inversion that caused us to have the worst air quality in the country for days on end.
HB316, “Building Code Review and Adoption Amendments,” from Rep. Brad Wilson, would make it much harder for Utah officials to limit emissions from our homes and buildings, a sector that is already responsible for nearly 40 percent of the pollution in our valleys. And as emissions from cars decreases, the buildings sector will grow to over 60 percent—making it urgent that we tackle such emissions immediately.
The group of citizens representing an array of interests gathered just a day after countless Utahns suffered through a week of a deadly inversion that has crowded area emergency rooms, according to news reports. Concerned citizens were so worried about the air that an online action alert from several clean air groups focused on HB316 resulted in about 2,500 emails sent to legislators in less than 48 hours, a record response.
“Utahns have repeatedly made clear they want our elected officials to pass bold policies to clean up our air,” said Matt Pacenza, Executive Director, HEAL Utah. “It’s flabbergasting that instead our Legislature is poised to take a serious step backwards.”
The bill from Wilson, a homebuilder, does three things that are deeply troubling: First, HB316 puts in place a severely watered down version of recommendations from an independent panel on how Utah should upgrades its building codes. Secondly, it delays when Utah would next consider building code updates from 2018 to 2024. And, lastly, it bans state air quality officials from ever passing measures that affect building emissions, which will hinder future efforts to clean up our air.
“As a citizen I want the state’s air quality experts look at all sources of pollution and have the ability to make rules to mitigate them,” said Ingrid Griffee of Utah Moms for Clean Air. “Under our current conditions, how can we even discuss further limiting the authority of the experts to fix this health crisis?”
Speakers at Tuesday’s press conference – which include several legislators affordable housing advocates, a buildings professional and several clean air and clean energy advocates – instead urged the State Legislature to move forward to consider a pair of other bills that would have a positive long term impact of improving air quality.
HB 250, “Air Quality Amendments,” from Rep. Ed Redd, would re-instate a rule passed by the state Air Quality Board last fall which would have required that only ultra-low NOx hot water heaters be sold or installed in Utah as of 2017. That rule, which was blocked by a legislative committee in October, would reduce statewide emissions of the dangerous gas NOx by 2,700 tons annually, the equivalent of removing over 300,000 vehicles from Utah roadways, according to state officials.
HB 121, “Building Code Amendments,” from Rep. Becky Edwards, would institute the full Uniform Building Code Commission 2015 recommendations, rather than the much more watered down version in Wilson’s bill. Updated building codes cut emissions from our new homes by 15 to 20 percent. And their modest cost is paid back by lower utility bills in just a few short years.
That has led affordable housing advocates like Tara Rollins, executive director of the Utah Housing Coalition, to support building code upgrades.
“Now is the time to commit to our future, not to tie ourselves to an increasingly inefficient and expensive past,” said Rollins. “Given the short payback periods of the recommended home efficiency improvements, Rep. Wilson’s bill is immensely short-sighted. Updating our building code translates to pricing people into homes, not out of them.”
Unfortunately, speakers noted, HB250 and HB121 remain stuck in the Legislature’s Rules Committee, meaning they have yet to be referred to a committee for a debate and vote. The coalition called upon House Speaker Greg Hughes and Senate President Wayne Niederhauser to ensure that these critical pieces of legislation get a full hearing and vote.
“Far too often, we see Legislators engaging in stall tactics instead of real measures to address our dirty air,” said Tim Wagner, Executive Director of Utah Physicians for a Healthy Environment. “HB316 is little more than a gift to homebuilders, pretending to be a clean air bill. Utahns want and deserve real action to address this annual health crisis, as provided by both HB250 and HB121.”
For more information, contact:
Ingrid Griffee, Utah Moms for Clean Air, 503-707-4375
Matt Pacenza, HEAL Utah, 801-864-0264
Tara Rollins, Utah Housing Coalition, 801.364.0077