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Utah Lawmakers Consider $100 Million In Air Quality Projects

SALT LAKE CITY, Utah – From swapping out gas lawnmowers for battery operated models to replacing wood stoves with natural gas appliances, Utah lawmakers on Wednesday considered more than $100 million in requests to improve air quality.

“Those wood stoves put out a lot of pollution,” said Rep. Patrice Arent, D-Millcreek. “There are days during our inversions where they are 15 percent of our overall pollution. So it’s important to make sure we can get as many of those exchanged with cleaner forms of fuel stoves as we can.”

Members of the Natural Resources, Agriculture, and Environmental Quality Appropriations Subcommittee listened to presentations from lawmakers and the Utah Division of Air Quality that focused on initiatives that would provide the greatest impact for the least amount of money.

“The majority of pollution comes from our personal choices and there are things we can do to reduce that,” said Bryce Bird, director of the Utah Division of Air Quality.

Arent noted that the programs would be voluntary. She said air quality is important not just for the health of Utah residents but also for our state’s economic development and tourism industry.

In his State of the State address last month, Gov. Gary Herbert detailed the state’s goal of reducing per-capita emissions by 25 percent by 2026.

“One of the most complex challenges as a result of our growth is our air quality,” Herbert said.

To accomplish that goal, he called for a $100 million “down payment” for projects to improve air quality.

“The state itself is one of Utah’s largest employers. So let us lead by example,” Herbert said in his January 30th address. “Because tailpipe emissions are such a big part of the problem, let’s reduce the miles driven by state employees by increasing state employee use of transit and accountable telework.”

“The idea is the state needs to lead in terms of improving our air quality,” Arent said. “If we don’t have as many people on the roads, if they can be at home working, that will help us with our air quality. It will help not have to build as many state buildings. It also helps produce jobs in rural Utah.”

The Utah Division of Air Quality proposed the following projects:

  • Teleworking initiative for state employees, including telecommuting plans during “air action days”
  • Electric vehicle (EV) charging infrastructure at state buildings for use by employees and members of the public
  • Replacement of standard and heavy-duty diesel state fleet vehicles with cleaner alternatives
  • State building upgrades to improve energy efficiency
  • Replacement of two-stroke engines with cleaner electric models through lawnmower and snow blower exchanges
  • Replacement of dirty diesel engines with cleaner alternatives, including business and industry fleet vehicles, school buses, semi-trucks, commercial and municipal buses, switch locomotives
  • Vehicle Replacement Assistance
  • Replacement of wood-burning stoves and fireplaces with cleaner burning natural gas
  • Enhance air quality education and messaging campaigns
  • Increase weatherization assistance
  • Promote transit utilization on poor air quality days
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