Here’s what the Utah Legislature is doing to address air quality

Feb 7, 2024, 7:00 PM | Updated: Feb 9, 2024, 9:02 am

SALT LAKE CITY — The Utah Legislature is tackling multiple air quality bills, mainly related to long-term energy plans and cleaning up emissions; ones that would even give a tax break for switching to electric lawn equipment.

“I think we can do more there’s no question about it,” said Senate President Stuart Adams, R-Kaysville.

Rep. Tyler Clancy, R-Provo, has two related bills. The first, HB279, creates a hefty state plan to reduce emissions over the next decade.

“Our three major goals are clean, affordable and reliable,” he said.

Clancy said the state wants to rely on American-made energy to clean up emissions.

“If we think that we can kind of move our way out of this crisis by overregulating American innovation and then importing liquid natural gas from Russia or precious minerals for EVs from China, that’s not going to do that,” he said.

And right now, he said the federal government is cracking down on Utah to clean up the state’s air.

“If we don’t do anything, we’re continually being sued by the (Environmental Protection Agency) and then we just kind of negotiate down to some sort of agreement. And that’s what we’re governed by. We would prefer to be governed by our own state here in Utah.”

His bill is still being negotiated, but he said the goal is not to be “too prescriptive” for industries and businesses while still meeting the goal of emission reduction.

“If the state of Utah were able to come together and create this plan, then we think that would impugn us from federal lawsuits. We’d be able to, you know, work with the different industry, work with different agencies in the state to make sure that we can follow that plan.”

Clancy’s other bill is run by Sen. Stephanie Pitcher, D-Salt Lake City. SB142 offers a tax credit for buying electric lawn equipment like lawnmowers or snowblowers.

“If you run that for a couple of hours, it’s the equivalent of driving a car from here to Kansas City, Missouri. So we think it’s a low-hanging fruit that we can save work on those clean, affordable, reliable energy sources and make sure that we’re investing in American products so that we can have a cleaner environment,” Clancy said.

Senate Minority Leader Luz Escamilla, D-Salt Lake City, also has a bill titled “Deisel Emission Reduction,” though the bill is not public yet. She wants to create a registry for non-motorized vehicles, which she admits are already ahead in using cleaner fuels.

“In 10 years, they will not be the problem, it will be buildings,” Escamilla said.

And HB126, a bipartisan bill from Sen. Andrew Stoddard, D-Midvale, and Sen. Kirk Cullimore, R-Draper, aims to put emissions caps on big polluters like large trucks made before 2010.

But, he says his bill is getting pushback.

“I think there’s still a lot of ma and pa operators there are trucks that are used for construction and road construction, stuff like that, and in the growing state that we are we can’t afford to impose massive hits on those types of companies,” Cullimore said.

Others, like Nate Blouin, D-Millcreek, said the state is spending too much time railing against federal clean air rules. He cites some money that the Natural Resources Appropriations Committee asked to move from a fund addressing air quality over to a different fund that litigates potential suits against the state and a new law that allows the state to opt out of federal rules. Many believe it is a direct response to the federal Ozone transport rule.

“And so it’s concerning to me that that’s the direction we’re headed rather than spending our wealth steward ad dollars on lawsuits, I’d rather see them get spent on incentives and helping people make this transition, and helping the state do a better job of leading out there.”

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Here’s what the Utah Legislature is doing to address air quality