Environews, Minis

Environews: Many ways to spend $100 million to improve Utah’s air quality

By Amy Brunvand

In his proposed 2019 budget, Utah Governor Gary Herbert included a one-time allocation of  $100 million (up from a more typical $4 million) to help improve Utah’s air quality. If our legislators support that amount all the way to the final budget allocation, what are the most effective way to spend it? The good ideas are flying!

The Utah DEQ suggests using it to help homeowners replace wood-burning stoves, two-stroke lawn mowers and snow blowers as well as a program to swap out older, dirtier diesel engines used in industry, school buses and public transit.

Some Utah environmental groups suggest also restoring Utah’s electric vehicle tax credit would help (it expired in 2016 and in 2018 an extra tax on electric vehicles kicked in to replace uncollected gasoline taxes).

Utah Physicians for a Healthy Environment suggest reducing speed limits on highways since the average car uses about 22% more fuel going 75 mph as opposed to 55 mph. More fuel used means more pollution.

Heal Utah says free-fare days for public transit could help get people out of their cars. (See article, this issue, by Jessica Reimer.)

The inland port planned for Salt Lake City’s Northwest Quadrant will drastically increase diesel truck and train emissions. Last year, Breathe Utah was instrumental in shaping a bill, reintroduced this year, to replace 60 freight switcher locomotives in air quality non-attainment areas. This could have a significant effect on air quality, particularly in neighborhoods that are already burdened by other pollution sources.

Regulations and the corresponding funding to maintain water levels in The Great Salt Lake would reduce particulate air pollution.

Other ideas include home weatherization incentives, carbon taxes and penalties for “rolling coal” diesel engines modified to deliberately emit clouds of soot.

CATALYST suggests including support for our 7th Annual Clean Air Solutions Fair in early 2020!

If you’d like to see an interesting video on what air quality was like in Salt Lake in the 1940s, click here!

This article was originally published on February 5, 2019.