Legislative Watch: Let the Sausage-Making Begin

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Environmental Politics

Legislative Watch: Let the Sausage-Making Begin

Headway predicted for clean air and renewables; climate change to be addressed for the first time.

HEAL Utah is a local nonprofit focused on issues at the interface of public and environmental health. HEAL uses smart policy research and the power of grassroots organizing to bring about change that improves the health and well-being of our communities. As a policy associate for HEAL, Jessica Reimer advocates for air quality improvement along the Wasatch Front to state regulators and legislators. For the next few months, she will provide CATALYST readers a peek into the legislative session and updates on bills targeting air quality, renewable energy and climate.

It’s the start of a new Utah legislative session! While it’s tempting to escape to the mountains, HEAL Utah will be at the Capitol every day, reminding lawmakers of the connection between a healthy environment, healthy people and a healthy economy.

This year’s session holds the potential to make headway on reducing vehicle pollution and identi fying the effects of a drier and warmer climate on our health and economy.

Air quality

Diesel emissions testing

  • 48% of our air quality problem comes from vehicle emissions. The state requires emissions testing for gasoline vehicles; however, this is not required for diesel vehicles.
  • Diesel engines without proper controls emit 426% more small particulates (PM2.5) than a compliant diesel vehicle, and 2160% more nitrogen oxide (NOx), which reacts in the air with other pollutants to form additional PM2.5.
  • HB101 (sponsored by Rep. Patrice Arent) requires all counties out of compliance with federal air quality standards (Salt Lake, Davis, Weber, Cache and Utah) to implement a diesel emissions testing program. Utah Co. is the only county that does not do this voluntarily.

Illegal tampering of diesel vehicles

  • No one enjoys being the recipient of the black cloud of smoke emitted by illegally adjusted diesels. While removing the catalytic converter provides more power, it also subjects people to unnecessary and excessive vehicle emissions. A new bill looks to increase penalties for those who intentionally tamper with their diesel engines.

Electric vehicles

  • Increased sales and use of electric vehicles (EVs) will make a big dent in our vehicle emissions. Two bills help to encourage greater adoption of EVs by consumers.
  • One bill brings back the EV tax credit, which was phased out in 2016. However, there is talk of a higher registration fee to recoup funds for road maintenance, which currently comes from the gas tax. We will be watching this closely.
  • The second bill provides better access to EVs in Utah! Details to come.

Climate

Climate will also—finally—be on the agenda this session! Not one, but two resolutions address the role of climate change in the health of our economy and environment.

Utah is known for tailoring solutions to address our problems, and these resolutions could be two big steps towards ensuring that we, as a state, consider the implications of a changing climate in our decision-making.

This legislative session will provide ample opportunity to express your voice on these and many other issues. HEAL will be at the Capitol throughout the session, and we would love to have you join us! We host Legislative Previews in early-mid January, where we will discuss the bills we are supporting in more depth. We will also be providing updates on those bills here in CATALYST throughout the legislative session.

HEAL will participate in the Clear the Air Challenge in February to encourage all of us to reduce the amount we use our cars.

Jessica Reimer is HEAL Utah’s policy associate. She will be reporting on goings-on at the Capitol this legislative season. For previews and joining their Clear the Air Challeng team: HealUtah.org

 
 
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