Regulars and Shorts

Legislative Watch: Your Voice Counts

By Jessica Reimer

No squeak, no oil. Call today.

It’s February, and the 2018 Legislative Session is in full swing. Here are a few bills we at HEAL Utah are working to support. These are bills we believe we can make a difference on. If you support these bills, use this information to call your representatives and senators and let them know.

FH.B. 101 – Air Quality Emissions Testing Amendments. Bill Sponsors: Rep. Patrice Arent and Sen. Curt Bramble

What does the bill do? This bill requires emissions testing for diesel vehicles in the five counties that currently require gasoline emissions testing (Cache, Davis, Salt Lake, Weber-Morgan and Utah Counties). Given that 48% of our air quality is due to tailpipe emissions, it’s important that every vehicle on the road is as clean as possible.

What problem does it solve? Of the five counties with serious ongoing air quality issues along the Wasatch Front, four voluntarily implement diesel emissions testing. Only Utah County currently does not. A poorly functioning diesel engine can emit up to 21 times the pollution of a well-functioning one. This pollution is particularly dangerous: It can cause acute and chronic respiratory issues and cross into the blood stream, causing cardiac problems. Implementing diesel emissions testing would reduce 170 tons of pollution per year.

What’s the pushback? Owners of some (and only some) new diesel engines must add a fluid that helps reduce nitrogen oxide emissions (NOx), to the tune of $5-$10 per 300 miles. Because they already pay to reduce emissions, some believe they shouldn’t have to pay for an emissions inspection. However, the additive functions within one of multiple emissions control systems that target various pollutants. These systems are meant to work together, and if any one of them stops functioning correctly, more emissions are released. Emissions testing is needed for all vehicles.

FH.B. 171 – Motor Vehicle Emissions Amendments. Bill sponsors: Rep. Angela Romero and Sen. Luz Escamilla

What does the bill do? Targets diesel truck owners who intentionally, and illegally, tamper with their engines to emit acrid, black smoke from their tailpipe. It increases fines for offenders (from $50 to $100 for a first-time offense, and $100 to $500 for a second-time offense), and requires a stronger line of communication between law enforcement who cite the vehicles and the local health departments. Health departments have the authority to report vehicles to the DMV, which can then revoke the registration of those vehicles.

What problem does it solve? It is illegal for excessive black smoke to be emitted from the tailpipe of vehicles that have disabled or removed their emissions controls. It is also difficult to prove, as visible evidence is needed for the DMV to revoke vehicle registration. HB171 would strengthen existing laws by requiring second-time citations to be reported to the health departments, thereby creating a new line of evidence for a vehicle whose owner may be intentionally polluting.

What’s the pushback? Almost none!

FH.C.R. 1 – Concurrent Resolution on Global Warming and Climate Change. Bill sponsor: Rep. Ray Ward

What does the resolution say? The resolution would acknowledge that climate change is happening here in Utah, and that there is overwhelming scientific consensus that it is caused by humans.

What problem does it solve? Utah is the fastest growing state in the U.S., and policy decisions made now will impact our future. The resolution would recognize that Utah policy should consider the effects of climate change and support reduction of energy use. While it may only be a conversation starter, it is a critically important one to have as summers become longer and hotter, snowpack gradually decreases and the risk of wild fires increases.

What’s the pushback? Climate change is not universally accepted, especially in this conservative state. Addressing climate change requires all parties to recognize that it is happening. While this resolution may be difficult to pass, it will hopefully begin conversations that can move the needle.

A second climate change resolution may be introduced that would recognize the effects of climate change and the impact on Utah’s economy and culture—no mention of humans.

Jessica Reimer is HEAL Utah’s policy associate.

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This article was originally published on January 31, 2018.