Such expansions that increase volatile compounds simply make no sense in smoggy Salt Lake Valley. Let's determine more precisely what the danger is and its sources before we allow even more chemicals of unknown risk into the air we all breathe.
The latest in an ongoing series of Tribune stories on pollution explains that PM2.5 is a catchall category of pollutants, defined as particles and droplets less than 2.5 microns in diameter. The tiny particles only 1/20th the width of a human hair can lodge deep in lung tissue. PM2.5 is linked to many diseases, from cancer to asthma and possibly even to autism. Some doctors advise pregnant patients to leave the Salt Lake Valley during inversions.
Vehicles, industrial smoke stacks and wood stoves spew particulates directly into the air. But most of the PM2.5 is emitted in the form of "precursor" gases, such as nitrous oxides and volatile organic compounds, which react in the atmosphere to form particles. In granting a permit for Holly to expand, the State Department of Air Quality is allowing more of these precursor compounds to be emitted.
That's asking for trouble for the thousands of Utahns whose health is already affected by bad air.
In what must be considered just a first step, Gov. Gary Herbert is rightly proposing to invest state money in research as part of a proposed $18 million package of new spending next year targeting air quality.
It is irresponsible for the Legislature to refuse to give the DAQ the regulatory ammunition it needs to restrict increases in these compounds. For everyone's sake, let's take a breather from industrial expansion until we know how to reduce the danger.