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Op-ed: No more bad-air excuses from Utah leaders

Published January 11, 2014 1:01 am
This is an archived article that was published on sltrib.com in 2014, and information in the article may be outdated. It is provided only for personal research purposes and may not be reprinted.

I have been watching the air quality index everyday in recent weeks. As if parents didn't already have plenty to worry about, families here worry about every breath our children take.

Last winter I called legislators, imploring them to find ways to clean the air. One lawmaker told me it was too expensive because we have to pay for schools. I wondered aloud why the parents of this state, the youngest state in the union, must choose between clean air and literacy.

Enough excuses. Here are some things our legislators should consider.

We are prohibited by law from creating air quality rules stricter than EPA guidelines, and this is a cowardly surrender to the mediocrity of the federal government. In Utah, we have a long tradition of forging our own way, and I want better than what the feds have to offer. I want local people to be making the rules that protect my children, not some agency in Washington.

The Air Quality Board ought to be split into independent regions. The beauty of this state lies in its geographic diversity. What is right for one part of the state may not be right for another. The Wasatch Front has a particularly tight airshed with its mountains and heavily-populated urban areas. It may require stricter air quality guidelines than other parts of the state.

Ban medical waste incinerators such as Stericycle in North Salt Lake. If incineration is such great business, why do eight other states send their waste to North Salt Lake? Why wouldn't they want their own friendly-neighborhood medical waste incinerator?

Because our state leaders are open to allowing our beautiful valley to be a dumping ground for pollution caused by burning all matter of unmentionable things that come out of hospitals. Other technologies, such as ozone treatment or steam treatment are available to handle medical waste.

The oil refineries must be moved out of the valley. It is useless to argue about who was here first. The fact is that our city has grown and changed. We are now a dynamic economy drawing tourists from around the world and companies from the international stage — a stage which is increasingly concerned about pollution. Our small refineries are now more a liability than an advantage. It is time to move them out of the valley.

Rein in the pollution from Kennecott. Kennecott draws the absolute best engineers and scientists from around the globe. They surely can figure out ways of mining with near-zero emissions, but we must demand it. They have an opportunity to develop proprietary technologies to keep their business clean, but necessity is the mother of invention.

We the people must demand that if they wish to do business in our valley, they will do it with decreased emissions, and sooner rather than later. We shouldn't fear them, for what will they do? Pick up their mountain and mine it somewhere else? Of course not.

The parents of Utah deserve better than false choices like schools or clean air. This state's economy is built on the backs of working mothers and fathers, whose primary concern is the well-being of their children.

This is the year for state leaders to quit wringing their hands in faux despair. This is the year for our state to remember our core value — family — and make the hard decisions necessary to protect our most precious resources.

Please join Utah Moms for Clean Air Jan. 25 at noon at the State Capitol. Send our leaders the message: No more excuses!

Ingrid Griffee is vice president of Utah Moms For Clean Air.






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