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Requests stream in for projects to clean Utah's air

Published February 11, 2014 4:23 pm

Pollution • From TV ads to converting wood-burning stoves to natural gas, lawmakers seek support for clean-air initiatives.
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Lawmakers paraded before the budget committee overseeing environmental programs on Tuesday seeking more than $7 million to help make Utah's air easier to breathe.

The largest request was $3 million for the Mountain Accord study which aims to improve transportation and air quality in the Wasatch Mountains in Salt Lake, Summit and Wasatch Counties.

"The transportation to those resorts is becoming very, very problematic in both air quality and in actually the functionality of the canyons," said Sen. Stuart Adams, R-Layton.

The study is receiving matching funds from federal and local governments as well as private funds.

Rep. Jim Nielson, R-Bountiful, asked for $2 million to reduce pollution from wood burning, including $1.5 million to help those who use wood as their sole source of heat to convert to natural gas. The remainder would go for enforcement and education.

"One [function of the education campaign] is to let people know that they simply cannot burn and that is a real problem. People do not realize that it's prohibited on certain days," Nielson said.

The Division of Air Quality asked for close to $1.8 million for three different programs. Of that, $1 million would go to a study of air quality in different parts of the state. The study, which would be conducted by local universities, would look at the chemistry of air pollution, what can be done to control pollution and whether current practices to clean the air are effective.

"The need is very evident to us that we need to make good technical decisions based on the best science that applies to our area," said Bryce Bird, the division director. "What we've done to this point has been very effective. We think we're moving in the right direction, but we do rely on research that was done in California and in the eastern states."

The rest of the money would cover an emissions inventory and four new employees and equipment in the Uinta Basin.

Rep. Edward Redd, R-Logan, said the new employees are necessary.

"We're not getting permitting data and things like that in the Wasatch Front because those four people are out in the Uinta Basin trying to take care of issues," Redd said. "So there's a lot of things that aren't happening here."

Rep. Brad Dee, R-Ogden, requested $500,000 in order to continue one minute television and radio ads encouraging people to change habits, such as how they drive, in order to help clean the air.

Rep. Brian Greene, R-Pleasant Grove, asked if it would be better to fund the ads for only a year until there is evidence that the program is working. Dee disagreed.

"I think it is important that we show a long-term commitment," Dee said. "If we want to do it one time that's fine, but the inversions are going to be back next year."

Rep. Patrice Arent, D-Millcreek, asked for $200,000, part of which would fund a program allowing the state to offer incentives, such as loans or grants, to help Utahns to replace old landscape and maintenance equipment with new higher efficiency equipment. Arent said using new equipment can lower emissions up to 90 percent.

"This is a small request but will give us a big bang for the buck," Arent said.

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