House approves new task force to study air quality

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The House approved the creation of a legislative task force to study poor air quality in Utah after some lawmakers complained information on the issue was scattered and incomplete — leaving them to tackle the issue in only a piecemeal fashion.

Rep. Patrice Arent, D-Millcreek, sponsored HB70, which passed 55-16. She said she doesn't usually propose task forces, but felt the issue no longer could be ignored.

"It's time for the Legislature to begin seriously understanding this topic," Arent said.

The bill would establish the Air Quality Task force, consisting of 13 members, five of whom would be appointed by the Senate president. No more than four could be from the same political party. The House speaker would appoint eight members, of whom no more than six could be from the same party.

According to the bill's fiscal note, the task force would cost $45,900.

The Salt Lake City-Ogden-Clearfield corridor ranks fifth in the nation for short-term particle pollution, according to the American Lung Association. Orem and Provo ranked sixth, according to the same study.

Lawmakers bemoaned the inversion layers that occur in winter months when pollutants are trapped and pushed down in the basin, leaving skies gray and forcing red alert days that pose serious health risks for children, the elderly and those suffering from asthma.

However, no Utah city cracked the American Lung Association's ranking for year-round particle pollution.

The bill now moves to the Senate.

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