A grass-roots campaign critical of the state's efforts on air pollution called, "Gov. Herbert, We Cannot Breathe," is mounting an online campaign and now a Capitol Hill rally set for noon Wednesday.
"I just decided it was time to take action," said Marjorie McCloy, a writer and retired administrator who has amassed more than 6,600 names on her clean-air petition.
McCloy is set to deliver her petition to the Governor's Office after the rally, which will take place on the Capitol's south lawn, overlooking the latest winter smog episode that has settled on the Salt Lake Valley.
Joining her will be University of Utah student Carl Ingwell, who created a Facebook event called "Let Governor Herbert Know That We Cannot Breathe" urging people to inundate Herbert's office with phone calls and emails all day Wednesday. More than 1,100 already have RSVP'd.
Herbert was in Washington, D.C., on Tuesday, and he is not expected to return to Utah in time to accept the petitions on Wednesday. But, in a meeting last month with environmental leaders, Utah Department of Environmental Quality Director Amanda Smith said the governor had directed her to put air quality at the top of her agency's priority list. Meanwhile, his office tweeted inversion links on Tuesday.
Ingwell said the idea for the campaign arose a week ago when just about everyone he talked to joked about or groused about the poor air quality.
"Then I got to thinking, 'why is there such a disparity between public opinion and public policy?' " he said.
He said Herbert's recent statements about driving less only address part of the problem and still more solutions are needed.
"That's where leadership comes in," he said.
McCloy said the issue became personal for her when, a lifelong outdoors enthusiast and nonsmoker, she learned last fall that she had irreversible lung damage.
"Obviously, this is a complicated problem that won't go away overnight," she said, adding that some simple changes could mean lots of improvement in Utah's air quality.
McCloy also would like an executive task force created to brainstorm solutions, saying there are "all kinds of creative ideas out there."
Pollution episode digs in:
Winter smog has settled into many of northern Utah's valleys at levels considered unhealthy under the Clean Air Act. That could change if snow arrives late Friday, as forecast. But the Utah Division of Air Quality anticipates the smog will persist at least through Friday and has issued red "no-burn" advisories for those days. Said Bo Call, who oversees the state's pollution forecasts: "Right now, it's not looking like a very good chance" of clearing up soon.