The House on Thursday passed one of the few bills moving this year to help reduce air pollution a hot topic amid many murky inversions and protesters calling for action.
Representatives voted 58-13 to pass HB96, and sent it to the Senate. It would extend tax credits which would otherwise expire this year for buying or converting cars that use cleaner-burning fuels.
"Something needs to be done. Please do something" about pollution, said Rep. Jack Draxler, R-North Logan, sponsor of the bill.
The bill would provide credits of up to $2,500 for buying or converting vehicles that use cleaner-burning fuels, including hybrids or vehicles that use natural gas or electricity. It would eliminate some credits currently available for buying high-mileage vehicles because Draxler said many modern cars offer such mileage anyway, so extra tax credits are no longer needed.
State figures showed 552 vehicles were bought in 2011 using the clean-fuel tax credits that would be extended, which state air quality officials figure reduced pollution by 485.8 tons, Draxler said.
"This is one of the important steps we can take to work on our air-quality issues," said Rep. Patrice Arent, D-Millcreek. "There are many more we need to take."
Rep. Lowry Snow, R-Santa Clara, who has converted his own pickup truck to run on natural gas, said, "It's not the answer to all of our concerns." But added Utah has more fueling stations for alternative fuels than most states, and said the bill could help Utah "lead the nation in the use of alternative fuel."
The bill was resurrected after a committee had voted it down earlier this session. That happened when some were concerned that money lost from the tax credits would hurt education funds coming from income taxes.
The bill was brought up again and amended so that only the first $500,000 would come from education funds less than the $1.14 million it is now costing them and the rest would come from general funds. That was seen as not only helping clean air but also education, two of the hottest issues this year.