Op-ed: Legislative session has been a clean-air disaster

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Op-ed: Legislative session has been a clean-air disaster

Postby Wilberforce » Wed Mar 04, 2015 4:19 pm

Op-ed: Legislative session has been a clean-air disaster
By Matt Pacenza
First Published 1 hour ago • Updated 1 hour ago

Just a few short weeks ago, it appeared that the 2015 state legislative session held great promise for addressing our serious air pollution challenges.

More than a dozen strong proposals were being developed, targeting each of our key sources of smog: vehicles, buildings and industry. Many were directly modeled on the recommendations of the Governor's Clean Air Action Team, a bipartisan, broad coalition which last fall unanimously backed several dozen strong measures.

The public certainly backs such actions. Polls show that Utahns see air quality as a top issue to address, ahead of such hot-button issues as crime, healthcare, jobs and the economy. In addition, the last two Januaries have seen thousands attending "Clean Air, No Excuses" rallies, pointedly urging bold actions.

Flash forward just a month or so and distressingly, the 2015 Legislature is on the brink of clean-air disaster. Not only have excellent proposals been summarily rejected, but several bad bills are marching forward.

The full Senate rejected SB87, from Sen. Gene Davis, that would have removed a burdensome and outdated piece of state law that makes it nearly impossible for our state regulators to enact clean air safeguards "more stringent than" EPA rules.

A House committee shot down HB265, Rep. Rebecca Chavez-Houck's effort to enact a modest fee on tires to fund badly needed programs to replace dirty school buses and other polluting equipment.

And those defeats aren't even as serious as an alarming trio of dirty-air bills. Even as the Governor's Clean Air Action urged that new homes be energy efficient (Utah's building codes lag behind much of the rest of America) Rep. Brad Wilson — a homebuilder — brought forth HB285. Instead of modern energy codes being adopted every three years, Utah homebuyers would now have to wait at least six, meaning that thousands of Utah families could miss out on opportunities to live in the safest, cleanest and most efficient homes.

Next we have HB396, from Rep. Brad Dee, a wild overreaction to Utah's aborted effort to control wood smoke. Even though the state Division of Air Quality quickly backed off their winter-long ban bid in the face of stiff opposition, that apparently wasn't good enough for Rep. Dee. His bill not only would forbid any future restrictions on wood burning — regardless of what science might tell us about its dangers — but it actually takes several serious steps backwards, including allowing some wood burning on so-called "yellow" air days, a practice that had been banned.

The precedent set by Dee's pro-wood burning bill is terrible. It would encourage every sector that produces emissions — from transportation to industry and beyond — to hire their own high-priced lobbyists to push bills to pre-empt any future efforts to limit emissions, regardless of what we learn from research and science in the years to come.

That's just a partial list of disturbing air quality moves. A key appropriations committee failed to prioritize modest funding requests from the Division of Air Quality. A bill to charge an extra fee to owners of electric and hybrid vehicles is moving forward. Last year's proposal allows cities and counties to invest up to $90 million to beef up bus services has re-appeared, but at best would now award just one-fourth that amount.

All is yet not lost. The broad coalition of Utahns concerned about air quality — not just environmentalists, but the public health and business communities — are pushing hard with our staunch legislative allies in both parties to enact several key remaining bills.

But unless those good proposals pass, and several of the reactionary bills are shot down, 2015 is shaping up to be a slap in face for Utahns concerned about clean air.

Matt Pacenza is the executive director of HEAL Utah.

http://www.sltrib.com/opinion/2248826-1 ... has-been-a
• The Surgeon General has determined that there is no safe level of exposure to ambient smoke!

• If you smell even a subtle odor of smoke, you are being exposed to poisonous and carcinogenic chemical compounds!

• Even a brief exposure to smoke raises blood pressure, (no matter what your state of health) and can cause blood clotting, stroke, or heart attack in vulnerable people. Even children experience elevated blood pressure when exposed to smoke!

• Since smoke drastically weakens the lungs' immune system, avoiding smoke is one of the best ways to prevent colds, flu, bronchitis, or risk of an even more serious respiratory illness, such as pneumonia or tuberculosis! Does your child have the flu? Chances are they have been exposed to ambient smoke!
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