Utah Clean Air Caucus unveils legislative measures

By Amy Joi O'Donoghue, Deseret News

Published: Wed, Jan. 22, 2014, 6:55 p.m. MST

 Members of the bipartisan Clean Air Caucus talk about their bills for the upcoming legislative session with a smog-filled backdrop from the base of the state Capitol Wednesday, Jan. 22, 2014, in Salt Lake City.

Members of the bipartisan Clean Air Caucus talk about their bills for the upcoming legislative session with a smog-filled backdrop from the base of the state Capitol Wednesday, Jan. 22, 2014, in Salt Lake City.

(Tom Smart, Deseret News)

SALT LAKE CITY — Fifteen legislative bills, a resolution and a supplemental budget request all aimed at air quality improvements were unveiled Wednesday by the Clean Air Caucus, in what's described as a concerted effort by lawmakers to reduce air pollution.

Among them is an effort by Sen. Todd Weiler, R-Woods Cross, to boot Stericycle from its North Salt Lake neighborhood and restrict where the medical waste incineration plant could locate in the future.

Weiler said he is the first to admit he does not know if he can legislatively push the company from its current location — which has been the subject of strident protests and community activism for years — but he says the firm does not belong sandwiched among houses, children and a school.

"It is unfortunate they are where they are," Weiler said. "I am the first to recognize the neighborhood grew up around them. There are houses in their backyard and an elementary school … it is inappropriate for that location now."

Weiler said his measure proposes to prohibit medical waste incineration facilities from existing within a 2-mile radius of a residential development.

Stericycle has drawn the ire of its neighbors after it ran afoul of state air quality regulators in a case in which the company is alleged to have violated the emission levels of its permit and doctored operational logs to misrepresent the volume of disposed material.

The company has denied the basis for the complaint lodged by the state Division of Air Quality, and the case is now on appeal with state regulators.

Stericyle's contribution to the Wasatch Front's air quality problem is just one regulatory bull's-eye targeted for reform during the 2014 legislative session, which begins Monday and runs six weeks.

Advocates and consumers have also pushed for measures that would deliver parity for electrical vehicle owners in the amount of tax credits and the establishment of a similar allowance for owners of plug-in hybrids.

Other measures detailed Wednesday at the state Capitol press conference include:

Allowing an individual tax credit of up to $100 for the purchase of monthly transit passes in July or January, the times of the year when air quality can be at its worst along the Wasatch Front

Allowing for a misdemeanor citation for operators of vehicles with visible contaminants as part of an effort to get vehicles off the road that do not meet clean air standards

Authorizing the state Division of Air Quality to implement standards that address the unique geography-based needs of the state

Creating a position of "state sustainability director," to identify best practices for air quality improvements among government entities

Providing funding to replace up to 170 "dirty diesel" school buses manufactured before 2002

Rep. Patrice Arent, D-Millcreek, noted that the temperature inversion that has persisted for days presented a telling backdrop to the media event, reinforcing the message that aggressive action needs to be taken.

"None of us want our air quality to look like it does today," she said. "As you can see the Utah Legislature is serious. We know now is the time to clean up our air."

Afterward, Arent said she believed the measures could collectively make a dent in the air pollution problem.

"It is very important the Utah Legislature take meaningful action this year. I am really holding people's feet to the fire. It won't solve the problem overnight, but we did not get here overnight."

Email: amyjoi@deseretnews.com

Twitter: amyjoi16

1. stanfunky
Salt Lake City, UT,
Jan. 22, 2014

First legislator to propose that the oil refineries move away from the Wasatch Front has my vote. It's laughable that they have this big news conference, but Big Oil isn't mentioned as a problem.

2. dave4197
Redding, CA,
Jan. 22, 2014

How about this method to determine the annual registration for a vehicle. #1 don't use the age or value or weight, #2 do use the epa fuel usage and charge guzzlers more than sippers. #3 use miles driven and charge more registration for cars driven more miles (if the odo doesn't work, set the registrations fee at the high end). #4 charge this registration to gov't cars and trucks as well, they are a significant portion of vehicles on the road; their managers need to feel the hit of paying their fair share and living within a budget.
Make a revenue neutral change in the first year for the overall fleet of vehicles registered.
This will be a cultural shock to some, but the present system of charging more for new cars and having no differential fee based on mpg or miles driven makes the present system a non player in any attempt to improve air quality. It's a new day, this needs to change, and the legislature needs to get out of the dark ages already.

3. Kings Court
Alpine, UT,
Jan. 22, 2014

These are very weak band-aid measures. A large amount of our pollution comes from a small percentage of cars that don't meet emissions standards. I think that all cars older than ten years should be tested twice a year. That will do more to curb pollution than any other measure.

4. liberty or ...?
Ogden, UT,
Jan. 23, 2014

Here is an idea instead of you green advocates regulating and legislating me into compliance or establishing discriminative tax exemptions how about you actually become engineers and develop a better product. I just sat through 2 years of this green technology indoctrination up at the University of Utah and have read every propoganda and research article advocating for solar, wind and electric cars, smart grids etc. But not one addressed the real issue. If you want to get off fossil fuels great, I'm all for it, but develop a viable replacement option that still fills the needs of the consumer and gives them more options and freedom not less and more restrictions. All your green technology currently cannot exist without goverment subsidy, cannot perform better than what we already have and has serious problems in supply shortfall, output, dependability, and economic viability and generates a whole plethora of new problems. And please don't use the excuse that big oil is keeping technology off the market I've seen the cash influx numbers into the green industry advocates and non profit 501C-3 societal sucko off groups whose profit margins put to shame anything the oil companies rake in.

5. Jamescmeyer
Midwest City, USA, OK,
Jan. 23, 2014

Though more a big city thing than a Utah thing specifically, air quality is the only thing that would ever bother me about moving to a busy place like Salt Lake City. It's rare and refreshing to address the issue without the backdrop of environmentalist extremism or militant opposition to conventional energy sources, but I really don't have any insight as to what is or is not a good or effective idea. I would suppose intuitively that keeping things away from residential zones would be sensible; such is where I care most about the air, after all.