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Dirty air provokes response from Utah's leaders

By Richard Piatt | Posted - Feb 4th, 2013 @ 7:05pm

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SALT LAKE CITY — The State's Division of Air Quality has said everyone who drives can make a difference in fighting the inversion by limiting the amount of time we are behind the wheel. But exhaust isn't the only cause.

More than half of air pollution comes from people simply driving around, but the other half includes industry: Businesses that pollute, and that are more aware of air quality than ever.

According to the Division of Air Quality, everyone who drives shoulders much of the blame. That agency's emissions inventory from 2010 shows 57 percent of the pollution comes from vehicles on the roads; 32 percent is from smaller industry and business; 11 percent is big industry.

In spite of that smaller number, there is pressure to do something about industries like the oil refineries, as well as Kennecott's Copper mine. According to Utah Gov. Gary Herbert, that means carefully looking at who pollutes, and what to do about it when it comes to new laws.

"There may be some areas that we would consider moving forward," Herbert said, "but we're going to enforce the federal air quality standards, the laws that are on the books currently."

But we're going to enforce the federal air quality standards. The laws that are on the books currently.

–Gov. Gary Herbert

In spite of the hazy view of its landmark copper mine, Kennecott points out that only 3.8 percent of daily emissions in the Salt Lake air shed are from its operation. A spokesman said Kennecott is working to cut its emissions more.

"Even today, we're investing in newer and larger, more efficient haul trucks, combined heat and power systems, LEED certified buildings and a number of other technologies that are going to continue to reduce our impacts moving forward," said Kennecott's Kyle Bennett.

The state has also invested billions of dollars in mass transportation like TRAX and FrontRunner to help with the problem, but the challenge is getting people to use them.

The fact remains: Bad air is a bad visual for everyone. Salt Lake City Mayor Ralph Becker Monday pressed for urgency, to protect people's health and the state's reputation, increasingly associated with our nasty winter inversions.

"We have got to take measures that are meaningful, that go beyond what we've done to date if we're serious about improving air quality," Becker said.


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