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Clean air advocates detail 19-point plan to attack Utah's pollution problem


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SALT LAKE CITY — Advocates are recommending a 19-point proposal to Utah leaders if they want to get serious about conquering the state's nagging pollution problem, including an outright ban on all two-stroke gas-powered lawn equipment, statewide emissions testing for vehicles and tighter industry controls.

The groups that include HEAL Utah, Physicians for a Healthy Environment, Utah Moms for Clean Air and Western Resource Advocates held a press conference Tuesday to detail their blueprint for action, which also calls for shuttering plans to divert water from the Bear River to meet future water supply demands.

Such a diversion, they argue, would add to the Great Salt Lake's already staggering challenges of historically low lake levels and exposed lake beds, which fill the air with wind-whipped dust during storms.

"Too often, we hear policymakers say that there is little we can do to address dangerous air pollution," said HEAL Utah's policy director Ashley Soltysiak. "In fact, there are commonsense policy proposals that we can and must embrace to ensure that Utah thrives for decades to come."

The proposal, which comes in advance of a clean air rally Saturday at 1 p.m. at the state Capitol, is divided into three broad categories of vehicles, buildings and industry, with overall recommendations aimed at boosting funding for the state's regulatory agency dealing with pollution issues.

"The biggest barrier to clean air in Utah is political will and courage. Our ‘Clean Air, No Excuses’ rally is one way to apply political pressure to legislators who want to keep their heads in the smog, while also offering support to those awesome legislators willing to uphold their civic oath to protect the families of Utah," said Cherise Udell, founder of Utah Moms for Clean Air.

Recommendations include:

• Renew the electric vehicle tax credit, which expires unless Utah lawmakers act

• Adopt the latest building codes to boost energy efficiency of homes

• Put additional money and other resources into enforcing existing wood-burning bans and adopt policies that limit burning of solid fuels in restaurants and other businesses

• Beef up Utah's fugitive dust rule, which needs to be revamped because of pollution problems caused from gravel pits and industrial activity

• Require daily monitoring by "big polluters" and impose 24-hour limits to prevent short-term spikes in pollution

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“Legislators must act with urgency to craft laws and regulations to maintain our clean air, water and lands,” said Debbie Sigman, executive director of Breathe Utah. “Utahns have demonstrated that they are willing to act and change to care for our health, our children and our economy. Citizens and legislators alike must make clean air a top Utah priority.”

Denni Cawley, executive director the Utah Physicians for a Healthy Environment, said advocates plan to discuss many aspects of the blueprint with the Utah Legislature's clean air caucus, and hope the ideas gain momentum.

"It is always good to be optimistic, but there are always challenges," she said. "I think that we may have enough strength from the voices from the community, especially with the rally, that legislators may adopt a good number of these proposals."

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Amy Joi O'Donoghue

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