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Air quality board asks for veto on outdoor cooking bill

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SALT LAKE CITY — The Utah Air Quality Board wants Gov. Gary Herbert to veto a legislative measure that would exempt outdoor cooking from restrictions on bad air days, asserting it interferes with enforcement of wood burning at a time when it is looking to cut pollution wherever it can.

"HB65 will make existing rules surrounding solid-fuel burning difficult or impossible to enforce. For example, enforcement of solid-fuel burning during a no-burn period could be circumvented by individuals claiming to be warming a can of beans," the board said in a letter to Herbert.

The board discussed concerns over the measure in a regularly scheduled meeting last Wednesday and then convened in a teleconference Friday to vote on sending the letter to Herbert. They were in unanimous agreement.

The letter was delivered to Herbert's office late Friday.

“No one is interested in banning backyard barbeques, but as a state we need flexibility in implementing cost-effective methods to improve our air quality," said Herbert's spokesman, Paul Edwards. "We have concerns that the language of this bill may be overbroad in ways that would unwisely tie our hands with regard to potential common-sense solutions.”

The measure, sponsored by Rep. Mike Schultz, R-Hooper, says the burning of solid fuel for cooking is allowed during local emergencies, power outages or if the primary purpose is cooking, even on bad air days when the state issues restrictions.

Schultz said his bill, which awaits the governor's signature, simply puts into law existing exemptions covered by the Utah Division of Air Quality's own rules.

Board members, however, say the bill prevents them from acting in the future to make "sensible and science-based rules" to address solid-fuel burning associated with cooking.

"Solid-fuel burning restrictions are one of the few emission-reduction strategies that the state can implement in response to poor air quality conditions. Furthermore, current burning restrictions are highly targeted — affecting only nonattainment areas and only on days with a poor air quality forecast," the letter reads.

The state is facing a reclassification by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency of the areas where it is out of compliance with the federal threshold for fine particulate pollution, or PM2.5, which means regulators are going to have to come up with new ways to reduce emissions.

"The EPA-mandated emission reductions must come from somewhere. Removing solid-fuel burning sources from consideration means that other emission sources must absorb the costs of making additional reductions," according to the letter. "Point sources, for example, that have already made significant emission reductions now may face the need to make additional reductions."

Advocates have also urged Herbert to veto the bill.

"It's critical that Gov. Herbert listen carefully to the very board he appointed," said Matt Pacenza, HEAL Utah's executive director. "Who do we want making air quality policy in this state: an independent panel of experts from local government, universities and industry, or a BBQ company that cares only about its profits?" Email: Twitter: amyjoi16

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