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Jeffrey D. Allred, KSL, File

How Utahns can cut down on emissions as inversion season nears

By Carter Williams, | Posted - Nov. 1, 2018 at 6:28 p.m.

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SALT LAKE CITY — Wood-burning restrictions went into effect Thursday in an effort to reduce particle pollution quantities that dirty up the air during the winter months, state environment officials said.

Under the new restrictions, those who burn wood or other solid fuel devices on mandatory action days will be fined $150 for their first violation with increasing penalties after that, according to the Department of Environmental Quality.

Of course, there was a 728-page report on the future of Earth’s climate released by the United Nations in October that highlighted concerns about carbon in the world atmosphere, too. The report stated that if the world could limit global warming to 0.9 degrees Fahrenheit in the next decade instead of 1.8 degrees Fahrenheit, which was agreed upon in the Paris Climate Agreement, there would be half as people suffering from lack of water, seas would rise about 4 inches less and there were would be fewer deaths from heat, smog and diseases.

In Utah, air quality is more susceptible to be poor in the winter months, when the Wasatch Front and northern Utah counties become more prone to inversions from high-pressure systems. Carbon emissions often get trapped under this inversion, which worsens the air quality. The bad air quality can lead to increased health problems, according to Intermountain Health Care.

According to the Utah Clean Air Partnership (UCAIR), sources of carbon particulates include vehicles, small industrial and commercial sources that “emit less than 100 tons per year of pollution,” gas and wood stoves, dry cleaning facilities, gas stations and water treatment facilities.

“Everything we do contributes (to carbon emissions),” said Utah Division of Air Quality director Bryce Bird. “Think about what you’re doing. If it has a combustion source, like a car or a furnace, a restaurant — that can make choices about whether or not we’re going to be using a high-polluting method to move, eat or warm.”

Since Utah is heading into the months associated with bad air quality, here are tips Bird said Utahns can do to help cut down worldwide emissions and improve Utah’s air quality.

  • Drive less and smarter. Bird said most car emissions come from the first few minutes after a car is started, especially on “cold starts.” He suggested people combine their needed trips together while an engine is warm. Bird also suggested cutting back on trips and on idling. UCAIR added that anyone stops for more than 30 seconds should turn their vehicle off and then restart it by turning a key and not stepping on the gas pedal.
  • Drive a newer vehicle. Bird said vehicle standards have improved over time. According to UCAIR, vehicle emissions account for nearly half of PM 2.5 emissions in Utah’s air during the winter.
  • Carpool or use public transportation. This allows more people into one vehicle instead of spreading out people into dozens of vehicles, thus eliminating pollution sources. Bird said this has been a long-term issue that continues to plague the state.
  • Reduce the use of combustion gas in the home and utilizing weatherization incentive programs. In addition to wood burning, Bird said there are also emissions from natural gas. However, there are some incentives from utility companies to use less. He added a 95 percent efficient natural gas furnace is still “hundreds of times more efficient when it comes to air pollution” than the best wood-burning appliance.
  • Cut down products such as paints, varnishes, preservatives, waxes, dry cleaning products, polishes or degreasers. “What is released into the atmosphere is a volatile organic compound that actually participates in the formation of particles during the winter time,” Bird said.
  • Cut back on backyard barbeque or wood fire foods or anything that creates lots of smoke.
The Department of Environmental Quality encouraged people to use the UtahAir phone app on Google Play and iOS to receive action alerts and even three-day air quality forecasts to know the best times to cut down on pollutants.

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