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MIDVALE — In what she called an 'unprecedented step for government' in Utah, Salt Lake County Mayor Jenny Wilson announced Wednesday that the county has committed to only purchasing Tier 3 gas for its fleet of approximately 750 vehicles.
"When I was first elected as mayor of Salt Lake County, I shared with my team and with the public that I wanted to continue to do our fair share in Salt Lake County to chip away at the air quality problem that we face in our community," Wilson said.
The move signified a shift toward a new possible industry standard for the state, with the county being the first government entity to require its vehicles to use Tier 3 gas. Wilson challenged other entities, businesses and residents to make the same commitment.
"Where you fill up matters, and this small decision can significantly reduce the pollution that each of us creates on a weekly basis. I would ask that we all take whatever steps are necessary as before to mitigate our negative air quality," she said. "Pollution knows no boundaries. It doesn't matter which city, which community, which area you are living in this valley, air travels."
The Utah Legislature in 2017 passed a bill that allowing providers a significant tax credit to make Tier 3 gas in Utah. Several refineries within the state opted to invest in and produce Tier 3 gas, which burns cleaner and reduces harmful emissions.
Vehicles operating with Tier 3 gas can reduce harmful emissions by as much as 80% if they were made after 2017 with Tier 3 efficiency standards. Vehicles produced before 2017 can reduce emissions by 13% per week, as a result of EPA regulations in Tier 3 gas that minimize the sulfur content.
Experts view Tier 3 gas as an easy way to contribute to improving our air quality, which is an issue that consistently ranks among Utahns' top concerns. These reductions in vehicle emissions — the largest contributing source to the region's total emissions — can make a critical impact in reducing ozone and particulate pollution.
With 50% of emissions being contributed to vehicles in the state, the low-sulfur option can help to improve air quality, said Ashley Miller, executive director of the organization Breathe Utah.
"Having cleaner, lower-sulfur Tier 3 gasoline available in Utah is an important part of the long-term strategy for reducing air pollution," Miller said. "We applaud Salt Lake County for leading out on best practices for fleet vehicles and hope others will soon follow."
Wilson, Miller and Rep. Suzanne Harrison encouraged residents to embrace and opt for Tier 3 gas as well.
"This is a game-changer, and Salt Lake County's leadership is noted and needed," Harrison said. "Oftentimes the issue of air pollution seems too big and insurmountable, but everyone can do their part."
Since not all refineries have embraced the EPA standard, not all gas station retailers across Utah may consistently provide Tier 3 gas. To help residents and others identify where to find Tier 3 gas, the state launched a website and a map in 2020.
"Doing your part to clean our air can be as simple as changing where you fill up your car. Tier3Gas.org lists the stations near you that stock low-sulfur gas, which dramatically reduces particulate pollution. It's a simple way to protect our air and our health," Harrison said.
Wilson added the move only signified the start of looking to sustainable practices and moving toward electrification. She pointed to the possibility of electrification for buses in the canyons.
"We want to be on the cutting edge of those opportunities so we continue to look at those options," Wilson said. "We want the market to shift, and that's going to mean more research and development to make sure that they have the intended consequence and they're affordable."