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Thousands Expected at Clean Air Rally Saturday

Thousands of Utahns say they plan to join a rally at the State Capitol Saturday. They want Governor Gary Herbert and the Legislature to do something immediately about poor air quality.

Salt Lake City folk singer Tom Bennett wrote his song, Governor We Cannot Breathe, to be performed at tomorrow’s Clean Air, No Excuses Rally.

Cherise Udell is a founder of Utah Moms for Clean Air. Her group set up a Facebook page for the demonstration that already has nearly 3,700 RSVPs and more than 1,300 “maybes.” The Utah Physicians for a Healthy Environment has started an online petition that is shooting for 7,500 signatures. Udell says it will be the biggest clean-air rally ever.

“It just exemplifies the momentum that the clean-air movement has built,” said Udell, “and it’s reached a crescendo to the point that is has a life of its own, and there is no stopping, at this point, the demand to clean up the air.”

Organizers are praising the Utah Transit Authority for providing midday bus service to the Capitol for the event. The number 500 bus route doesn’t normally operate on the weekend. One supporter has donated the use of a school bus to shuttle people  for free. Matt Pacenza of HEAL Utah is going to speak at the rally. He points out that polluted air has shot to the top of the list of issues people are concerned about.

“Tomorrow is an opportunity to demonstrate that,” Pacenza said, “and to send a really strong signal to policy makers and elected officials and regulators and business leaders that we need to act now and we need to act with urgency and we need to stop settling for half measures.”

A march from Temple Square TRAX station begins at 11:15. The rally starts at noon. Several political leaders are expected to speak, including Salt Lake City Mayor Ralph Becker and Democratic State Representative Patrice Arent. There also will be a flash mob and music.

Judy Fahys has reported in Utah for two decades, covering politics, government and business before taking on environmental issues. She loves covering Utah, where petroleum-pipeline spills, the nation’s radioactive legacy and other types of pollution provide endless fodder for stories. Previously, she worked for the Salt Lake Tribune in Utah, and reported on the nation’s capital for States News Service and the Scripps League newspaper chain. She is a longtime member of the Society of Environmental Journalists and Investigative Reporters and Editors. She also spent an academic year as a research fellow in the Knight Science Journalism program at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology. In her spare time, she enjoys being out in the environment, especially hiking, gardening and watercolor painting.
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