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Skeptical Reception for Bill to Allow Stricter State Air Quality Rules

Dan Bammes
The Utah legislature's interim Natural Resources, Agriculture and Environment committee meets at the Utah State Capitol

  A member of the Utah legislature is trying again to change the law that keeps the state of Utah from imposing stricter environmental rules than the federal government. 

Republican Representative Becky Edwards of North Salt Lake had a similar bill in the last general session.  It passed the House, but it was defeated in the state Senate, in part because of opposition from industry.

Edwards took her bill to the interim Natural Resources, Agriculture and Environment committee.  She argued that it would give the Division of Air Quality more flexibility in dealing with standards imposed by the federal Environmental Protection Agency.

“A lot of times," Edwards told the committee, "people say that the EPA continues to move the goalposts, which they do.  If that is going to continue, what Utah needs is the ability to run different plays.  We need the ability, rather than just using the plays the federal government tells us to run, that we can run plays that make sense for us here in Utah.”

The bill got a skeptical reception from other Republicans on the committee and from at least one Democrat. Representative Larry Wiley of West Valley said, as it’s written now, the bill is too broad.

“It goes beyond that," Wiley said.  "It affects all agencies that deal with DAQ and deal with the EPA.”

If the law was changed, Edwards said the Division of Air Quality could make changes in monitoring programs to focus on periods when the problem is at its worst, or set up continuous monitoring programs that are not permitted by federal rules today.

The committee will take up the issue again at its next meeting in October.

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