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Lawmakers Tout Air Pollution Initiatives

Thiophene Guy
Flickr Creative Commons
One legislative proposal would help update the state's school bus fleet so emissions are cleaner and students are protected from dirty exhaust from old, dirty buses. Gov. Gary Herbert also has voiced support for the initiative.

State lawmakers rolled out nearly two dozen bills and funding requests Thursday that focus on air quality.

This session’s efforts come the year after the Legislature enacted more air-quality legislation than in the previous decade. And lawmakers want constituents to know they’re still paying attention.

Erin Mendenhall, policy director for the advocacy group Breathe Utah, was pleased to see lawmakers line up Thursday to show their support for tackling Utah’s air pollution problems.

“There were 30 legislators up there today,” she said. “That’s exciting. As speaker Hughes mentioned at the beginning of his comments, this is a bipartisan issue.”

Many proposals so far have been revived from last year.

“This is a huge initiative and something so visible,” said

Rep. Stephen Handy, R-Layton.

He’s asking lawmakers once again to spend $20 million to help schools around the state to replace or retrofit up to 450 dirty, old buses.

“We’re going to get it done this year.”

Another bill being reconsidered is one to reverse a regulation that prohibits state air quality rules from being stricter from federal ones. Other bills would crack down on people whose cars and trucks flunk emissions tests and those who disable emissions equipment.

This weekend several of the Legislature’s Clean Air Caucus members are slated to attend the Clean Air, No Excuses rally at the State Capitol.

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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