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Air Activists Seek Veto on Burning-Regulation Bill

Clean-air activists want Governor Gary Herbert to veto a bill that bars regulators from banning wood burning all winter in Utah’s polluted areas. KUER’s Judy Fahys has the story.

The idea of a wood-burning ban was aimed at averting high-pollution episodes in northern Utah basins. But the Division of Air Quality’s proposal caused a backlash and prompted lawmakers to pass a bill that outlaws a ban.

Utah House Speaker Greg Hughes discounted suggestions that the wood stove industry drove the Legislature’s response.

“No. It was constituents,” he said in an interview with KUER. “I’m telling you. All of my email concerns explaining to me the extra cost in getting a cleaner wood-burning stove.”

But clean-air groups are urging Governor Herbert to reject the bill. They say it prevents the Division of Air Quality from doing its job in balancing the interests of all Utahns in cleaning up the air.

“We heard from a lot of people who supported some type of restriction in wood-burning for health reasons alone,” said Tim Wagner of Utah Physicians for a Healthy Environment. “Clearly, the public is in favor of some type of restriction.”

KUER asked Herbert last week if he would veto the wood-burning bill, but the governor wouldn’t commit to any action.

“The next 21 days from today are going to be critical for us as we review every bill,” he said, “every line of every bill, and determine whether we will sign or veto.”

Lawmakers could override a Herbert veto, since so many lawmakers supported the bill.

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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