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Business Leaders Want to Keep Clean Air on Capitol Agenda

Spring is typically a time when northern Utah’s air is pretty clean, but the business community doesn’t want clear skies to let political leaders forget that improving air quality is essential for making Utah an attractive place to do business.

Economic development leaders reminded lawmakers last week that air quality is a key element of quality of life, and poor air quality during winter inversions still drives businesses away. Legislators heard that new laws and investments in cleaning up the air haven’t solved Utah’s smoggy image problem so far. Jeff Edwards, director of the Economic Development Corporation of Utah, says he wants to be able to show that Utah is making progress.

“I believe that our future desirability as a destination for new companies is in jeopardy if we don’t take this on,” he told the Economic Development and Workforce Services Interim Committee.

The Division of Air Quality has enacted two dozen regulations to help clean up the air. The nonprofit UCAIR has spent more than $1 million on education and research. And Gov. Herbert has negotiated with car dealerships and refineries to fast track federal clean car, clean fuel standards.

“Clearly there’s a lot more that needs to be done to improve our air quality,” said Rep. Patrice Arent, a Salt Lake County Democrat and cofounder of the Legislature’s Clean Air Caucus. “We had a great discussion, but it was just the beginning of the discussion in the Economic Development Interim Committee.”

A representative of the Salt Lake Chamber of Commerce urged lawmakers to be proactive on air quality, with a greater focus on promoting clean vehicles, transit,  and energy efficient homes and business buildings.

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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