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Health, Science & Environment

Clean Air A Top Concern, Poll Says; Lawmakers Urge "Positive" Spin

Judy Fahys/KUER
Air-quality activists called on state lawmakers earlier this month to allow tougher building codes to help clean up Utah's air, but lawmakers questioned the polling Wednesday that suggests Utahns' high concern about pollution.

Utahns care about their air – more so than just about anything except education and water. That’s what a think tank told lawmakers Wednesday during a hearing on Capitol Hill.

Around 53,000 people took part in an online poll this spring that explores 11 quality of life issues that Utahns care about most. The poll-takers ranked clean air as a top concern. They also said air pollution is handled the worst.

Ari Bruening, Envision Utah’s CEO, told a legislative panel that people see dirty air as a health risk.

“They view it as something that causes the to worry about them and their families,” he said. “And we find that peace of mind is what people want most. So that worry is what bothers them.”

Bruening said Envision Utah also looked at scenarios for reducing pollution. One would have required people to drive 25 percent less and use cleaner gasoline. Another called for constructing cleaner buildings and drastically reducing pollution from wood burning. But lawmakers bristled at some of Envision Utah’s conclusions and even its questions.

“If we keep telling people all the negatives, pretty soon, of course that’s going to rise to the top,” said Sen. Margaret Dayton, R-Orem. “ ‘Oh, maybe this is something I should be worried about, because that’s all I hear about, the bad air.’  Yeah, there is 21 days of the year.”

Some lawmakers questioned the quality of Envision Utah’s polling, and they doubted public support for curbing wood-burning and building standards that would mean less pollution emissions from homes and offices.

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