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Committee Passes Building Code Bill Without Hearing from Clean-Air Advocates Who Oppose It

Health and environment advocates have said  HB 316 , a bill updating Utah building codes, might be the biggest air-quality bill of the year, but they didn’t get an opportunity to voice their concerns about it Tuesday to the lawmakers considering the legislation. 

Clean-air advocates wanted to tell lawmakers on the House Business and Labor Committee why the bill would end up costing consumers more in terms of money and worse air quality. But the advocates didn’t get one of five spots allowed for testifying against the bill. Ashley Soltysiak of HEAL Utah was disappointed the clean-air community’s voice wasn’t heard.

“Buildings comprise about 40 percent of the smog that we saw very vividly last week,” she said after the committee voted, 11-2, to advance the bill to the full House.

“If we continue to have inefficient buildings, it’s going to set us back for decades. We need to get ahead of that curve and build more efficient buildings, not less.”

Lawmakers heard from all four supporters who asked to speak, including the head of the Utah Homebuilders Association.

But dozens of opponents were turned away, and opponents who did testify largely came from the business community, including the panel that advises lawmakers on building codes.

“I think we’ve come about as close as we’re going to get,” said Rep. Brad Wilson, R-Kaysville, the bill’s sponsor and president of Destination Homes, “even though there are some who are a little unhappy with this.”

Wilson said he’s building a new home for his family that includes many of the recommendations that clean-air advocates want, but he says consumers ought to be able to choose the features they prefer without the added cost of complying with stricter building codes.

Clean-air advocates say requiring homes and businesses to be built cleaner now will mean dramatically less winter and summer smog as Utah grows.

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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