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EPA Seeks Comments On Utah's Winter Smog Cleanup Plan

Judy Fahys
The Environmental Protection Agency is getting comments on Utah's "serious" designation for winter pollution episodes just as the inversion season gets ready to dig in.

Just in time for Northern Utah’s winter smog season, federal environmental regulators are seeking public input on the latest plans to cut pollution spikes.

State air-quality regulators have known for years they’d have trouble reducing pollution fast enough to meet federal deadlines, and the Environmental Protection Agency made it official last month that Utah’s winter smog spikes are “serious.”

“They have a year to put a plan together and get it to us, and they’re working on it right now,” says Carl Daly, who oversees air pollution for the six-state EPA region that includes Utah. “Meantime, Utah can begin implementing some of these control strategies to put themselves on this glide-path to attaining the standard by December of 2019.”

The new plan automatically includes pollution-cutting strategies the state has been adding over several years, like ultra-clean water heaters and personal care and cleaning products that create less pollution.

“The work has been continuous,” says Bryce Bird, executive director of the Utah Division of Air Quality.

He points out that vehicle-exhaust emissions are declining, thanks to new federal standards for cleaner cars and cleaner fuel. And Bird says the “serious” label allows his agency to take a closer look now at 18 smaller industrial polluters.

“We’re owning the problem,” he says. “We’re doing what we can to improve the situation that we have ahead of us. We’re identifying as many things as we can to improve the situation that we have now and always looking for new technologies to do what we do on a daily basis with fewer emissions.”

The EPA is taking public comment on the new strategy through next week. Daly also encourages anyone concerned about air quality to get involved in the state’s cleanup efforts.

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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