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Industry, Advocates Agree On Clean-Air Bills

Judy Fahys/KUER News
Ashley Miller of Breathe Utah (at the microphone) says including diesel light- and medium-duty trucks in emissions testing is part of a broader clean-air strategy.

An unlikely coalition came together behind air-quality legislation Tuesday, as some of Utah's petroleum industry joined environmental and health advocates in helping advance two bills.

Both measures propose pilot projects aimed at reducing exhaust. One focuses on getting an expensive equipment upgrade at rail yards in Salt Lake City and Ogden. The other would add emissions inspections to older light and medium-duty diesel trucks in Utah County, just as other Wasatch Front counties already do.

But the most interesting thing wasn’t the specifics of each bill. It was how the two united advocates and businesses in the clean-air cause. Lee Peacock of the Utah Petroleum Association told a House committee that a federal crackdown on air pollution is bad for industry too.

“We believe it seriously puts in jeopardy future economic development opportunities in the state for businesses that either expand here or want to move here,” he said.

State environmental officials have been working for years to suggest measures to reduce winter pollution episodes in the seven counties in and around the Wasatch Front. But the US Environmental Protection Agency has declared the state’s problem is “serious,” and its ordered even more pollution controls.

“We see this as an essential part of continuing our improved air quality in Utah," said Ashley Miller, policy director for Breathe Utah, in commenting on one of the bills. "And we would appreciate if the committee would also see that the hard work that went into this is really a compromise.”

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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