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Sick of Utah’s icky air quality? These lawmakers have ideas to address it

Rep. Joel Briscoe, D-Salt Lake City, introduces lawmakers and their bills.
Ivana Martinez
Rep. Joel Briscoe, D-Salt Lake City, introduces lawmakers and their bills.

The Clean Air Caucus, a bipartisan group of lawmakers, met Tuesday to discuss the set of bills they’re sponsoring this session to improve air quality in Utah.

The measures include placing a tax on vehicle emissions, making public transportation more accessible and creating an air quality impact study.

Rep. Joel Briscoe, D-Salt Lake City, said because of renewed urgency with the drought, there are a lot of bills focused on the environmental aspects of cleaning up the air through restrictions.

“Nothing that's happening this year is new to people who've been studying the topic,” Briscoe said. “But for people for whom it's been on the periphery and that hasn't been the focus of attention, the drought and the high temperatures brought it home in a way that we couldn't have otherwise.”

He is sponsoring a set of bills that would make fares free on Utah Transit Authority buses and create a clean energy fund.

“We need more places where mass transit is easy,” he said. “How do we expect to get cleaner air if we don't reduce the number of people driving cars?”

Lawmakers also looked at restricting or regulating vehicle emissions. One attempt is legislation sponsored by Rep. Gay Lynn Bennion, D-Cottonwood Hieghts, that would allow the inland port in Salt Lake City to set emission standards for vehicles.

She said she was inspired to run this legislation because of a constituent who brought the issue to her attention.

“The Salt Lake Valley currently violates [U.S Environmental Protection Agency] health standards for ozone and fine particulates. Currently diesel-powered trucks and locomotives are the largest source of nitrous oxide and fine particulates in the valley.” Bennion said. “Efficient and cost effective pollution control technologies are available for both those types of vehicles, and the adverse effects of the inland port on Salt Lake Valley Air could be mitigated if these vehicles use low-emissions technologies.”

Briscoe said he’s excited to have more conversations and discussions with both parties about this range of issues.

Ivana is a general assignment reporter
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