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Becker Presses State to Act on Air Quality in State of City Address

The state legislature needs to act or step aside and empower cities to act to improve air quality. That’s the message in Salt Lake City Mayor Ralph Becker’s annual State of the City Address, which he presented today at the University of Utah. 

Looking out over the snow-covered valley from inside the Rice-Eccles stadium, Mayor Becker recounted air-quality initiatives the Salt Lake City Council has employed in recent years, and outlined a host of new initiatives: an incentive program for replacing wood-burning stoves and a new low-cost resident transit pass for example. But Becker says Salt Lake City can only do so much.

“We must look to our state government for change that will improve air quality,” Becker says. “If however, the state is unwilling or unable to implement some of the more significant initiatives required, then grant local governments along the Wasatch Front, the authority to make the necessary changes.”

Becker urged Utah Lawmakers to raise the cap on sales tax for public transit or allow local communities and voters to weigh in on a local sales tax option, require lower sulphur gasoline, and permit Utah air-quality standards to be more strict than federal standards, if need be.

“We should be able to tailor whatever approaches work best, regardless of federal standards,” Becker says.

Republican State Representative Jim Nielson of Bountiful attended the event. He says he would advocate for more local control.

“If we give a higher cap and communities want to ask the voters to choose to put more sales tax into transit, I believe the communities and the voters should have that right,” Nielson says.

Nielson adds he’s not sure if that issue will surface in the upcoming legislative session, but he is working on a bill to get rid of permits to burn on red-air days.

Whittney Evans grew up southern Ohio and has worked in public radio since 2005. She has a communications degree from Morehead State University in Morehead, Kentucky, where she learned the ropes of reporting, producing and hosting. Whittney moved to Utah in 2009 where she became a reporter, producer and morning host at KCPW. Her reporting ranges from the hyper-local issues affecting Salt Lake City residents, to state-wide issues of national interest. Outside of work, she enjoys playing the guitar and getting to know the breathtaking landscape of the Mountain West.
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