Air quality a central issue as Utah legislature starts session today

Utah's severe air quality issues appear to be a priority as the Utah Legislature goes into session today. Photo credit: Utah Division of Air Quality.

SALT LAKE CITY – As the Utah Legislature starts its annual session today, a bipartisan group of lawmakers announced it will back several bills tackling Utah’s air quality issues. Rep. Patrice Arent (D-Dist. 36) co-chairs the House Clean Air Caucus. She said the group is made up of Democrats and Republicans who support at least 15 bills that could help reduce air pollution. 

“It is bipartisan, because to me this is not an issue that is political – everybody has got to breathe the air. It is also geographically diverse – we have co-chairs from St. George to Logan,” Arent said.

Arent’s efforts come as Salt Lake City has experienced extremely polluted air in the past couple of weeks. There are reports that last week Salt Lake City ranked among the nation’s most polluted cities in air quality. 

The bills being considered address increased use of public transit; making it easier to drive clean vehicles; reducing wood smoke; and cutting emissions from buses, Arent explained. Another major harm caused by pollution is the negative impact on the economy, she added, noting that some businesses will not come to Utah and others are leaving because of the poor air quality.

“I’ve heard from one of my constituents that the partners in his business decided as a result of air quality to move their business out of state. We know that it’s hard on recruiting employees,” she said.

Arent said she hopes for broad political support for Clean Air Caucus efforts to address air quality issues.

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