Federal officials laud Cache Valley air quality improvement

A morning view in Cache Valley. Photo taken and shared by Brian Chambers on Twitter.

CACHE COUNTY – The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency has officially given the City of Logan and Cache County a clean bill of health for fine particulate pollution.

After being considered a non-attainment area since 2009, EPA officials announced Wednesday that Cache Valley is now in compliance with Clear Air Act standards for PM 2.5 pollution.

“EPA is pleased to redesignate the Logan and Cache County area as attaining the Clean Air Act standards for fine particulate pollution,” explained Debra H. Thomas, the action regional administrator for the agency. “This milestone was earned by many and reflects years of hard work to reduce emissions of this harmful pollutant.”

PM 2.5 pollution are fine airborne particles that are usually residue from hydrocarbon emissions. Cache County was designated as a non-attainment area by the EPA more than a decade ago because of winter weather inversions during which PM 2.5 pollution levels could become dangerously high.

Jeff Gilbert of the Cache Metropolitan Planning Organization (CMPO) credits joint efforts by state and local officials for bringing about the recent improvement of local air quality.

While the retirement of older, more polluting motor vehicles played a role in that change, the CMPO spokesman also cites the Cache Valley Transit District bus system for promoting public transportation and the state’s emissions inspection system for privately owned vehicles.

Another positive step toward cleaner air was the implementation of Logan City’s anti-idling ordinance in 2014.

Thanks to a federal grant through the CMPO, Logan city was also able to launch a program to retrofit older diesel-powered vehicles with the equivalent of catalytic converters to change the chemical composition of their exhaust.

The result of such modifications is a 20- to 40-percent reduction in PM 2.5 emissions; a 40- to 75-percent reduction in hydrocarbon emissions; and a 10- to 60-percent reduction in carbon monoxide emissions.

But EPA officials warn that, for at least the next 20 years, Logan and Cache County will still be under a federal scrutiny to ensure compliance with “maintenance” provisions of a State Implementation Plan that was submitted to the federal government by the Utah Department of Environmental Quality in 2014. Under that plan, any sustained reduction of air quality standards for Cache Valley would trigger the need to implement “contingency measures.”

“We commend our state and local partners on this achievement,” Thomas said concluding her announcement of the change in Cache Valley’s air quality status. “We look forward to continued progress in securing cleaner air for Utah communities.”

The Cache Metropolitan Planning Organization was organized in 1992 and serves ten communities in Cache County. The CMPO performs long-range transportation planning and helps prioritize highway, public transit and bicycle/pedestrian facility improvements.

To facilitate accomplishment of those goals, the CMPO has partnerships with the Cache Valley Transit District, the Utah Department of Transportation and the Federal Highway Administration.

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