A new Utah Foundation study notes that “The average adult breathes over 3,000 gallons of air each day. Studies show that ozone and short-term, high-level, inversion type particulate in this air can shorten life expectancy, exacerbate cardiovascular and respiratory issues, and increase infant mortality rates. There are also recent links to the incidence of autism in both PM2.5 and ozone.”
Many see the pollution problem as a byproduct of Utah’s attempt to be “business friendly.” Interestingly, the Utah foundation quoted the Utah Governor’s Office of Economic Development as stating “whether or not Utahns believe that the health effects of pollution are real or imagined – ‘from an economic development standpoint air quality is an important issue.'” Likewise, the 2013 Economic Development Task Force found that “poor air quality is a threat to the state’s economic development and continued growth…accordingly, improving air quality should be a priority for state and local government, Utah’s businesses, and Utah’s citizens.” So this issue is no longer a choice between business interests and health concerns, if indeed the two were ever in tension. It is in the best interest of business to improve our air quality.
The study then reviews the state implementation plan (SIP) which has been maligned by the EPA for not doing enough. The new SIP requirements focus on four sources of particulate matter: area, mobile (on road), mobile (non-road), and point. As you can see, mobile is split into road (cars, buses, etc.) and non-road (aircraft, boats, trains, heavy equipment). These mobile sources make are the primary source of particulate matter. Point sources, such as oil refineries, waste services, power plants, etc. make up a much smaller total portion of the pollution (although the harmfulness of the pollutants that these sources produce is another question).
Under the plan, these contributions are expected to decline. Education and awareness efforts will seek to address five issues with mobile sources: cold starts, running exhaust, evaporative exhaust, refueling, and extended idling. The study estimates that “at least one quarter and possibly over one half of winter vehicle pollution results from cold starts.” This is because engines are inefficient until catalytic converters reach 600–700 degrees.
The study then concludes “[a]ll Utahns are part of the air pollution problem. All Utahns have a role to play in improving air quality. According to the Utah House of Representatives Majority Leader, Utahns need to be better at ‘owning the problem’ ” it then suggests a list of strategies for addressing air quality.
The Utah Legislature has taken up this issue in earnest during this session. An education and awareness effort is already underway. Over a dozen bills are at some stage in the drafting process. So far, five have been drafted. In part II, I will summarize the legislation and assess any gaps between this study’s recommendations and the legislative action.