Public pressure put on politicians, Utah’s dirty air

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Cries from special interest groups rattle the state Capitol as Utah suffers from a winter inversion season that has produced 33 red-air-quality days in Salt Lake County since last November, according to the state Department of Environmental Quality.

Cache County has experienced the highest count of red-air-quality warnings in the state, with 39 days declared since the beginning of November last year, according to Kevin Hart, Environmental Scientist for Utah DEQ. KUER reports poor air quality amplifies certain respiratory illnesses, particularly among small children and the elderly.

Dr. Gary Kunkel wears a breathing mask before a news conference with a group of doctors, declaring a health emergency over northern Utah’s lingering pollution problem at the Utah Sate Capitol. (AP Photo)

Everyone from Utah Mom’s for Clean Air to Mormons For Environmental Stewardship called for lawmakers to take action on cleaning up the air.The Utah doctors converged on the Capitol, declaring a health emergency with a petition signed by more than one hundred health care professionals. While both Republicans and Democrats mentioned air quality as a priority, the session began without any filed legislation on the issue. But as public pressure mounted, members of the Democratic minority in the Utah House were the first to introduce a plan in week three of the session.

Democrat Patrice Arent represents Millcreek. She and four other Democratic lawmakers are proposing up to six bills they hope will move the state in the right direction. Their plan includes requiring state agencies to reduce activities that cause pollution and compel industry to use the best available equipment to scrub emissions from the air. Arent is concerned this year’s inversions have already had a negative effect on Utah’s economy.

Read or listen to the whole story at KUER public radio.

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