SALT LAKE CITY — The city’s mayor and hundreds of students flooded the Capitol, gathering to protest of Utah’s air quality and called for stronger environmental regulations.
Mayor Jackie Biskupski joined with more than 500 students from Madeleine Choir School walked from their school in the Avenues on Thursday to mount the steps of the Capitol as they chanted and carried signs calling for clean air in Utah. Biskupski gathered the crowd in the rotunda of the Capitol to rally voices and discuss the harmful effects of air pollutants in Utah.
A number of young students took turns, speaking their part about the harmful effects of air pollution, the benefits of cleaner air and how everyone can do their part, while politicians and activists spoke to students about the democratic process and making their voices count in influencing legislators.
Biskupski thanked the efforts of the hundreds of students.
“It is particularly important for me to participate in this rally, not only because it is being led by young people, but because they are young people from a school of faith,” Biskupski said.
Rep. Patrice Arent, D-Millcreek, spoke for the Utah Clean Air Caucus and said, “We are working really hard to pass new laws to help all of us. . . There are over a thousand bills filed here this year and we need to make sure that clean air bills rise to the top.”
Arent has worked on numerous air quality bills over the past few years and the lawmakers in the Utah Clean Air Caucus have been active since 2014 to further air quality legislation.
Cris Cowley, a physician representing the Utah Physicians for Healthy Environment, spoke about the health effects of air pollution.
Cowley said, “For close to a decade we’ve been trying to get this message out.” Cowley discussed a number of health concerns such as lung and heart diseases and lauded the children in recognizing the issues and promoting a message of change.
Various environmental advocates such as Utah Moms for Clean Air, Breathe Utah and HEAL Utah were also present to speak and lend their support to the movement. Salt Lake County received an “F” grade for its air quality in the latest American Lung Association study. Lung disease, cancer and heart attack risks are strongly correlated with Utah’s air pollution.
The protests concluded with students being led in a chant, stomping their feet and shouting “Young Lungs Matter.”
At the 2016 Legislature, HB250 is one of many bills proposed to help limit air pollution, and it focuses on regulating water heater emissions. HB237 is another bill focused on clean air through the creation of a Clean Air Fund.