Environmental professionals say small choices make biggest difference in improving air quality

Jerry Benson, CEO and president of UTA, addresses an audience on Feb. 20 at a policy discussion for solutions to Utah’s air quality problem. Benson said air quality is the issue of today. (Jenna Alton)

SALT LAKE CITY — The Utah Foundation held a policy discussion on solutions to Utah’s air quality problems on Tuesday at Zions Bank headquarters.

Utah Foundation President Peter Reichard said education about air quality was the primary purpose of the discussion.

“So much of the challenge of air quality is getting people to understand what the heart of the matter is,” Reichard said. “The more we address the facts of the matter, the more we can make progress.”

A panel comprised of environmental professionals and industry leaders discussed the importance of informing the public about the impacts of their choices to reduce air pollution.

Bryce Bird, executive director of the Utah Division of Air Quality, said individual choices are what “move the needle” when it comes to improving air quality.

“We don’t want everyone to do everything, but we want everyone to do something,” Bird said.

Bryce Bird, Kerry Kelly, Lee Peacock and Jessica Reimer form a panel to discuss air quality issues in Utah. (Jenna Alton)

HEAL Utah policy associate Jessica Reimer said it is sometimes difficult to make small behavioral changes without recognizing an immediate impact.

“It’s one of those things where you kind of have to just trust that your behaviors are contributing,” Reimer said.

Specific behavior changes the panel discussed included taking public transport and refraining from burning wood when possible.

Along with educating the general public, the panel also addressed the importance of educating state legislators.

“Some legislators already get it. Some are being educated. For some, this is way down on their priority list, so it’s our responsibility to try and educate them,” Bird said.

Lee Peacock, associate director of the Utah Petroleum Association, also spoke on the panel. He said his company is a significant source of emissions but has worked to keep the environment as clean as possible.

“We recognize we’re a long way from being done,” Peacock said. “We know that as a sector, we have continued improvements to make.”

Those improvements include the production of Tier 3 fuel, which Peacock said is designed to reduce the sulfur level of fuel.

According to Peacock, Tier 3 fuel will be available in Utah between 2019 and 2020.

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