Clean-air advocates called on Utah Governor Gary Herbert Monday to veto two bills they say would negatively impact air quality in the state.
Leaders of HEAL Utah, Utah Moms for Clean Air and Utah Physicians for a Healthy Environment are worried about the implications of House Bill 11 and House Bill 65. Both have passed the full legislature this year and await the governor’s signature.
House Bill 65 would remove the authority of the Division of Air Quality to impose future regulations on the burning of wood or coal if the purpose of the burn is to cook food. Supporters of the bill say it only clarifies existing rules, but Denni Cawley, executive director of Utah Physicians for a Healthy Environment says it usurps the DAQ’s ability to make future judgment calls based on evidence and data.
“This is regardless of whether it’s for commercial or non-commercial cooking and regardless of the current air quality,” Cawley says.
Cawley noted the bill passed as the Environmental Protection Agency upgraded several Utah counties to “serious” for non-attainment of emissions standards.
“It seems like this bill does not prioritize our community’s health,” Cawley says.
House Bill 11 would remove the political diversity requirement for 29 boards and commissions including the Air Quality Board, the Water Quality Board and the Public Service Commission.
Terry Marasco with Utah Moms for Clean Air says Democrats have led the clean air fight on Utah’s Capitol Hill.
“The bill that takes out political diversity gives the Republicans, those of them that continually fight clean air more power to do the same thing,” Marasco says.
Supporters of House Bill 11 say Governor Herbert should have the ability to appoint qualified members to boards and commissions without the additional burden of including members of the minority party. A spokesperson for Herbert’s office says he’s reviewing both bills.